Ise (伊勢市 Ise-shi) is a city in Mie prefecture, Japan. Ise is primarily known for the eponymous Ise Shrine, arguably the holiest and most important Shinto site and the reputed home of the Emperor's Sacred Mirror.
According to the official chronology, Ise Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise-jingū) was originally constructed in the year 4 BC. Most historians date the shrines from several hundred years later, with 690 AD widely considered the date when the shrines were first built in their current form. They are mentioned in the annals of the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, dating from 712. Sacred objects of the royal family reside within, including a covered mirror which has reportedly not been looked into for over a thousand years. The shrines are famously dismantled and rebuilt to exacting specifications every 20 years at exorbitant expense.
The present buildings, dating from 2013, are the 62nd iteration to date and are scheduled for rebuilding in 2033. Many festivals will precede the next rebuilding; the most impressive of these, the "tree-pulling" festival Okihiki (御木曳) in which lumber is ceremoniously carted to the shrine, is next anticipated in 2026-2027.
The closest international airport to Ise is Chubu Centrair International Airport south of Nagoya. High-speed ferries run hourly from the airport's dock across Ise Bay to Tsu (津) in 45 minutes (¥2470). From the port, a local bus travels to Tsu train station (¥200) from which Ise can be reached in 35 minutes by Kintetsu Railway (¥620; transfer may be necessary). A small number of ferries continue to Matsusaka, which is slightly closer to Ise.
The alternative is to simply take the Meitetsu μ-SKY train from the airport to Nagoya, and continue to Ise using one of the options below.
Ise's main train station is Iseshi (伊勢市), which is served by Japan Railways and the private Kintetsu Railway. Another useful station is Uji-Yamada (宇治山田), which is served by Kintetsu and is the next station after Iseshi.
Kintetsu offers access to Ise through their direct limited express services from Nagoya (85 minutes, ¥2770), Kyoto (2 hours, ¥3620) and Namba in Osaka (1 hour 50 minutes, ¥3120). Some trains have a premium Deluxe Car which requires an additional surcharge for seating. One service, the Shimakaze (しまかぜ), operates with all-premium seating, also requiring an additional surcharge.
Tourists who wish to use Kintetsu can purchase the Kintetsu Rail Pass which includes unlimited local trips on the network for 5 days. The pass costs ¥3800 (¥3600 if you buy it outside Japan before your trip). You must purchase a separate ticket to ride on the limited express, though Kintetsu has now made these purchases possible in English on their website. Currently, the one-way surcharges to Ise are ¥1320 from Nagoya or Osaka, and ¥1610 from Kyoto. Deluxe Car seats and Shimakaze seats require an extra surcharge. An enhanced version of the pass, called the Kintetsu Rail Pass Plus, costs ¥5000 (¥4800 purchased in advance) and adds unlimited trips on select buses in the area.
JR trains run hourly rapid services to Iseshi from Nagoya (90 minutes, ¥2000 unreserved seat, ¥2520 reserved seat). The fastest option by JR from the Shinkansen is to change to the rapid train in Nagoya, as a trip around the Kii peninsula on other JR services will take much longer.
Holders of the Japan Rail Pass must pay a small ¥510 surcharge, since trains partially use the private Ise Railway on the journey. The surcharge can be avoided by taking the less-frequent Nanki (南紀) limited express from Nagoya to Taki (多気) and changing to a local train to Iseshi, though this will extend the travel time to 2 hours.
Willer Express operates overnight bus service from Tokyo to Ise. Buses leave from the Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal (Basta Shinjuku), as well as from nearby Kawasaki. Weekday, non-peak fares start at around ¥4700, and the trip is valid with Willer's Japan Bus Pass.
Seibu and Mie Kotsu operate two overnight bus services to Ise - one departs from Ikebukuro and Shinjuku, and the other leaves from Ikebukuro and Yokohama. Weekday, non-peak fares start at around ¥7200.
A regular bus service operates between Ise Station and Naiku. Another option for those who want to explore the area further is the CAN Bus day pass. This provides unlimited travel around the Ise, the Futami area, and Toba. A 1 day pass is ¥1000 for adults, ¥500 for children. A 2 day pass is ¥1600 and ¥800. More bus and railway ticket information online.
- 1 Ise Shrine (伊勢神宮), ☎ . The shrine consists of two sites, some 6 kilometers apart but connected by a sacred forest. Access to the inner sanctum of these sites is strictly limited, with the general public allowed to see little more than the thatched roofs of the central structures, hidden behind three tall wooden fences. (Guards are on hand to make sure nobody gives in to temptation.) Visitors can, however, enjoy the ancient forest, and those with an eye for architecture will enjoy the many wooden buildings along the path.
- Gekū (Outer Shrine; 外宮). Dedicated to the goddess of food, clothing, and housing, Toyouke-o-mikami. Accordingly, there are snacks and souvenirs available at a stand near the main gate. The smaller of the two, this is a 5-minute walk from Ise Station.
- Naikū (Inner Shrine; 内宮) (The shuttle bus from Geku to here takes 15 minutes and costs ¥410.). Dedicated to the sun goddess, Amaterasu-o-mikami, and is the larger and more important of the two. There are a few ponds full of colorful carp, and the river that runs nearby has the less colorful ones who didn't make the cut.
