During the second part of my visit to Ise, I ventured out of the city centre to see two local landmarks: one natural, one man-made, and each with its own special charm.
First, a reminder of our present whereabouts: the city of Ise (伊勢) in Mie Prefecture.
Now for a summary of what went before.
A morning commute from Nagoya, followed by visits to the two main precincts of Ise Jingū – Japan’s most important Shintō shrine – and, to cap off the morning, a hearty lunch at a Snoopy-themed café. (Click on the links to read more about each stage of the journey.)
Right, let’s carry on.
After lunch, I made my way to the public transport stop near Naikū (the “inner shrine” of Ise Jingū) and caught the next available Toba-bound CAN Bus. The service was fully covered by the 1-day Michikusa Pass that I’d bought earlier, so there was no need to pull out my IC card or fiddle around for loose change.
Roughly half an hour later, I got off at the stop labelled Meoto Iwa Higashi-guchi / Ise Sea Paradise-Mae (夫婦岩東口・伊勢シーパラダイス前). The second part of the name refers to an aquarium with adjoining shopping centre…
…which I plowed my way through as quickly as possible, following the signs that pointed towards what I’d actually come here for.
From the exit, I followed an outdoor path leading to Futami Okitama-jinja (二見興玉神社). It’s a small shrine in a rather picturesque setting, with a forested hill on one side and crashing waves on the other…
…and with one of the area’s most famous landmarks for an ornament.
The Meoto Iwa (夫婦岩), or “Wedded Rocks”: a pair of natural formations representing a husband (the larger rock) and wife (the smaller rock) symbolically roped together by a sacred shimenawa.
Now then, on to the next stop.
I left the shrine compound by way of its western gate…
…and walked a little further west down a tree-lined road. I imagine the view from here would have been quite nice back in the day, with a sandy beach and the wind-ruffled sea to my right; alas, a modern seawall now conceals part of the vista.
Before long, I was looking through the open front gate of my last stop for the day: the Hinjitsukan (賓日館).
An English pamphlet provided with my ticket sets out a brief history of this stately building:
Built in 1887 by a worshipper’s association of the Grand Shrine of Ise, Hinjitsukan began its life as a rest house for important visitors to the shrine. It was even honored by a visit from the Emperor Taisho, who stayed at Hinjitsukan for three weeks as a child while attending a seaside school. Over the years, the building underwent two drastic renovations and finally became the majestic building we see today. It was eventually sold off to the private sector and run as a prestigious inn from 1911 to 1999. Situated on Futami-ga-ura Beach, famous as the birthplace of Japan’s seaside resorts, the elegant inn attracted many visitors. In 2003 it was taken over by the NPO Futamiura Hinjitsukan and reopened as a museum.
Let’s get ourselves inside.
300 yen at the ticket window (just to the right of the former main entrance), shoes off, and up we go.
The grandest chambers of this former guest house are on the second floor.
In one corner, overlooking a traditional garden, is a suite of rooms known as the Goten-no-ma (御殿の間). Literally meaning “Palace Room”, the name of this apartment recalls its former role as a haven for the Hinjitsukan’s most important guests…
…including members of the Japanese Imperial Family.
A photograph displayed in the room shows His Imperial Highness Prince Fumihito, the Prince Aya (Aya-no-miya), casually dressed and relaxing in the Goten-no-ma during a 1984 visit.
The bespectacled 19-year-old in that image is now better known as the Prince Akishino (Akishino-no-miya), heir presumptive to his elder brother Naruhito – the current Emperor of Japan – and due to be formally designated Crown Prince in 2020.
A fine set of rooms, indeed – but there’s more to see just around the corner.
I walked down a carpeted hallway…
…and entered the Ōhiroma (大広間), a spacious banqueting/reception room that – like much of the building itself – draws on elements of both Japanese and Western architecture.
Before we continue downstairs, let’s have a few more shots taken elsewhere on the second floor.
Right, down we go.
The rooms on the ground floor are less ornately decorated than those on the floor above. Then again, I think this makes them more cosy and better suited for a relaxing stay by the seaside (at least, for us simple members of the non-imperial peasantry).
And with that, I called an end to my day of sightseeing in Ise. There’s a fair bit more to see and experience hereabouts – check out the related entry on Japan Guide for further information – but I was quite content with the places I’d visited thus far.
Now for a long walk, first through the narrow streets of this small resort town…
…then along a busy road, with Futaminoura Station as my target. (Read my separate transportation report to learn more about the rail commute back to Nagoya.)
Now for dinner, relaxation, and an early night’s rest – all in preparation for another great day in the great outdoors.
Till the next post, cheerio.