Ise (伊勢市 : Ise-shi) is a fairly small city with a population of around 100,000, about two hours from both Nagoya and Osaka by train.
Ise is extremely well-known within Japan for being home to Ise Grand Shrine, Japan's most sacred Shinto shrine. Despite being the "inaka" (countryside) as locals say, there are plenty of nice restaurants, a few good bars, and enough shopping available to sustain 99% of your needs.
- 1 Name
- 2 Old Towns
- 3 Getting Around
- 4 Local Attractions
- 5 Services
- 6 Shopping
- 7 Food and Drink
- 8 Recreation and Entertainment
The city's name came from the shrine; the shrine's name came from the province. The shrine was originally simply known as 神宮 (jingū), however in the Edo period people started affixing the "Ise" prefix because it was located in Ise Province.
For about 70 years, what is now Ise was known as Ujiyamada (宇治山田市 - Ujiyamada-shi) however the name was switched to "Ise" in 1955 as the mayor felt that name had more name recognition - it was also to avoid confusion with the city of "Uji" in Kyoto and the city of "Yamada" in Fukuoka. Although the name has been changed for many years, to this day there are still many things in town bearing the "Ujiyamada" name.
In 2006, Ise absorbed three major outlying areas:
- Futami (二見町) - home of the Wedded Rocks
- Obata (小俣町)
- Misono (御園村)
Mie Koutsu (aka Sanco) operates busses throughout the prefecture, including the Ise area. If you know your stop names, you can search for bus times on Sanco's website link. Generally, busses are infrequent and stop running by early evening, but sometimes they can be useful.
Things to See
- Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū)
- Japan's holiest shrine. The Shrine actually comes in two parts. The Outer Shrine (外宮 Gekū) is close to Ise-shi Station (JR and Kintetsu) and is the less impressive of the two. It's about a 5 minute walk from the station straight down the boulevard. The Inner Shrine (内宮 Naikū) is where the sun goddess Amaterasu is enshrined, who supposedly gave birth to the Japanese Imperial line and is Shinto's most significant deity. It's set in a sacred forest, and is reconstructed every 20 years. The trees are amazing; the river is very clean with massive carp. There are also wild deer, sacred horses, and turtles. Please note: you are forbidden to take photos of the main shrine building (at the end of the path). For Naiku, take bus #50, 51 from Ujiyamada Station (Kintetsu). Bus #51 also stops and boards at Geku, Ise-shi Station and Isuzugawa Station. For Geku, walk straight down the main Road from the JR side of Ise-shi Station. Accessing Naiku from central Ise is also possible by bike, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on where you're coming from.
- Oharai-machi / Okage Yoko-cho (おはらい町・おかげ横丁)
- After you see the shrine, this traditional (tourist) village in the style of old Japan is right next-door. It has plenty of traditional craft stores for you to peruse, and those all-time favorites 'Tofu ice-cream', 'Akafuku mochi' (a sweet dessert with the mochi on the inside), and 'Ise Udon' (udon noodles in soy sauce really). On the weekends, there are often Taiko demonstrations in the central courtyard. There are also some shrine museums and many gift shops ranging from tacky to treasures. There is a bus from the Outer Shrine to the Inner Shrine that stops near Okage Yoko-cho. It's about 400 yen one-way, and the stop is called Jingu-Kaikan-mae.
- Miya River (宮川 Miyagawa)
- To the west of Ise city center, there is the Miya River. The river itself is not that exciting, but in July there's a fantastic fireworks display and heaps of stalls with traditional festival food. Head to the banks of the river in April and you can see some of the most beautiful cherry blossoms in the prefecture and eat more festival food. Take your sake and join the salarymen for hanami (flower viewing party) under the trees. The cherry blossoms are mostly near the Watarai bridge. This same site is also the site of the annual Miyagawa Fireworks in July. The Miyagawa sakura area is one of only two parks in Mie listed in the "100 best sakura spots in Japan" guide.
- Farther north, near the Route 23 bridge, is a sports park called "Love River" with facilities for baseball, soccer, basketball, and tennis. There are also some tables with pits for BBQ at Love River. Another nice place is a park in Watarai, up the river a ways. The water up there is nicer and it could make for a more peaceful experience.
- Chōkokan (徴古館)
- This historical museum is near Isuzugawa Station (Kintetsu) and Jusco. The exhibits include information on the history of Japan and Shintoism. The entrance fee is 1000. To get there, head out of Isuzugawa Station and turn left on the road ... you should see a giant torii gate spanning the road ahead. The entrance is at the top of that hill. There is also an art gallery/museum and an agricultural museum in the same area. You can buy an entrance ticket to all three or to just one.
