Friday 24 June 2016

The Pilgrimage - Ise (part 1)

I have a friend, Chiyo who lives in the city of Ise in Mie prefecture which lies in a south westerly direction from Tokyo.  She said to me one time that I had to come and visit her.  "Okay", I thought, "What can I see and do in Ise to also turn this into a blog trip".  The answer was pretty clear and easy to find.  Ise Grand Shrine.  This shrine happens to be the the most sacred Shrine in Japan (I will go into this in more detail in a blog post that will come soon).  "That settles it" I told myself.  "I'm going to visit Chiyo!".  My good friend Atra told me that she would love to join me so  we set about organising the trip.  Finally the dates arrived and I now sit here in Ise on the first night, writing this.

The day started a lot earlier than my usual ones and my alarm pierced the morning air at a early (for me!) 8am.  I had packed the previous night, so after a quick wake-up shower I was out the door heading for Tokyo station where we were going to catch a highway bus to Nagoya (about 3,150 yen one way).  Now, I am a notorious over packer, I always want to be prepared for any eventuality, packing a couple of spare pairs of whatever just to be safe.  I had also packed my lap top and camera.  The result was quite a large and heavy backpack!

5 hours and a couple of stops for refreshments along the way (including one at the beautiful Lake Hamana)

We arrived at Nagoya station and made our way to the Kintetsu Line

and grabbed out tickets on the reserved seat only Limited Express train (price: 2,770 yen one way)

and pretty soon we were kicking back racing along towards Iseshi station enjoying the sunset.

We had booked rooms at the Ise Kazami Guesthouse, a very reasonably priced guesthouse located only a matter of minutes on foot from Iseshi station (you can find Ise Kazami Guesthouse's website here).  Photos of the guesthouse will follow later.

We settled in and were soon met by Chiyo who took us off to a part of town near the Ise Grand Shrine called Oharai machi.  Oharai machi is a 800m long shopping street that leads to Ise Grand Shrine.  It is lined with buildings that have been preserved in the style of the Edo and Meiji periods (as early as the 17th century) whenever buildings need to be replaced they are rebuilt in exactly the same style as to preserve the nostalgic atmosphere (I love visiting places like this!!).  I wanted to go here at night time to get some night time photos so pretty soon we were driving along the Oharai machi (which is closed to vehicular traffic during the day).  We pulled up and proceeded to take some photos and soak up the atmosphere.

(Thanks to Atra for some of those photos.  A much better photographer than I!)

That was what I had come to Ise for!  That incredible feeling of being an invisible witness to what Ise was like 300 years ago, without the electricity of course, was what I had wanted to feel by coming to Oharai machi this night.  I had come hoping and Ise had gone above and beyond.  The silence was what made the experience complete.  Nobody, just us, the camera and the magic.  I could have turned around and gone back to Tokyo content, but no.  I was willing to stay around for another couple of days to see what else Ise had to offer.  This was going to be hard to beat though!

Well, that's it for part one of my Ise trip.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you did, please leave a message below, I really enjoy reading your messages and comments and I will reply to each and every comment!  Stay tuned for part 2.  Bye.