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Discovering Japan's most sacred city
Lost in the middle of Mie prefecture, Ise radiates with a mysterious aura. Cradle of the sun goddess Amaterasu, this small country town is home to Ise-Shingu, the holiest sanctuary in Japan. Ise is also a major cultural town in the region, with its history and geography, welcomes thousands of visitors yearly, eager to unravel all its mysteries.
The birthplace of the goddess Amaterasu
From Ise, we mostly know Ise-jingu. Erected in honor of Amaterasu, the sun goddess attached to the imperial family, this religious complex of 125 shrines is said to be "the soul of Japan".
Go through the Uji Bridge to access the Naiku Shrine, the birthplace of the goddess, believed its wooden construction would wash away their sins from those who pass through it.
The most prized shrine in the country, Naiku is said to house the yatano kagami mirror, one of the three sacred relics of Japan, and used to bring Amaterasu out of the cave in which she had been hiding following a violent argument with her brother Suzano, the god storms.
A place of admiration, don't be surprised that most buildings are closed to the public. Like the Naiku Shrine, accessible only to the Emperor and a few elder statesmen Shinto priests. The exteriors of the site offer a pleasant view for a walk in the heart of the city and many events take place throughout the year in the enclosure of Ise-jingu. Like the Kagura, sacred dances are performed in honor of pilgrims to protect them.
Don't forget to visit the Sengukan Museum, nearby. Accessible to all, it holds the secrets of more than 1000 years of preservation of the site!
The culinary specialties of Ise
Rich in its spirituality, Ise is also famed for its food. At the heart of the city, the traditional Oharai-machi area extends over more than one kilometer. Wooden houses and architecture from Edo (1603-1868), the district bordered by the Isuzu river offers a glimpse of common country lifestyle, a page out of the history book, to a time when pilgrims roamed the alleys of Ise-jingu.
Within it, the Okage-Yokocho shopping street allows you to discover local specialties. Udon, Matsusaka beef, or abalone caught by the ama of the neighboring town, countless restaurants in the area have been cooking up great recipes for centuries
Ise is the third largest tea producer in the country, where Tea and wagashi is the favorite snack. Akafuku, a mochi stuffed with red bean paste, was invented in one of the city's tea houses in the 18th century.
In addition to its restaurants, cafes, and stalls, Okage-Yokocho has many souvenir shops. Homemade honey, pottery, and lucky charms, the street highlights the craftsmanship of Ise!
During the first of the month, Tsuitachi Mairi (the first monthly pilgrimage), when stores open very early to offer new things to the brave who come to Oharai-machi after their return from Ise-jingu.
The best places to eat in Ise
Akafuku Honten : Akafuku specialist
Address : 26 Ujinakanokiri-cho, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
Hours: from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ebiya: in abalone for several generations
Address: 13 Ujiimazaike-cho, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oiseya Honpo: famous for Matsusaka beef
Address: 94-7 Ujinakanokiri-cho, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (be careful, the hours change regularly)
Iseman Naiku Mae Japanese Sake Factory: the only distillery in Ise, you can find amazake, yuzu sake, and plum sake.
Address : Okage Yokocho, 77-2 Ujinakanokiri-cho, Ise-shi, Mie-ken
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (times may vary regularly)
Shima Peninsula places to visit near Ise
Beyond these must-see sites, we encourage you to spend a little more time around Ise to enjoy the Shima Peninsula National Park, especially Futami Bay, home of the famous Meoto Iwa (married rocks).
In the north (Toba), offers different notoriety: Mikimoto, founder of Japanese pearl culture. The local waters have long been home to pearl oysters, formerly snorkeled by artisan divers ama. They now only dive for tourists, but a museum (Mikimoto Pearl Island) pays homage to their traditions, process, and the method which pioneered Mikimoto Kokichi to produce pearl jewelry,
The south of the peninsula is remote, tranquil, and more photogenic as the picturesque jagged coasts offer a superb panoramic view of the 60 islands of Ago Bay and the pearl fishing boats, while Goza is a small fishing port, a stone's throw from a wide white sandy beach (Goza-shirahama).
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