- The Wedded Rocks (夫婦岩 Meoto iwa)
- This shrine is in Futami, along the coast. Take the JR from Ise-shi station to Futaminoura station (about 10 min). About a 15 minute walk toward the coast from this station is Futami Okitama-jinja shrine, which houses the Meoto-iwa (The Wedded Rocks). The Wedded Rocks are two rocks that jut out of the water close together, so they are thought to be husband and wife. There is a sacred rope (shimenawa) tying them together. There is a shrine adjacent to the rocks (check out the frogs!). The rope is replaced 3 or 4 times a year (March, May, September, and December) in a dawn ceremony. It is a 35-40 minute bike ride from the center of Ise. The rocks are best observed during or close to high tide.
- Edo Wonderland
- This is an amusement/historical park in east Ise near Futami. There is a reproduction of a castle and actors who perform samurai fights and other traditional Japanese arts. The entrance fee is high, at about 5000 per person, but you might get lucky and obtain coupons to lower the cost. The park is a 15 minute walk south of Futaminoura station (JR). The park is open every day. March to November 30 it is open 9-5. From December to March 19 it is open 9:30-4.
- Mount Asama
- Ise's tallest mountain, easily identifiable by its communication towers at the top, offers a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean as well as the surrounding Ise-Shima National Park. There is a scenic toll road leading up to the top, and it can also be hiked comfortably.
- Fire Walking
- There is also a Buddhist temple in Futami that has a fire-walking ceremony about twice a year. The monk's wife is an Australian woman who can be contacted for further info in English if you visit.
Events and Festivals
- Ise Festival (伊勢大祭 Ise Ō-Matsuri)
- Early October - two days of matsuri madness both downtown and at the shrine.
- Night markets
- In early June there are market festivals along the old shopping street of Shin-michi (新道) every Thursday and Sunday night. This is probably the official start of yukata season and people who dress in yukata and go every night (and get their matsuri card stamped each night) are rewarded with a prize. This is also a very good time to buy very cheap yukata (I bought some last year for ¥1000 each!)
- Post office
- The main post office where you must go to receive packages is located along the main road, past city hall. Go past the stone Buddha and the Docomo shop and you will see it on the right-hand side of the street.
- Softbank Shop
- Softbank is the most common cellphone for JETs. To get one for yourself, follow the road towards Geku Shrine. The shop will be on your left, just before a large intersection. If you are coming from Iseshi Station, walk straight out of the station and keep heading towards Geku shrine. You will run right into the store. There is also a Softbank store in Lala park, with much more friendly and helpful staff.
- 105 Bank (百五銀行)
- This is the most prevalent bank in Mie Prefecture. The ATMs are all over. On weekdays, you can take money out until 6:00pm with no fee, from 6:00pm - 9:00pm there is a 105 yen fee. On weekends there's always a ¥105 fee and they're open until 9:00pm. You can use 105 ATMs every day of the year, including holidays.
- There are many hairdressers of all styles and price ranges. Here's an updated version of the popular salons. My best recommendation is BooFooWoo in Lala Park. Their staff are friendly and they aren't scared of foreign hair. They are also very sympathetic if your Japanese isn't up to scratch. A cut is about ¥3000 and color is ¥5000. They also do extensions (the plait style) for ¥500 per extension.
If you are looking for cheaper extensions, the Segi in Misono is the best bet. If you google "Segi 伊勢" then it is the first link. For the best quality cuts I suggest Puzzle, which is owned by Kenji and is located near to Yamadakamiguchi station. Cuts are still ¥3000 but color is ¥7000. You can get a point card too, and money off if you recommend a friend.
- Japanese lessons
- Upstairs in the Ise Citizen's Center (伊勢市民活動センター Ise Shimin Katsudō Sentā) every Thursday night at 7:00pm. It is located opposite of Geku and the Geku bus station. Pay ¥500 for a stamp card good for five lessons. All levels of Japanese proficiency are catered to. This is a great deal!
- There are two churches in Ise.
- Internet access
- You can use the Internet for ¥500 (half an hour) at Academia or free for an hour at Ise-topia (closed Mondays). Academia is more modern with scanners etc. You can also use the Internet in the Manga shop by Very (near the main post office). It is cheap, and they give you a glass of water. Cafe Rico, near the ITV offices and the Ise Police Station, has a few computers and even iPads for customer use.
