By Chris Glenn
Ise Jingu 伊勢神宮
For over 2000 years, Japanese pilgrims have made the journey to Ise Jingu. Cross the famous wooden Uji bridge and enter Shinto’s most sacred location “Naiku” (the inner shrine). The sound of footsteps over the loose stone paths can be heard in stark contrast to the serenity and peacefulness of the ancient forest. Pay your respects to the highly-revered goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, at the final shrine. Ise Jingu contains 125 shrines throughout Ise and regularly conducts ceremonies for the gods and world peace. Access is made simple by dedicated buses leaving from Ise, Toba, and Shima’s main train stations.
Okage-Yokocho & Oharai-Machi おかげ横丁・おはらい町
Experience and taste what the Ise Shima area has to offer. Traditional goods and food that have been popular with visitors from the 17th century to the present day can be found in this era styled community. Running parallel to the sacred Isuzu River and ending at the entrance to Ise Jingu’s Naiku, wander the maze of restaurants and shops and get transported back to a time when people in Kimonos and Samurai walked the streets.
Matsusaka Beef 松阪牛専門店
One of Japan’s big three Wagyu producers, Matsusaka Beef holds the title of being the most expensive beef in the country. Locally raised and meticulously fattened, Matsusaka Beef touts the lowest fat melting point compared to other Wagyu and has a high level of unsaturated fatty acid making it also one of the healthiest too. Matsusaka is only a short 15-minute train ride from Ise and has many restaurants serving its famous beef.
Ama Culture 海女の文化
For thousands of years the coastal towns of Ise Shima have relied on the hard work and skill of the Ama, the free diving women who search the sea for highly sought after abalone, sea urchin, sea cucumber, and seasonal seaweed. Visit an Ama hut and enjoy the day’s catch as real Ama prepare your meal while telling stories of their trade. Access and reservation information can be found via Osatsu Kamado, Hachiman Kamado and Satoumian.
With the successful culturing of pearls achieved in 1893 by Toba’s Kokichi Mikimoto, Ama became essential in helping to tend to the newly created industry. Responsible for maintaining and caring for the underwater harvest, the Ama’s image would forever become associated with pearls. Discover the Ama’s connection with the pearl industry through exhibits and daily demonstrations as well as the processes used in the culturing of pearls at Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba.
Visitors to Ise Shima can enjoy many different types of accommodations ranging from high-end luxury resorts to Japanese style ryokans. A large number offer beautiful ocean vistas viewable from outdoor onsen and locally sourced Kaiseki (multi-course) meals. Outside the hotels, restaurants serving local specialties such as Ise Udon, Ise Lobster, and seafood worthy of Ise Jingu’s gods can be had at many locations throughout Ise Shima. A small selection of local establishments can be found here. Ise Shima can also be experienced through guided tours. Kaito Yumin Club offers tours in English covering the entire Ise Shima area. Sea kayaking and walking culinary tours of the local islands are great ways to experience the local culture and get a unique perspective of life in the seaside towns. Cycle the countryside and stop at culturally important locations while learning about Japanese culture unique to Ise Shima by booking a single day, or multi-day, cycling tour through Ise Shima Bicycle Journey. General information about Ise Shima can be found through the Ise Shima website and the Visit Ise Shima Toba facebook page.
As a long-established destination for the Japanese people, journey off the beaten path and experience what Ise Shima has to offer. Who knows what adventures await?