Ise Shima National ParkToba, Mie
Ise-Shima National Park is a natural marine park that features the historical site of Ise Jingu Grand Shrine and the picturesque coastal route on Shima Peninsula, located in Mie prefecture in Western Japan.
Ise Shima National Park is a combination of natural beauty combined with ancient tradition and age-old cultural practices. The interaction between people and nature is profound in the region and can be observed in the ancient tradition of the female ama divers. The ama is a 3,000-year tradition where divers free dive into the water from a boat to gather shellfish and seaweed. For an extra treat, you can enjoy a seafood lunch grilled by ama divers in an ama style hut.
Toba contains Mikimoto Pearl Island, which offers a pearl museum and demonstrations by its famous ama divers, as well as the Toba Aquarium. In Kashikojima, there are boat trips around Ago Bay and for a wider view of the 60-plus small islands, head to the Yokoyama Observation Deck, which is accessible by taxi or a 40-minute walk.
For those wishing to experience the essence of Shinto and Ise Jingu’s 2,000 years old-history must visit the Grand Shrine with its 125 shrines centered in and around Ise City. Surrounded by a dense forest of Japanese cypress, the Naiku (Inner Shrine) is most sacred and is reached by crossing Ujibashi bridge. In Shinto culture crossing that bridge symbolises leaving daily life behind and entering the spiritual world.
In the town of Ise, just a short walk from Ujibashi bridge, is the historic main street of Oharai-machi, once the main pilgrimage route leading to Ise Jingu during the Edo Period. The street is lined with Edo-era wooden buildings with many restaurants and shops. Try the Akafuku mochi, a rice cake topped with a sweet red bean paste, which has been sold to worshippers on their way to Ise Jingu for more than 300 years.
- The Ise Jingu shrine complex, Japan’s most venerated Shinto site
- Seeing Ago Bay from the water, whether by kayak or cruise ship
- Learning about the ama divers and their centuries-old fishing techniques
- Hiking the Kinki Nature Trail past beaches with loggerhead turtle nesting sites
- Exploring the historic street of Oharai-machi
- The weather can be quite balmy in summer
From Tokyo: 3 – 4 hours.
From Osaka: 2 hours.
There is no entry fee or permit required for Ise Shima National Park. Please check the website for individual activity prices.