- Jusco - 10am~9pm
- It has an average range of clothes from the usual Japanese-English T-shirts to shoes and bags. There are several ATMs including an international one (open until 5 on Sunday), a food court with McDonald's, and some noodle shops. The grocery store here has a good range of pastas, foreign foods and spices if you know what you are looking for. Fruit and vegetables tend to be more expensive here than Very or Gyutora. There is a wine shop selling reasonably priced wines from around the world. Located very close to Isuzugawa Station.
- LaLa Park
- Just off route 23 near the two-story McDonald's. Refurbished a few years ago, LaLa Park is small mall. Reachable by bicycle or bus, the main features include a brand new foreign food store, a 24-hour Max Valu, a large bookstore (with a selection of English books) and a Nitori home furnishings store (Nitori is a bit like a mini-Ikea). Of course, you'll also find a mix of clothing stores, shoe stores, and restaurants, including a Baskin Robbins.
- Misono Very
- Shopping center centered around a Very grocery store. Has some clothes and a fairly large 100 yen shop. Located just down Route 23 from LaLa Park in the direction of the Miya river.
- On the road between LaLa Park and Ujiyamada Station. Centered around a Gyutora, there is also clothes and a pet shop.
- A tiny shopping center on Uranohashi. Downstairs is a Gyutora and upstairs is a small clothing shop. Seeing someone who isn't at least double your age in this building is highly unlikely.
Covered Shopping Streets
Arcade style shopping streets (商店街 shōtengai) that have a really nice atmosphere to them.
- Ise's main shopping street that stretches on for quite a ways. One of the ends is very close to Ise-shi Station (JR side). A little more expensive than the western-style shopping centers, but a great selection of all sorts of things.
- Takayanagi (高柳)
- Coming from Ise-shi Station, if you go all the way through Shinmichi and turn left, cross the intersection, then the entrance to Takayanagi is right there on the right side. The other end lets out near Miyamachi intersection and Uranohashi.
- Takayanagi lets out into another covered shopping street. Has some good food and vegetable shops, but most other stores close before any of us get off of work. The average shopper age is at least 65.
- Meirin-mura (明倫村)
- There's one last shopping street in Ise that is directly across the street from Ujiyamada Station. It's pretty small but it has a great fresh vegetable shop.
100 Yen Shops
- Misono Very
- Ise's best hyaku-en shop.
- In the same complex as the newish Max Valu on Route 22 (which connects Route 23 to 37 through central Ise).
- US Mart
- In the Takayanagi shopping street (also has karaoke).
- A two-story coin shop on the aforementioned "Futami Road." Near a Zip drug store. A new Daiso has recently opened in LaLa Park.
- This is a very popular store for foreigners living in Japan. They actually have clothes that fit both men and women! And it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. The Ise Branch has been very popular with locals and JETs alike. It is a good place to stock up on fleece in the winter and t-shirts anytime. The clothes are basic, but not dowdy. It is sort of like a cheap Gap. It is located along route 23, near Misono Very, on the opposite side of the street.
- Old Sanco Department Store
- There's a giant, unoccupied, depressing building right near Ise-shi Station (JR side) that used to be a department store but closed quite a few years ago. There's a street that runs behind this building though that has functioning shops. This is your best place to find more independent clothing shops, including a surf shop and a punk shop. Whether you can find anything to fit you or not is another matter! Shops are usually closed on Tuesdays.
- Jingū Sandō (神宮参道)
- Like the road behind Sanco, there are lots of small clothing shops on Jingū Sandō, the street that leads from Iseshi Station (JR side) directly to the entrance into Geku. Walk right out front of Iseshi Station, pass the Eisu cram school, and Jingū Sandō is the street with all the hanging lanterns.
- Yamada Denki
- For electronics and appliances, if you don't get it at the second-hand shop then you won't be able to beat Yamada Denki in terms of selection and price.
- K's Denki
- A newly opened store is across from Rental Car karaoke on Route 23.
- Book Square
- Biggest bookshop in Ise. Located in LaLa Park. Buy and sell. A (very) small English section.
- Miraiya Shoten (未来屋書店)
- Jusco's book store (2F).
- Furukawa (古川書店)
- Small store but decent selection. Two locations in Ise, one in Shinmichi and the other on Route 37 (across Watarai bridge) past the bowling alley.
- Just across the Watarai Bridge in a complex with various other forms of entertainment.
LaLa Park and Jusco both have music shops, though LaLa Park has the bigger selection. There's also an independent CD shop on the road behind the old Sanco department store (now closed) right near Ise-shi Station (JR side). There's also a small CD shop on Shinmichi which sells mostly Japanese music.
