|Centrip Editorial Board

Must-see places at Ise-Shima: Centrip Japan's Complete Guide to Ise Shima

In Ise-Shima you can experience history and get a real taste of Japan. Ise Shrine is usually crowded with people traveling from afar to worship here at least once in their lives. The castle town is also very popular with people wanting to do dress up in traditional Japanese clothing. You can also enjoy historical walks while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Ise Jingu Inner Shrine
The Naiku [inner shrine] of Ise Shrine is said to have been built around 2000 years ago. Every 20 years the shrine is rebuilt and the Shikinen Sengu festival is held. The shrine's building plans and techniques are a tradition passed down through history. The structure remains as it always has while the materials are made anew. As the shrine remains an important place of religous significance for Japanese people, visitors are asked to maintain respectful behaviour and not to raise their voices while visiting.
Okage Yokocho
There is a tourist facility in Ise Shrine's inner shrine town where, many historical buildings are being relocated and reproduced, and many souvenir stores line the streets,making everyday feel like a lively festival. There are many places to buy food while walking the streets. Also with an entry fee you can visit Okageza, to see a model of the area and learn about what the Ise area was like during the Edo Period.
Oharai Machi
From the Uji bridge to Isuzu river the cityscape can be seen where Ise's important historical buildings remain time long past. Among them souvenir shops, Japanese style inn's and confectionaries, restaurants, as well as cafe's and convenience stores blend into the scenery of the town. Even on weekdays the streets bustle with people, giving the area a sense and feel of Ise of old from a time before cars and trains.
Ise Shrine Geku
It is customary to begin your visit to Ise Shrine, not at the inner shrine but at the outer shrine. Here the god of clothing, food, and shelter is worshipped. Restaurants, cafes, chocolatiers, and long established confectionaries selling homemade manju (a snack made from redbean paste and rice), line the streets of the outer shrine. In addition you can find stores selling beer and pudding, and abalone dishes. Finding these gems makes exploring the streets of the outer shrine worthwile.
Meoto Iwa (Couple's Stones) (Futami Okitama Shrine)
A shimenawa, a large rope, binds two rocks, one male, one female, together they are called the "Meoto Iwa" or "Couple's Stones". It is a symbol for matchmaking, and the love shared between married and dating couples. The two rocks, and shimenawa, stand out among Torii gate of the shrine. The Couple's Stones at Futami Okitama Shrine serve as a place of purification before one begins their tour of Ise Jingu and is a customary for some to visit before the outer shrine.
Hinjitsu-kan
Futami, the sight of the Couple's Stones, developed as an hotel town for worshippers headed to Ise Shrine. Wooden three story Japanese Inns and confectionaries retain the 100 year old atmosphere of the area. Among them is the Hinjitsu-kan a special guest house, which, in the past, had the honor of being patronized by royal family members and important dignitaries. Nowadays it has become a museum that is open to the public. Among traditional Japanese buildings the Hinjitsukan have chandeliers and blend together Japanese and European sensibilities.
Ise Azuchi Momoyama Castle Town
Here the splendor of Oda Nobunaga's, Azuchi Castle has been reproduced. At the heart of the castle the Age of the Samurai is reenvisaged. In front of you eyes a period drama is be performed and on the "Dai Ninja Gekijyo" or "Large Ninja Stage" you can experience Japanese culture, where throwing stars and blowpipes can be tried. Kimono and Ninja outfits may also be rented. At the transformation photo studio you can dress in realistic Samurai and Geisha clothing, for photos, and if you choose can also walk the castle town while dressed-up.
Ise Sea Paradise
At Ise Sea Paradise, you can come into contact with a variety of marine life. As you walk around watch performances of cute sea lions, recieve kisses blown by walruses, and have your photo taken as you get up close with the animals. At the entrance sea lions will see you off. Don't forget to try the popular Otter handshake, it's very soft.
Mikimoto Pearl Island
In 1893 the worlds first successfully cultivated pearls were produced on Mikimoto Pearl Island. An island of 23140.5 square meters (5.718141 acres) , you can learn in-depth about cultured pearls, go shopping for pearl accessories, and enjoy dining. In addition watch a demonstration of the women divers who care for the clams and help raise the pearls. This is the only place in the world where you can see the pure white diving suit traditionally worn by the Ama divers (female divers).
(Women Divers) Ama Hut Satoumian
The "Ama Hut" is a place to rest for the women who free-dived for shells. In the Ama Hut while listening to the conversation of the women divers, you can experience frying and eating fresh fish, and trying the diver's snacks. You can also try on the traditional clothes of the women divers and have a memorial picture taken. Please reserve in advance on their website. (Bookings can be made in English and Chinese)
