Separation is another telling factor. At both shrines, a number of fences and gateways divide the mortal plane from the sacred. Today four fences and four gateways surround the inner buildings of Ise, while Izumo has but two fences and two gateways. In the ninth century, at the peak of Yamato power, Ise had five fences. But at other times in history when the imperial house struggled, such as during the succession disputes of the fourteenth century, the shrine had only two. Before the Yamato clan came to power, Izumo may have had many more than its current two fences, perhaps as many as eight. There is, then, an indisputable correlation between efforts made to separate and distinguish a site and that site's importance.
Related to physical separation, is the issue of access. Ise's many fences and gates make it impossible for the average person to approach or even see the main hall (shōden). Ordinary people pass beneath a large Shinto gate (torii), climb the stone steps to the level of the shrine, and pass through the outer fence (itagaki), but are not permitted beyond this point.
A strict hierarchical order consisting of eight distinct levels controls the passage of individuals through the remaining three gates and fences) local elected officials may pass through the second fence and worship just inside the second gate; 2) prefectural representatives may progress up to the torii half-way between the second (outer tamagaki) and third fence (inner tamagaki); 3) the prime minister and other senior officials worship directly in front of the third gate (inner tamagakimon); 4) members of the imperial family stand under the outer eaves of the third gate; 5) the crown prince and princess, as heirs to the throne, proceed up to the fourth gate (mizugakimon); 6) the crown prince and princess on the occasion of their marriage stand under the veranda in front of the main hall; 7) the reigning emperor and empress stand directly in front of the steps to main hall; and 8) following the enthronement ceremony, the reigning emperor and empress climb the steps to worship on the veranda of the main hall in front of the door. Thus, access to Ise is very restricted; only the emperor and the heir to the throne are permitted to actually see the main worship hall, where they stand before it as intermediaries between gods and man. But even the emperor himself does not enter the shrine; this is a space exclusively for the deity.
Little is known historically about access at Izumo, but the shrine was most likely restricted to the clan. Today, tourists cannot enter its precinct, but unlike Ise, the main shrine is visible to all from beyond the outermost fence. Izumo's fences are set closer to the building, making the distance between the sacred shrine and the supplicant closer, and the building itself is larger, causing it to tower over its fences. Although many architectural structures are large in size to reflect the secular power of their builders, the goal at Ise and other sacred sites is more often to enclose and protect by creating a womb-like setting for the divinity. At Ise, the divine is so sacred it cannot be approached or even viewed by mere mortals, whereas the architecture of Izumo suggests it is less so because one can see it and get closer to it.
Another feature that may express power or authority in architecture is rebuilding. Buildings are generally reconstructed because they become dilapidated or are destroyed by natural or human disasters, but religious buildings, and particularly Shinto shrines, are often rebuilt for purposes of ritual purification. This seems to be the case at Ise, which is renewed every twenty years on an alternate site. In the seventh century, Emperor Tenmu made the renewal of Ise a state responsibility and regularized the twenty-year interval. Since there is no practical reason to rebuild that frequently, because the wooden pillars could stand for at least forty years, it is clear that the regular reconstructions were for the kami, who abhor uncleanliness and decay as signs of impurity. The use of an alternate site, equal in size and adjacent to the current shrine, further highlights the need for purity; even the same physical location would not suffice.