- Large selection of new/used movies for buy and rent. On the road that runs between LaLa Park and Ujiyamada Station. The Second Street recycle shop has opened a small branch inside Geo.
- Recently opened branch in the new complex hosting the Valor shopping center and Valor home center. This complex is in the neighborhood a few blocks north from the Kintetsu side of Ise-shi station.
- Ise Video Service
- A small, local outlet that is nice if you live nearby -- Appears to have closed, perhaps for good. Confirmation pending.
- Kame Kame Video (かめかめビデオ)
- Located behind Very Supermarket and Jiraku Amusement Centre near Kogakkan University. They have a pretty good selection of English movies, and 1 week rentals are 100 yen per title.
Yamada Denki has a great selection. Jusco and LaLa Park have decent selections. Geo has the largest selection with lots of used games (some for older systems) but prices aren't that much lower than new games. The bookshop next to Valor (I think it's called something like Handa.. I don't know) also has a large selection of very cheap second hand games, with prices as low as ¥600 for DS games.
- 2nd Street Recycling
- This is a recycling store in Obata, over the Watarai bridge on Route 37 just past the Baskin Robbins. They sell the cheapest and nicest second-hand clothes in Mie-ken (average about 500) and the newest looking appliances. It is a great place to stock up your apartment. A new branch has opened in the Ise Geo.
- Recycling store
- This small store across from the Mie Board of Education near Setagawa on Route 32. Stocks cheap second-hand appliances for your home, plus some videos including anime and goofy adult stuff. Check it out.
- The Book-Off/Hard-off on the Obata side of the Watarai Bridge has a decent selection of used goods. You can easily hit 2nd Street and Book-Off in one trip.
- Do-it-yourself shop. Great if you need to buy cabinets or shelves etc. for your apartment. There are two in Ise, one is near Misono Very (away from Route 23), and the other is way down by the Gyu-tora that is right on the Miya River (near Ujiyamada High School).
- Ikea-style shop in LaLa Park (2F). If you buy something large they will deliver.
- Hana No Uta (花の詩)
- Located in the same lot as the "Very" supermarket near Kogakkan University. The owners are very friendly and can create something nice for you if tell them how much you want to spend. They take orders by phone, too, so you can just pick up your flowers without waiting (tel # 0120-015-087). They're open from 10 AM to 7 PM.
Food and Drink
- See Food and Drink in Ise - 67 listings
Recreation and Entertainment
- Next to the Misono Very near Route 23. They have an all-you-can-drink-in-an-hour special for ¥2000/per person, or you can sing without any liquid courage for ¥500/hour. It is open until 3am.
- US Mart
- Located in Takayanagi shopping street. It's the store with all the bikes parked out front. This hyaku-en shop has karaoke rooms available for any size group and you can buy your booze in the shop before heading up to your room. Open until 2am. (or later now?) Price depends on the size of the group and the time you arrive. They'll have you sign up for a membership -- you'll get a card and can access a non-alcohol drink bar. Book in two-hour blocks.
- Japan Rent-a-Car
- This is a unique establishment that rents car and provides karaoke booths. It is located right near the Route 23 bridge over the Miya River. If heading away from Ise, it's on the left side of the road and the sign is spelled in katakana. Prices are almost as low as US Mart and like that shop, you can bring your own booze. The rooms are slightly nicer and the song lists are more extensive here than anywhere else in Ise.
- Theater that shows independent movies. It is in fact the only independent movie theater in this part of Japan and draws people from all over.
- There's a large, major movie theater in ÆON Meiwa (the Meiwa Jusco).
Gyms and Sports
- Sun Life Center
- cheap, basic gym, no outdoor shoes allowed. It costs 200 to use the training room. Closed every Tuesday. You can also buy a yearly pass. Ask for prices at the gym. Open 9-9. Badminton Monday and Thursday nights.
- Isuzugawa Park
- Near the stadium and the park in the vicinity of Naiku, this gym is easily accessed by bike or car. The nearest station is Isuzugawa (Kintetsu), about a 20-minute walk. You can pay for the gym each time you go, at 230 yen, or you can pay in advance for various blocks. There is a decent amount of equipment, including treadmills, bikes, free weights and more. Closed all day Monday, the gym is open from 9 a.m to noon and then from 1:30 to 9 p.m. all other days, although there there are no morning hours on Wednesdays.
- Ise Wel Sunpia Center
- This is a hotel/gym where you can rent out the gym with your friends to play basketball, soccer, etc. Cost is only cheap if you split the fee between several people. I think they also have tennis courts. It is easiest to access this place by car or bike. By bike, it is a 20 min. ride away from Ise-shi Station.
