28 May 2010

Day 13: Daily Dose of Holyness

Posted by Roland under: Travel .

My business hotel room in Ise actually had a legitimate view (rather than directly facing another building, as was the case in my Tokyo stays) but this meant that light could shine in easily into my room, which it did. I guess I don’t do well with light in the room because I woke up early and I was too lazy to completely block out the entire window so I woke up earlier than planned. But it would be a good thing since I had a full day of sightseeing I needed to cram in before I headed out to Shiga to meet up with Saori’s family.

So in actuality, Ise Shrine was divided into two parts, an outer shrine located close to the station (and my hotel) and an inner shrine that required a bus ride. Of course the inner shrine was the more impressive one but I decided to warm up and visit the outer shrine first. It was a bit smaller in size than the inner shrine, so I made relatively quick work of the outer shrine, visiting the various holy shrines throughout the complex. I made a minor faux pas trying to take a picture at the main shrine of the complex for which I was quickly told to put away the camera. At the main shrine you can only get a small glimpse of the roof of the main building, which is only meant for the Imperial Family and very high Shinto priests to see. But the other shrines in the complex, smaller replicas of the main shrine were more than impressive enough, especially considering that they were built without any nails, just interlocking pieces of wood.

The outer shrine was a relatively pleasant walk through a wooded area with shrines here and there but when I got to the inner shrine, I could see all the tour groups and buses come into sight. This was definitely the reason you came to Ise and it showed in the number of people in the complex. While many of the same style of shrines were around the area, the complex was bigger in size and you could also more easily see one of the interesting facts of the Ise Shrines. That is, they rebuild the shrines every couple years so right next to one shrine is an empty lot of the same size. Why is that? Because they have to move and rebuild the shrine in a spot right next to where the current shrine is. And this repeats every couple years on a schedule. Look it up if you’re interested but basically this ensures that the shrines stay fresh with the best wood out there. Obviously the shrines were well kept for one of the holiest places in Japan.

I pushed my way through the crowds at the inner shrine to get some good shots but then headed out on a nearby shopping arcade for a quick bowl of Ise udon, which was basically udon in a dark broth. Nothing fancy, but it was cheap and just what my wallet needed after the dinner I had the night before. Unfortunately, by this time I was a little bit worried I wouldn’t be able to make the train I had wanted to at first so I cut my time at the market short to get out to my next sight I wanted to see, the wedded rocks of Futami (meotoiwa). This required a very short train ride from Ise station and a walk through a very quiet city (and I thought Ise was quiet). Unfortunately I would get there at low tide but nonetheless, it was a nice sight to see the rocks connected by a heavy rope, symbolizing the connection between husband and wife. There wasn’t much else to do here but see the rocks and take a few pictures. A quick walk through the quiet city and another short train ride and I was pack in Ise. I hustled to get my bags and get back to the station in time.

I had to take another long ride back to Nagoya and then get on a bullet train headed west to get to Shiga and meet up with Saori’s family. But once I made it back to familiar Yasu station it was yet another surge of nostalgia for me, as I had just visited the family last year and this would be my 4th time doing so with the family. But it was back to the business as usual, catching up, them commenting on why I come back to Japan so much and then sitting down for a good home made dinner (a nice alternative to all those restaurant meals) and drinking with the family. A nice stay in a Japanese home was a great alternative to all the hotels I had stayed at. We wondered a bit about what to do in the next day but we would play it by ear and see what would happen in the morning.

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