Ise ( 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.
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.
By planeThe 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.
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. 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.
By busWiller 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.
phone: +81 596-24-1111The shrine consists of two sites, some 6 km 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.
GekūDedicated 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, it is a 5-minute walk from Ise Station.
NaikūDedicated 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 KaiwaiThe old merchants quarters of town. Many old buildings remain. Good for a stroll.
Meoto Iwa(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.
Kagurasai CeremonyThere 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.
Miya River Fireworks FestivalThough 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 MachiShop 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.
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.
OkunoyaQuality Japanese-style food at a reasonable price.
phone: +81 596-28-3064address: Honmachi 10-13Sublime charcoal-grilled eel (unagi 鰻) dishes.
SenA yakiniku(焼肉) restaurant within walking distance of Ise City.
MisuzuA little family run restaurant. They're famous in the area for gyoza(餃子), but also serve fried chicken, rice balls, and oden.
phone: +81 596-24-8428One 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.
phone: +81 596-28-2954A traditional style ryokan.
phone: +81 596-43-2074A renovated, wooden, traditional style ryokan that overlooks the sea.
phone: +81 596-64-8565A 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.