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Things You Should Know! 5 Highlights of the Ise-Shima Area

The Ise Shima Area has been getting a lot of attention lately with the Ise Shima Summit taking place. The local community is bustling with a welcoming spirit and there have been numerous initiatives acting in support operated by both corporations and individuals. They feel it is a great opportunity to show the world the beauty of the area as well as the Japanese culture. We want to introduce sightseeing highlights of Ise and Shima, but also highlights of the entire Ise Shima area that is increasingly bustling with excitement toward the upcoming summit.


1. Ise Jingu Shrine

© Iseshima Tourism & Convention Organization

This perhaps may be the shrine getting the most buzz in Japan right now with the help of publicity it is getting due to the summit.

It is a shrine located in Ise of Mie Prefecture with a long history of over 2,000 years. There are two sanctuaries; the inner sanctuary with Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun God enshrined, as well as the outer sanctuary where Toyo Omikami, the god of food and grains enshrined. 

In the Edo Period (1603-1868) it became popular to “okage mairi” which means that people go to pray at the Ise Jingu Shrine as a group. This lead to many people from all over Japan gathering to pray at this shrine. In recent years, it has been recognized as a power spot that rivals the Izumo Taisha Shrine and thus it is a famous shrine that continues to be visited by many people. The existence of this shrine was one of the major deciding factors in electing the site for the Ise Shima Summit. 


2. Pearl Farming

© Iseshima Tourism & Convention Organization

Mie Prefecture is the first area in the world to have succeeded in pearl farming. Koichi Mikimoto (1858 to 1954) invented the method of cultivation using pearl oysters in Ojima Island of Toba (now the Mikimoto Pearl Island). Since then, it has developed around the Ago Bay and the area became famous as its birthplace.


3. Ama: Women Divers

© Iseshima Tourism & Convention Organization

In Japan, there are women divers called ama who dive for shellfish and seaweed. The ama have largely contributed to pearl farming becoming so huge in the Ise Shima area. The reason is that at the time, the ama who could go under water to collect the pearl oysters and return the nucleated pears in the sea were critical to the process. 

Due to the advance of cultivation technology, it is no longer necessary to employ ama. However, there are live performances that are held to celebrate the activities of the ama as well as an ama hut experience facility where visitors can listen to the stories of ama while they eat seafood. On the 2nd of this month, juvenile abalone were released by the local ama in commemoration of the summit. Ama Hut “Hachiman Kamado”: Official Website


4. Ise Udon Noodles

The “Ise Udon” with thick and soft noodles, a dark broth of tamari shoyu, stock and mirin (rice wine used in cooking) is a famous local eat. Within the city of Ise, there are many Ise Udon restaurants. They have different seasonings and toppings depending on the restaurant so we would recommend you try different kinds to compare. During the term of the summit, there are some restaurants that have “all you can eat Ise Udon” promotions in limited areas and limited time. Why not take the opportunity to try the Ise Udon? 

Overview of All You Can Eat Ise Udon: 

  • Participating Stores: 3 locations of Washoku Mendokoro Sagami; Ise Region (Ise Obata Store, By Pass Ise Store and Matsusaka Kawai Store)
  • Term: Friday April 1st 2016 to Tuesday May 31st
  • Items Offered: All you can eat Ise Udon (comes with an assortment of king prawn tempura) *All you can eat does not apply to tempura and egg.
  • Price: 1,220 Yen + Tax 


5. Akafuku Mochi: Rice Cakes

The first answer you get when you ask “what’s a good souvenir from Ise?” is “Akafuku Mochi (aka Akafuku)”. The Akafuku was born about 300 years ago in the 4th year of the Hoei Era (1707). It is a confectionery made of mochi (rice cake) with red bean on top. It is a Japanese style snack that is loved by tourists and the local people alike. The soft mochi, enveloped in a rich smooth red bean paste with three lines that is said to be representative of the  Isuzu river; once you try it, you are sure to be hooked. It is one snack we would want you to try if you visit Ise. 


Currently, in the Ise Shima area, they are holding many commemorative events and selling many memorabilia to celebrate the summit. If you have an opportunity to visit Ise Shima, we would love for you to see not only the highlights we introduced in this article, but also fully experience the beauty of Ise Shima which is full of great places to see. 

Meoto Iwa: A Miraculous Scene that Shines Between the Rocks
Akafuku-mochi: A Tasty Adzuki Treat Enjoyed in Ise Grand Shrine for 300+ Years

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About the author

I'm interested in general in all things related to culture and fine arts with a focus on movies, art, and design. I hope to introduce to many people all the different sides to Japan in regards to Japanese culture.

View all articles by KAWATA