About once a week Mike and I like to go on a mini adventure, to explore our surroundings. So on the last Friday of February we jumped on another early morning train headed south for about 1.5 hours arriving at Ise Grand Shrine.
Ise Grand Shrine is 1 of 3 sacred shrines in Japan. Each holds a treasure that together symbolize the Imperial throne. On New Years we visited Atsuta Shrine for hatsumode. Atsuta Shrine allegedly houses the sacred sword and Ise Grande Shrine the sacred mirror. **I say allegedly because no one is allowed to lay eyes of these treasures other than the Gods and a select few Holy Monks.** The third item, a Jewel, is some where in Tokyo.
Some info about Ise: The entirety of Ise consists of two major sites Ise Geku (outer Shrine) and Ise Naiku (inner shrine). While the translation would suggest that one shrine sits on the surrounding of the other, they are rather far from one another. Unlike many of the ancient religious sites still around today, Ise Grand Shrine is rebuilt every 20 years as part of Shinto beliefs. It was rebuilt in 2013, so everything was new, beautiful, and fresh! Much of Japan (with the exception of the city’s sky scrapers) is not built to last due to the high number of natural disasters and in part to their war torn history. Also, there seems to be an ideal that favors the techniques and methods of the old more than the remaining structures themselves. Thus, when Ise is rebuilt every 20 years it is done so using the same techniques from long ago. **Fun Fact: Ise is built with out using modern nails and screws, but rather wooden dowels and interlocking joints.**
Upon arriving we crossed through a Torii Gate and then over a huge beautiful bridge which the Isuzu River flows under. It is important to not walk in the middle (sando) because this is where the Gods walk (seichuu). As soon as you entered the grounds of the Shrine you could feel the energy of this place. It was so peaceful and serene you couldn’t help but feel a sudden ease wash over you.
The grounds are densely forested with incredibly majestic camphor trees that are up to 300 years old (possibly more), known as Goshinboku, or spirit trees. One particular one was calling out to me so I decided to give it a hug.
You can’t fully enter (you view it from the perimeter) or take pictures of the actual inner shrine because of its Holiness so you’ll just have to go for yourself and take a look. Make sure you know how to properly pray!
After, a beautiful and serene morning we headed over to Oharai-machi a street filled with shops, trinkets, food stands, and music performers. We tried fried oysters, rice burgers, and clam chowder, which we then washed down with a flight of local beer tastings! **All of which we accomplished before noon!**
Since Ise is basically on the coast, we had to check out the sea! We jumped on a quick bus and spent the rest of the afternoon strolling along the coast and checking out the famed Meoto Iwa (Wedding Rocks)! The small one symbolizes the wife and the larger one the husband! Very auspicious!
Before heading home we stopped in to a local restaurant and had probably THE BEST lunch ever! It was a local seafood restaurant that offered a ladies only lunch plate for 2000 yen. It consisted of miso soup, tofu fish pudding, pickles veggies, and a huge sushi bowl of fresh bonito, followed up with a coffee and almond jelly pudding for dessert! Best part of the experience was sitting at the chef bar and watching the chef take a net and fish out a flounder from their huge beautiful fish tank and chop its head off right in front of us! Now if that isn’t fresh I don’t know what is!