Dolphin Island
As part of the Toba Bay Tour set, you may enter the island for free, and enjoy dolphin and sea lion shows and the observation deck. From the observation deck of Dolphin Island you can see the unique sweeping vistas of Toba's sea. Take a cruise through the Toba Bay on a ship from Japanese fairytales, the "Ryugu-jo" . Each cruise lasts 50 minutes so you can fully enjoy the ocean views.
Toba Aquarium
Featuring rougly 1,200 species, with over 30,000 different marine animals, both from the ocean and rivers, Toba Aquarium is proud to be Japan's best breeding aquarium. Often mistaken for Mermaids, the Manatee can only be seen here in Japan. In the aquarium there are 12 zones, among them you can experience sea lions swimming at your feet, and watch sea lions, in excess of 700kg, dive. Popular sea lion and walrus shows are held daily.
Guardian Goddesses of Shinmei Shrine
Since olden times women divers have said that at this shrine "A single wish of a woman can be fulfilled". In modern times the reputation has spread and women from across Japan come to have their wishes granted. First you write your wish on prayer paper, then put the paper in the prayer box, and lastly pray. Charms of protection are also popular. There are charms that women divers carry to protect themselves from being pulled into the ocean, and these charms are said to have magical effects.
Yokoyama Observation Deck
An Observation Deck That Sits Between an Island and the Coast The Yokoyama Observation Deck sits on Kashikojima Island, the home to the 2016 Ise Shima Summit, by the saw-toothed coastline of Ise City in Mie Prefecture. The way that sky, sea and land all converge in this area carries an other-worldly atmosphere. The sunsets here are particularly beautiful. There is also a visitor center nearby where you can learn more about the nature of the surrounding area as well.
Agowan Bay
Islands Large and Small Scattered Along the Coast Starting out from Kashikojima, which was home to the Ise Shima Summit, a cluster of islands are laid out, forming Ago Bay. The Yokoyama Observatory here is a very popular photo spot and the sunset here is spectacularly beautiful. You can take a cruise to see how people cultivate pearls here. Because of its beauty, Ago Bay is often called the Japanese Aegean Sea. There are many restaurants where you can eat lots of fresh seafood as well.
Kashikojima Cruise
A Quick and Comfy 50-Minute Cruise The surrounding coast is a ria-style coast and is perfect for pearl cultivation. The Ise Shima Summit was held in this area. In the 16th century, the Spanish pleasure ship, the Esperanza, sailed to this area, and there is a recreation of this historic ship that you can cruise around the bay on. In addition to the observation deck, there are a number of gorgeous private cabins available onboard. As part of the cruise, you will see the area's pearl cultivation activities and get the chance to buy high-quality pearl accessories.
Shima Marine Land
An Up-Close and Personal Aquarium Experience This aquarium is best known for its ocean sunfish exhibition. There are performances from the famous female skin divers, or "ama", that feed the fish. Depending on the time of year, you might also get the chance to touch a penguin at one of the special penguin shows. The main tank at the aquarium is home to 50 different species, totally up to around 2,500 specimens in total, all swimming together. The ancient aquarium area has a number of fossilized sea creatures to help you look back on the history of the sea. There is also a jellyfish area, complete with mood lighting, to create an other-worldly atmosphere.
Shima Spain Village
A Theme Park Resort with the Sun and Passion of Spain This resort area is centered around the Parque España theme park. With an air of Spanish sun and fun, you'll find a number of Spain-themed shows and parades. There are a lot of oversized characters that the kids will love too. Have fun on the park's ride and try out the Ocean Adventure attraction. There are even restaurants with delicious Spanish cuisine and souvenir shops with interesting items for sale.
Pearl Workshop Shinju no Sato
At Pearl Workshop, Shinju no Sato, you can experience removing pearls from Akoya Pearl Oysters. It's a mystery as to what kind of pearl you will retrieve. Once you have removed the pearl, you can use it to make your own accessory. As you make your own one-of-a-kind pearl accessory, take time to learn about cultured pearls, and create a personal memento of your trip.
Nemu Resort
A huge resort with a hotel and recreation facilities. On the resort grounds you can enjoy golfing, a marina, cruising, fishing, and sea kayaking. You may also partake in the first ever Mikimoto Group Pearl Beauty Treatment Spa Facilities. Experience blissful pearl oil massage, and refresh your mind and body in the hot springs. You can also enjoy a stay at an Aman Resort Group hotel, Amanemu.

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