A city by the sea where gods reside
The Ise-Shima areas are located in the eastern tip of Mie Prefecture, which is on the eastern side in Kii Peninsula, the largest peninsula in Japan. It is a popular tourist spot and easily accessible from Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya. Since the G7 Summit is to be held here in May 2016, this area is drawing attention from the world now.
Located in Ise is the Ise-jingu Shrine, where many people have been visiting since around the 10th century. Toba, about a 20 minute trip by train from Ise, has tourist spots including Shinju-shima Island (Pearl Island). You can enjoy cruising in Shima, which takes another 30 minutes by train from Toba. The Ise-Shima areas surrounded by ocean and mountains also have popular local specialty including seafood, such as Ise lobsters, abalones, oysters, and Ise Udon noodles and Akafuku Mochi (Mochi coated in bean paste).
You can reach Ise from Nagoya, Osaka or Kyoto. Take the Kintetsu Lines or JR from Nagoya Station to Ise-shi Station. They both take about one and a half hours. It takes about 2 hours by limited express train of the Kintetsu Lines to Ise-shi Station from Namba Station in Osaka or Kyoto Station. When taking an airplane, go to Tsu-Nagisamachi or Matsusaka Port by a high-speed boat “Tsu Airport Line” from Chubu Centrair International Airport, and change there to bus, JR and the Kintetsu Lines to get to Ise-shi Station.
Visit Ise-jingu Shrine and take a stroll around the retro town
The best highlight of Ise is the Ise-jingu Shrine. Ise-jingu Shrine is actually a general term for 125 shrines and the 2 main ones, the Inner Shrine that enshrines the Sun goddess Amaterasu O-mikami and the Outer Shrine that enshrines Toyouke-no-O-mikami, the god of food and industry, are located in Ise City. Japanese people in the Edo period (1603-1867) hoped to do “Oise Mairi”, which is a visit to Ise-jingu Shrine, at least once in their life.
Rinse your hands and month and cleanse yourself at Temizuya found near the entrance before praying. When you pray at Ise-jingu Shrine, bow once in front of the gate first and then enter. Then bow twice before the altar, clap your hands twice, put your hands together and pray, and bow once to finish. It is bad manners to talk loudly or use a cell phone in the shrine. Also, avoid wearing clothes that expose your skin too much and take off your hat before the altar.
The formal order to visit the shrine is visiting Geku, the Outer Shrine, before Naiku, the Inner Shrine, so you should head to Geku first. You can see Hiyokebashi Bridge, the entrance of Geku, in about 5 minutes walk from Ise-shi Station and the approach to the shrine extends from there. Go through 2 Torii (shrine gates) and walk further and you will see Shogu (the main building) where Toyouke-no-O-mikami is enshrined. Shogu is located inside the 4-layered fence and you have to pray from the outside (Do not enter the inside). The Torii of Ise-jingu Shrine are made of plain wood (wood whose bark is stripped off and is not painted) and are not vermillion-lacquered. There are several stories as to the reason for the color of the Torii, but it is said that Torii with plain wood has a longer history in Japan and the colored ones were influenced from China.
After visiting Geku, catch a bus and you will get to Naiku in about 20 minutes. Isuzu River runs by the entrance of Naiku and Uji Bridge, which is said to divide the ordinary world from the sacred world, is built over the river. Shogu (the main building) that enshrines the Sun goddess Amaterasu O-mikami is on the stone steps in the furthest back part of the shrine. This is also surrounded by a 5-layered fence and you have to pray from the outside (Do not enter the inside). There are subordinate shrines, which have the next highest status after Shogu, in both Geku and Naiku, so you should visit them as well.
After visiting Naiku, taking a walk along Oharai-machi-dori street, which is a temple town, and Okage Yokocho street where old buildings have been relocated in order to recreate the old townscape, is recommended. Restaurants that serve local specialties of Ise and souvenir shops stand in a row in the temple town that has welcomed visitors to the shrine from old times. The bus toward Geku runs from Sarutahiko-jinja Shrine that stands on Oharai-machi-dori street, which takes you back to Ise-shi Station.
Go a little further to Toba and Shima
If you go a little further from Ise, you can stop by Toba and Shima as well. If you travel about 20 minutes east from Ise-shi Station by JR or the Kintetsu Lines, you will get to Toba Station.
Get off the train at JR Futamiura Station on the way to Toba from Ise, walk for about 15 minutes and you will see Meotoiwa Rocks, whose big and small rocks represent a couple. Meotoiwa Rocks have been considered to be a sacred place since old times and they are now a symbol of happy marriage and good match because of the way the two rocks stand next to each other happily. You can see the sunrise between the rocks from May to July.
Mikimoto Pearl Island, which succeeded in culturing pearls for the first time in the world, is located near Toba Station and you can see woman divers who dive to the sea bed and culture pearls.
If you go for 30 minutes to the south by the Kintetsu Lines from Toba Station, you will reach Kashikojima Station in Shima, the venue of the G7 Summit. Ago Bay Cruise, which runs in the bay where 60 big and small islands and rafts for culturing pearls float, is operated from Kashikojima Port, which is several minutes walk from the station.
The northern part of Shima is dotted with mysterious spots including “Amano-iwato Shrine”, which has the legend that the Sun Goddess Amaterasu O-mikami hid herself here and the world was covered in darkness, and Izawanomiya Shrine, which is a subordinate shrine of Ise-jingu Shrine Naiku.
Address: Erihara, Isobe-cho, Shima City, Mie Prefecture
Directions: About 10 min. by bus toward Ise from Kintetsu Shima-Isobe Station, get off at “Amano-iwato-guchi” bus stop and walk for about 20 min.
Address: 374 Kaminogo, Isobe-cho, Shima City, Mie Prefecture
Directions: 3 min. walk from Kintetsu Kaminogo Station
Visit Ise, Toba and Shima and feel the beautiful nature of forests and ocean and experience the world of mysteries.