・Ise Grand Shrine (Ise Jingu – Naiku)
The Ise Grand Shrine is said to be more than 2000 years old. Its history is so long that much of it is a mystery and has largely remained a place that only the Gods know. Since 3~400 years ago in the Edo period, it became possible for everyone to visit, and it became a very popular spot for Japanese people to travel to at least once in their lifetime.
In front of the Ise Grand Shrine, there is Oharaimachi and Okageyokochou, which are shopping streets that line the beautiful Isuzugawa River. There are many old shops that sell delicious Japanese foods, and many locals and tourists enjoy the atmosphere while eating on the go.
・Walking around the town of Ise
The town of Ise has many old buildings that are disused as the population moved out and towards the cities. In recent times, young people have returned to Ise and set up wonderful shops like Izakayas, Restaurants, Ramen shops, Beauty salons, Cafes etc. It can be very intriguing to see how new life is being put back, or fused into these old buildings, and repurposed for business. Our guesthouse was also one such building. We have maps of such buildings which you can pick up if you’re interested!
・Climbing Mount Asama
It takes about 2 hours to trek to the top where there is a very nice vantage point of the coastline. There are also shops where you can rest and buy something to eat. There is also a foot onsen which you can use for free! Near the top, at a fork along the trekking route, there is a temple called Konkousouji which you can visit. We have a very cute trekking map at our guesthouse.
Many tourists come to Ise to visit the Grand Shrine. The Outer Shrine (Geku) is about 1.2km from our guesthouse, and the Inner Shrine (Naiku) is another 4.2km from there. We often recommend going by bicycle since is it not that far a distance, and you can use the pilgrimage road joining Geku and Naiku, which also passes through the old entertainment district Furuichi. There are also many other points of interest along this road. We rent out bicycles for ￥500 a day, which is cheaper than taking the bus to and fro.
Another place you can reach by bicycle is Futami, well known to tourists for the Married Couple Rocks (Meotoiwa), about 8km away. Along the way, there is a historical shop Nikenjayamochi, established about 420 years ago, which sells Japanese mochi. We think it is very delicious and you should try some if you do pass by!
・Kawasaki Area (Around the guesthouse)
The Kawasaki area was once famously known as a thriving port town in old days of Japan. Now it is where people can wander along the traditionally built buildings by a winding canal. You can take a rest from a day of exploring, to sip on a beautifully made coffee within a charming café with a rich history of their own. It could be a former establishment once used for traditionally made Japanese liquor, in a building made entirely from stone –or possibly a quaint traditional Japanese wooden home, full of life, love and charm.
Japanese people traditionally used to go to public bathhouses to purify and cleanse their bodies before visiting the shrines to pray. It has become less of a tradition now, but remains a popular activity in Ise. There are a handful of public bathhouses here, and you should definitely try it as part of your Japan experience! There is one such bathhouse called Asahiyu which features a special seawater bath within 3 mins walk from our guesthouse. When you go to Asahiyu, remember to pick up a ￥50 discount coupon from the check-in counter!
There are many hotspots around the Ise region!!
・Married Couple Rocks (Meotoiwa)
The Meotoiwa is about 7~8km from the center of Ise City. It used to be where ships would stop and people would start their pilgrimage to the Shrine.
While you are there, we recommend making a visit to the Meiji Era’s Imperial Family’s gorgeous and elegant villa (￥300)
Toba is a port town 15 mins from Iseshi by train. You can visit the Toba Sea-Folk Museum or Mikimoto Pearl Museum, or enjoy a leisure cruise around the Toba Gulf.
You can also purchase fresh food and ingredients from Toba Marché, located near the train station. There is also a restaurant where you can enjoy a lunch buffet made from the same ingredients being sold there.
・Toba Sea-Folk Museum
People often visit the Toba Sea-Folk Museum because it was designed by a famous architect. The architecture is not the only thing though, as the exhibits are also very interesting, particularly the ones about the Ama, Japanese women who dive without special diving equipment to collect the bounties of the sea.
The town of Osatsu is where the Ama are still diving. The history of the Ama is said to have begun from some 3000 years ago. In the town, there is an Ama museum and free bicycle rental. There is a shrine where the famous Ishigami-san, a goddess who protects women lives. On the way to the shrine, you may find the Ama selling the freshly picked seafood, and shops or cafe that sell Ama goods.
The view of the saw-toothed coastline of Shima is impressive and beautiful. You can get a panoramic view from the Yokoyama Observatory. The scenery of the port town of Nakiri and Daioh Lighthouse is recommended as well.