- Kawasaki Kaiwai (河崎界隈) (From Ise Station walk towards Ujiyamada Station, past Hinodekan, turn left, before long you'll find a railway crossing, cross there and walk up the big road, past Mini-Mini. After about 400 metres turn right at Hoshide-kan, a large wooden ryokan. Kawasaki Kaiwai is the street next to Seta River.). The old merchants quarters of town. Many old buildings remain. Good for a stroll.
- 2 Meoto Iwa (夫婦岩) (By train, Meotoiwa is a 15 minute walk from JR Futaminoura Station, mostly along the shoreline). (夫婦岩) Also known as the Husband-and-Wife Rocks or the Wedded Rocks, these two rocks just offshore are tied together with a Shinto shimenawa rope weighing over a ton. The rocks are said to represent Izanagi and Izanami, the creator gods of Shinto myth, and the larger "male" rock has a small torii gate on top. While photos often make the rocks appear much larger than they really are, it is still a unique and interesting site. Entrance is free.
- 3 Futami Sea Paradise (二見シーパラダイス) (A few minutes walk from Meotoiwa.), ☎ . 8:50AM-5:10PM. A small aquarium where you can enjoy shows by seals and walruses, and can touch and interact with the animals. Adults ¥1300, elementary school children ¥600, small children ¥300.
- Kagurasai Ceremony (神楽祭). Three days in early April and late September. There are spring and autumn versions of this event. Performances of dance, music, noh, shigin and displays of flower arrangement are held in the garden at Naiku. free.
- Miya River Fireworks Festival (宮川の花火) (The nearest station is JR Yamada Kamiguchi.). Mid-July. Though not as spectacular as some fireworks festivals in Japan, this is in fact a competition for fireworks producers. Original and unique fireworks can be seen.
- Oharai Machi (おはらい町) (Between Jingukaikan Mae （神宮会館前） Bus Stop and Naiku.). Shop and enjoy the atmosphere. This stretch of shops and restaurants retains a real historical feel. The restaurants on the left offer a nice view over Isuzu River. Halfway up the road on the right is Okage Yokochou (おかげ横丁), a relatively new addition, with more eateries and a variety of souvenir shops. The best time to visit is in the weekend. Often you can enjoy a free performance such as a taiko (Japanese drums). Avoid this area in the weeks after New Year. The massive crowds of people visiting Naiku make it hard to enjoy. If you go in the height of summer take your swimwear and you can enjoy a dip in Isuzu river. Swimming above the stonework near the bridge is strictly prohibited but swimming in the deeper spot adjacent to the car park is fine. Not many people swim there, mostly local school kids, but the water is clean and clear, take your goggles for a good view of the massive carp.
The local specialty is Japanese spiny lobster, known as Ise-ebi (伊勢海老, lit. "Ise shrimp") in Japanese. Fresh lobster sashimi in particular is sublime, but as you might expect such pleasures don't come cheap. Other local specialities include Ise udon, a very simple dish of thick noodles in a strong flavored sauce, garnished with spring onion. It can be ordered from the restaurants around Naiku for ¥300-400.
Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy akafuku (赤福）, a mochi rice cake wrapped in red bean jam. With complimentary green tea akafuku costs ¥280 (for three) at stalls around Naiku. You can also buy it boxed at Iseshi Station and Ujiyamada Station.
- Okunoya (奥野家) (On the river side of Oharai Machi, a few minutes walk from the Naiku bridge.). Quality Japanese-style food at a reasonable price.
- KAZI (Kaji) (Across the square from Ise Station.). ¥500. Excellent okonomiyaki(お好み焼き).
- 1 Kitaya (喜多や), Honmachi 10-13 (A short walk away from the Geku entrance.), ☎ . 10AM-9PM daily. Sublime charcoal-grilled eel (unagi 鰻) dishes. Starting at ¥1000.
- Sen (千). Open for dinner and sometimes for lunch. A yakiniku(焼肉) restaurant within walking distance of Ise City.
- Misuzu (美鈴) (A two minute walk from Miyamachi Station at the intersection on the right hand corner.). Open for dinner. A little family run restaurant. They're famous in the area for gyoza(餃子), but also serve fried chicken, rice balls, and oden.
- 1 4th Club (A couple of blocks west of Ise Station from exit 1), ☎ . 8PM-2AM. One of the nicer bars in the area. It has a good selection of drinks and is a popular hangout for local expats thanks to its affable, English-speaking owner.
- 1 Hinodekan (日の出館) (Near Ise Station.), ☎ . A traditional style ryokan. ¥5,000 without meals, ¥10,000 with dinner and breakfast.
- 2 Oishiya (大石屋) (Between Futaminoura Station and Meotoiwa.), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A recently renovated, wooden, traditional style ryokan that overlooks the sea.
- 3 Guest House Kazami (ゲストハウス風見荘) (A few minutes walk from Ise-shi Station.), ☎ . A backpacker's hostel . The staff is very friendly, and can speak English well enough to help you with almost anything you need. There's a bar in the lobby, but the drinks are a little expensive. Dorms from ¥2,600.
|Routes through Ise|
|Nagoya ← Into Naogya line← Ise Nakagawa ←||N S||→ Toba → Shima|
|Kashihara ← Into Osaka line← Ise Nakagawa ←||N S||→ ↑|
|Kameyama ← Tsu ← Matsusaka ←||N S||→ END|
|Suzuka ← Tsu ← Matsusaka ←||N S||→ END|
|Kumano ← Owase ←||W E||→ Toba|
|END ←||N S||→ Toba → Shima|