Hello Ise. When I was planning my Japan trip, I nearly didn’t come to meet you as you’re located slightly off beat from my route. But I know you have so much to offer, and I don’t know if and when I will be coming back. So in the end I decided to make the detour to come and see you. I’m so glad I did.
Your location by the sea means you have an abundance of seafood, my favourite, not to mention interesting activities on the coastline. The most fascinating being the Ama divers of course. I had the privilege of going out to sea with one of them and watch her dive in the traditional way. Here she is getting ready for the dive. I notice that she hasn’t got an oxygen tank.
Ama diving was originated by you, Ise, over a thousand years ago. There are only around 700 Ama divers now, and their average age is 65. These amazing ladies can freedive up to 10m deep for a whole minute. Our Ama demonstrated how she normally works to catch seafood (yes, she still works in the summer season now) and collected some goodies from the 3m deep seabed to show us. She even took my Go Pro underwater to take some videos. The quality of the video she took was absolutely amazing, especially when you have to remember she is 69, handling new technology and diving without a tank at the same time. As a special tribute to her, I’m going to write a separate post about this experience. Keep a look out for this!
In the meanwhile, I went to another wonder from your sea. The Meoto Iwa. These two sacred rocks represents the union between man and woman connected by a strong straw rope called a shimenawa. This particular rope weighs over a ton and has to be replaced three times a year in a special ceremony. I’m told on a good day, one can see the Fuji Mountain from here. I couldn’t on my visit, but since I’ve seen it already, I’m very content with just admiring this natural beauty from you.
I went to the Ise Grand Shrine which dates back to the 7th century. And then to the Shinmei Shrine near my hotel at Toba. The Shinmie Shrine is best known for granting every female one wish, and Amas often come here to pray for safety and protection.
The Ise-Shiba Skyline toll road connects Ise and Toba, you have an amazing view along this toll road. The Asama Mountain viewpoint is over 500m and is the highest point. Had it not been so windy, I definitely would have spent more time here to explore your beauty.
LIVE AND EAT
When coming to meet you Ise, I decided to treat myself to a really nice traditional hotel called the Resort Hills Toyohama Hotel. This is the view in the morning as I draw the curtains. It was so worth it.
As to the food, it was absolutely stunning. This is just one part of dinner on the first evening, my entrée and sashimi boat. Breakfast and dinner the next day is the same. The table setting for each meal is like a colourful drawing, and each dish a piece of art, which taste as good as it looks.
Helle Ise. I’m so glad I decided to come and see you and spend a couple of days getting to know you. The Ama culture is slowly disappearing as there fewer people who are interested in learning the trade. Hopefully, with the 700 of you, you can keep it going for as long as possible. I think two days is definitely not enough to really get to know you, but sadly I must continue with my trip. Now that we have met and I know how much you have to offer, I hope I can return one day. Hopefully, you and your beauty and the Ama divers will still be here waiting for me. Till next time, take care.