A Day in Ise
By TAN, Zhi Liang. Posted on March 26, 2015
It was during New Year’s of 2015 that I decided to visit one of the most important Shinto Shrines in Japan, Ise Grand Shrine, and the surrounding city of Ise. Worshippers from around the Chubu region as well as many other areas come to pray for a better year ahead. Ise Grand Shrine consists of 2 shrines, which are the Outer Shrine (Geku) and the Inner Shrine (Naiku). What attracted me to the shrine is the simple Japanese architectural style of the buildings of the shrines. Of course, being famous as one of the most sacred shrines in the entire Japanese archipelago also enhances its reputation.
My friends and I took a train from Nagoya station to Iseshi Station. The Outer Shrine (Geku) is situated a stone's throw away from Iseshi Station. After around a 5-minute walk, we saw the entrance to the Outer Shrine. Just outside of the Outer Shrine, several shops selling okashi (Japanese snacks) could be seen. Sweet smells of freshly produced okashi enticed the throngs of visitors to the shops. Even I couldn't resist the urge to grab myself a delicious-looking snack.
Torii at the entrance of the Outer Shrine
At the entrance of the Outer Shrine, a big Torii (traditional Japanese gate) could be seen greeting visitors. As we walked along the gravel path into the shrine, we could see a lot of gigantic Japanese cypress trees (hinoki) amongst the trees in the forest. Some were so huge that they might be able to fit dozens of people inside! I liked the calming atmosphere inside the shrine compound, allowing me to take my mind off my worries for a moment. Unfortunately, the Main Hall is considered to be very sacred, so we were not allowed to photograph it. We continued strolling in the cool weather while admiring the nice scenery in the shrine compound.
The next stop was the Inner Shrine. As it is located a few kilometers away, there were bus services from the Outer Shrine to the Inner Shrine. To get into the shrine compound, we had to cross a bridge. The Inner Shrine is quite similar to the Outer Shrine with its gravel paths and hinoki trees as well as buildings with simple wooden architecture. Similar to the Main Hall of the Outer Shrine, the Main Hall of the Inner Shrine is also a no-photography zone. We took some time walking along the nice gravel paths until it was time for us to fill our hungry, growling stomachs.
Stairs leading to the Main Sanctuary of the Inner Shrine
Located just outside the Inner Shrine compound were rows of shops selling various famous products from Ise. We found local products there, such as Ise seafood and Akafuku mochi. Famous beef, such as Matsusaka beef and Hida beef, could also be widely found. They were mostly sold as grilled beef sticks and sausages. Fried oysters seemed to be a favorite among the tourists, as there were quite a few shops selling them.
For me, what attracted me the most came in a spherical shape with spiky exterior: sea urchin or uni. The smell of grilled sea urchin wafted through the air, and the fresh albeit slightly salty smell made me hungry for it. I decided to give it a try. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. The meat of the sea urchin was improved with a touch of shoyu that added additional flavor.
Soon, it was time to bid farewell to this wonderful place. I would definitely recommend visiting Ise, and if I have the oppotunity to come back again in the future, I will grab it with both hands.
TAN, Zhi Liang
Currently a Final year student at Nagoya University. Loves travelling, visiting new places and experiencing new culture.