- Gym near La La Park that is expensive, but it has a pool and some aerobic classes. Some of your teachers may go there.
- On Route 37 near the Watarai bridge, immediately across from the Miya River Banks. Immediately on the left. Expensive at ¥10,000 a month, but you can use the baths, pool and various keep fit classes as much as you like. Classes include kick boxing, aerobics and hip hop as well as your usual keep fit classes.
- Mie Bowl
- On Route 37 over the Watarai bridge. Look for the building with the giant bowling pin on top. ¥500 per person per game.
- There is a track open at Isuzugawa Koen Stadium. It can be used when there are no school events being hosted. There is also a mini track at the Miya River Banks.
- Sun Arena
- Located in the Asama part of town (朝熊町), they have a variety of bikes, walking and stepping machines, weight machines and some free-weights (mostly dumbells). The gym is spacious, clean, and air-conditioned, and unpretentious. Entry is ¥350 for 1 time, or you can get an 11 time pass for ¥3,500. Change rooms have lockers available for ¥100 (refundable), and there are 3 shower stalls. Also has a variety of other regular sports and fitness activities such as aerobics, karate, etc..
- There is a Curves on Route 23 and some kind of gym in the Valor shopping center.
- Japanese classes
- See Services
- Martial arts
- The Budoukan offers lots of different martial arts including karate, kendo, Aikido. Call in and ask for details (or ask your teachers to call for you). Also ask the teachers at the Sun Life Center, many of them may know available Dojos. Shoto-kan karate dojo is located near Ise-shi Station, they train Mon, Wed nights and Thursday nights at a different dojo location.
- Taiko Drumming
- There are various taiko groups all over Ise. There is a class at Ise-topia on Thursday nights. It's only conducted in Japanese, but the teacher knows a bit of English and so do some of the players. There are heaps of others all over Ise. The best way to find one is to start asking your teachers and anyone they know. There is one group that practices in Matsusaka on Wednesday nights too that encourages foreigners to join. Ask a JET in Matsusaka more about it if you are interested. It is only a 20min train ride and costs 390 yen.
- Taught by the amazing Miki-sensei (she is from Taiwan but married to a Japanese business man) who knows almost perfect English and has an enormous amount of contacts around town. Her classes are a cross-between dance, yoga, and ballet. It is sometimes hard work and not really like any yoga you've seen before, but good fun. She teaches in Ise on Tuesday and Friday at 7:30-9/9:30. It costs about 10,000 per month of Tuesdays only. Ask her what she would like to charge you. Prices differ.
- Jazz Dance
- Once or twice a week there are classes at the Sun Life Center. Ask for a schedule at the front desk.
- Mitasu no Yu (みたすの湯)
- A new man-made onsen that opened up next to the Valor Home Center. It costs 500 yen for a bath and one can buy a book of tickets for a small discount. You'll need to bring your own towel or rent one, but they do supply soap and shampoo. There is a wide variety of pools inside and outdoors in a nice garden. A sauna is also outside. The building itself also has massages with a special deal of 2000 yen for a 40 minute massage. Perfect way to chase away your school blues. -.- b
- Bath Houses
- Asahiyu is a sento (public bath) and is best in winter. It costs 300 per visit. There are 3 pools, an outside saltwater pool and lots of showers. (There is a sauna as well). You can bring your own towel or rent one. It is small compared to most, but a nice way to get naked and unwind. It is a common cure for stressed out or sick JETs.
- Kinsui is a bandai-sento near the Kinsui bridge between Ujiyamada station and the Post Office. It is not as clean as Asahiyu, but has its charm and a few baths - including a frigid bath and an electric bath. In the bandai style, the mama is in the middle of the entry area taking money from either side. For the ultra-shy this could be uncomfortable. One can buy ten tickets to be used at various sento in Ise for a reduced price.
- There are a few good hiking paths available in Ise. In particularly, the hike up Mt. Asama is pretty comfortable and offers an amazing view at the top. The trail head is very close to Asama Station (Kintetsu), so it's easy to get to as well.
- Skate Park
- There are some skate park ramps and rails built under the Watarai Bridge at the Miya River Banks.
- Japanese lessons
- Upstairs in the Ise Citizen's Center every Thursday night at 7:00pm. It is located opposite of Geku and the Geku bus station. Pay 500 yen for a stamp card good for five lessons. All levels of Japanese proficiency are catered to. This is a great deal!
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