Ise 伊勢

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Discovering Japan's most sacred city

Found in the middle of Mie Prefecture, the city of Ise radiates a mysterious aura from the Kii Peninsula. The cradle of the sun goddess Amaterasu, this town is home to Ise-Jingu, the holiest sanctuary in all of Japan. Ise is also a major cultural town in the region, and with its history and geography, it welcomes thousands of visitors a year, eager to unravel all its mysteries. This is a region that can boast some of the best that Japan has to offer: historic spiritualism, beautiful scenery, incredible food, and reputable artisanal crafts. In fact, the latter has been acknowledged by UNESCO, which dubbed Ise as a “City of Craft and Folk Art” in 2008. 

The combination of each of these factors makes the city and surrounding region as a whole one that’s brimming with culture and places to discover. Take a more in-depth look at what Ise has to offer!

The birthplace of the goddess Amaterasu

Perhaps the most well-established attraction in Ise City is the famous Ise-Jingu Shrine. Arguably the most significant Shinto grand shrine in all of Japan, it was initially erected in honor of Amaterasu, the sun goddess attached to the imperial family, all the way back in the year 4 B.C.E. The religious complex consists of 125 smaller shrines and is said to be "the soul of Japan."

Go through the Uji Bridge to access the Naiku Shrine, the birthplace of the goddess Amaterasu. Ancient visitors believed its wooden construction would wash away their sins from those who pass through it.

The most prized shrine in the country, the Naiku is said to house the yatano kagami mirror, one of the three sacred relics of Japan, and was used to bring Amaterasu out of the cave in which she had been hiding following a violent argument with her brother Susanoo, the god of storms.

ise shrine naiku kaguraden

Naiku Kaguraden

Yanajin33 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Un des bâtiments constituant Ise-Jingu

Un des bâtiments constituant Ise-Jingu

geku kaguraden ise jingu grand shrine

Geku Kaguraden Ise-jingu Grand Shrine

Oilstreet via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the other crown jewels for scenery in Ise, however, is Mount Asamagatake, elevated above the city and presenting an all-encompassing view of the region. The previously mentioned rich forests and glistening blue waters become one giant landscape from the mountain, which is a popular hiking destination. Historically, the ascent up the mountain was done by pilgrims prior to visiting Ise Jingu. The total journey up and down Mount Asamagatake takes around 4-5 hours.

A city built on artisanal craft

As a UNESCO-recognized city, the culture of traditional artisanal crafts is almost unparalleled in Ise. These crafts span from local specialties to world-recognized luxury items. 

suga island port view from mount o toba mie prefecture ise

Vue du port de l'île de Suga depuis le Mont Ō

Alpsdake via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

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. With 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 divers of the neighboring town—countless restaurants in the area have been cooking up great recipes for centuries. 

The latter, especially, is a worthwhile experience, as ama are historic, all-female divers who practice a form of free-diving done with no breathing apparatus equipment. Though the practice is not as commonplace as it once was, its spirit is maintained for visitors to the prefecture. It’s the perfect way to try Ise’s fresh seafood while also engaging with traditional Japanese practices.

Also, be sure to try the famous Ise-ebi, a local delicacy so heavily associated with the area that it shares a name. In English, Ise-ebi is known as Japanese Spicy Lobster and is famous for its distinct look as well as its luxuriously rich and sweet meat, often served both cooked and raw as sashimi or tartare. 

Les fameux akafuku mochi du quartier d'Oharaimachi d'Ise.

Les fameux akafuku mochi du quartier d'Oharaimachi d'Ise.

Ryosuke Yagi

ise ebi sashimi

Ise-ebi

takaokun on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Une des rues du quartier d'Okage Yokocho

Une des rues du quartier d'Okage Yokocho

Wikipedia

Futami Onsen: Relaxation amongst natural beauty

Futami Onsen is a premier destination in Ise, home to some of the most amazing scenery in all of Japan, centered around warm and relaxing onsen hot springs with luxurious accommodations. 

The most famous landmark at Futami is Meoto Iwa, or “the wedded rocks.” The two holy stones are connected by a rope structure known as a shimenawa. The two rocks represent the connection between two of Shinto’s most significant deities: Izanami and Izanagi, the mother and father of Japan within the Shinto mythos. On clear mornings, the sun can be seen rising between the two rocks, encompassing much of the most emblematic features of the Japanese archipelago into one scene. The beaches in the area are also lauded, making them popular with both those who wish to take the time to relax and those who wish to indulge in nature. 

meoto iwa rochers mariés japon

Les rochers mariés, Meoto Iwa

Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

Our tours in Ise

  • Duration : 15 days
  • Locations : Tokyo, Nikko, Kyoto, Nara, Ise, Osaka
See all our Tours (1)