Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for 1000 years (794 – Mid 19th century) and it is the birthplace of Japanese culture such as literature.
Nara is even older; It had been the capital from 710 to 794.
These two cities are major destinations for Japanese students’ school trips, and not to mention to international travelers who hope to see temples, shrines and traditional Japanese culture. Few people will regret seeing the beauty of Kyoto and Nara.But what do you think of a town which is even much older than Kyoto and Nara?Ise is a rural town in Mie Prefecture, Central Japan, which is famous for huge Ise Jingu Shrine.
|Uji Bridge to Ise Jingu Shrine|
Ise Jingu Shrine is so old that nobody knows when exactly it was built. But it cannot be wrong that the history of Ise started in the age of Japanese myth.
It is said that Ise Jingu Shrine was built in 4 B.C.
More than 2000 years ago!
This post will show you how Ise is like, tourist info to visit there, accommodation and my own experience with tips.
The travel guide part is at the bottom, so enjoy photos and stories first.
Let’s go O-Ise Mairi (= a journey to visit Ise Jingu Shrine) on Tokyo Direct Diary with me!
First of all, let me repeat that shrines and Buddist temples are completely DIFFERENT in Japan (I wrote the differences and the history here.)
People traditionally visit Geku first.
|Entrance to Ise Jingu Shrine Geku|
|The main building of Ise Jingu Shrine Geku|
Tip: The paths in a shrine – whichever it is Ise Jingu or any other – are often gravel paths. It will be tiring if you wear pin heals or unstable shoes, especially in a large shrine where you walk a lot. I recommend flat and soft walking shoes.
There are smaller shrines in the site, too. I feel that “among the woods” is a better expression.
I referred to the meaning of a bridge in Japanese gardens several times on Tokyo Direct Diary – For example, cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens.
Uji Bridge to Naiku must be one of the oldest bridges in Japan.
|Entrance to Ise Jingu Shrine Naiku|
To advance on a bridge to the other side means to go to another world.
In Ise, you are entering the sanctuary of gods.
|Isuzu River from Uji Bridge|
|Isuzu River and bridge protectors|
|Mitarashi, a hand-washing place, in Isuzu River|
Tip: You might feel it from the photos – The sunshine was quite strong. Although there are so many shades in the rich forest of Ise Jinbu, I recommend a hat.
The sacred shrine up the stairs has no-photo policy. See it ourselves.
|The main building of Ise Jingu Shrine Naiku|
|Chickens walking around in Ise Jingu Shrine!|
Naiku has 5,500 hectares of ground, and actually, most areas are a forest where people do not enter. Once as a sacred place, now it is protected as a nature reserve as well.When you experience enough of Ise Jingu Shrine, you cannot miss Oharai-Machi Street and Okage-Yokocho area inside it.
|Oharai Machi Street in front of Naiku|
There was a boom to visit Ise in Yedo era (1600 – Mid 19th century.) People in Yedo (= Tokyo’s old name) wished to visit Ise so enthusiastically that they walked hundreds of kilometers in a big group – When someone departed from Yedo to Ise, new people joined on the way! It’s a story of old times.Okage-Yokocho area was recently made by Ise locals to welcome today’s travelers in the very same atmosphere of O-Ise Mairi boom in Yedo era. We stroll along the buildings, foods, toys, etc, of that time. There is also a stage and we can enjoy traditional drum performances, etc, for free.
|Okage Yokocho area in Oharai-machi Street|
The restaurant Butasute was established in 1909 – As long as Asakusa Imahan in Tokyo. Beef for a Gyudon is directly from Ise.
|Gyudon (rice with grilled beef) at Butasute|
If you want some Japanese sweets, Akafuku has been welcoming Ise visitors since 1707.
|Akafuku Head Store in Ise|
Hopefully I will write about Ise’s unique souvenirs in another post.
So how was a virtual trip to Ise?
As far as I see it, if one or more of the following touch(es) your heart,
- You hope to explore the essence of Japanese animism.
- You like a place with a long history. The longer it is, the better you love it.
- You want to visit somewhere different from other international tourists to Japan.
- Not only must-sees, you want see a rural town.
- You wish to refresh in a rich, soft and deep forest in Japan.
Ise is a right, and fantastic place to visit.
Hope this post is refreshing for your busy life!
Travel Guide – All About Trips to Ise
How to Get to Ise
First, you move to Nagoya. Change trains there to Iseshi Station.
Take a Shinkansen (Japanese super express) at Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station to Nagoya, Toyota’s hometown. In Nagoya, there are two railways to go to Ise; One is Kintetsu rapid trains and the other is JR (=Japan Railway) Rapid Mie trains.
Actually, there are not differences between these two trains; It takes almost same time and the tickets cost almost same. Take either depending on your schedule, and you will have no inconvenience.
Around 12000 yen, 3 and half hours.
Take a Kintetsu train to Iseshi Station.
Tsuruhashi Station in Osaka City is a major station to catch Kintetsu trains. Around 3300 yen, 2 hours to Ise.
Ise is a rural town, so you do not have too many choices as in Tokyo.
Only 12 hotels are found including hotels in Toba, the neighboring district. When a hotel looks good based on your taste and budget, that’s the best hotel for you.
I recommend staying there because Ise Jingu Shrine has so many things to see that only one day will be too short.
Tip: When your main purpose is Ise Jingu Shine, convenient hotels are those near Iseshi Station.
A packaged train ticket combined with a hotel by JR and other Japanese travel agencies can be a discount. If you find one which fits you, it is a good idea to get it.
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