Stretching along the picturesque coast of Mie Prefecture is the captivating Ise-Shima National Park. This area boasts two of Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines: the Ise Grand Shrine and the Futami Okitama Shrine. Both provide insights into the rich history and culture of the region.
The history of Ise-Shima dates back to the 3rd or 4th century BC with the establishment of the revered Ise Grand Shrine. This marked the beginnings of what would evolve into a cherished pilgrimage destination.
Ise-Shima was designated as Japan’s first national park in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. Today, it serves as a magnet for both local and international tourists, particularly because of its natural beauty.
Reaching Ise Shima（伊勢志摩） from Tokyo
To travel from Tokyo to Ise Shima, the train is the most convenient and efficient option. Take the JR Tōkaidō Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya Station, a journey of approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. Upon arriving at Nagoya Station, transfer to the Kintetsu limited express trains, which will get you to Ise City in about another 2 hours.
Alternatively, overnight bus services run from Tokyo to Ise City. This option provides a longer journey, taking around 9 hours.
What to See in Ise-Shima National Park?
Ise Grand Shrine（伊勢神宮）
Among Japan’s most significant Shinto shrines, the Ise Grand Shrine is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami. She is believed to be the mythical ancestor of the Japanese imperial family. The shrine encompasses 125 individual shrines, spread throughout a vast forest. Notably, the Naiku (inner shrine) and Geku (outer shrine) undergo a unique ritual known as the Shikinen Sengū, where they are rebuilt every 20 years.
Futami Okitama Shrine（二見興玉神社）
This pivotal Shinto shrine in Ise Shima is dedicated to the deities of marriage and fertility. It’s best known for the “Meoto Iwa” or “married rocks,” two colossal stones bound by a sacred rope. The shrine serves as a popular pilgrimage site, especially for couples.
Established in May 1955, Toba Aquarium is one of Japan’s most expansive aquatic facilities. It houses a diverse collection of over 25,000 creatures from 1,200 different species. Visitors can explore interactive displays that offer valuable insights into marine life, providing a unique opportunity to engage intimately with these fascinating animals.
Mikimoto Pearl Island（ミキモト真珠島）
Known as the birthplace of cultured pearl aquaculture, Mikimoto Pearl Island is where Kokichi Mikimoto, the founder of the Mikimoto Pearl Company, established a pearl farm in 1893. Located just off the coast of Toba City, the island houses the Mikimoto Pearl Museum. Here, visitors can explore the history of the pearl industry in Japan, witness the cultivation process, and even purchase pearls from the island’s shop.
Ama huts are traditional thatched-roof dwellings used by Ama divers, who are primarily women known for their pearl and seafood diving. At the Ama Hut in Toba City, visitors can explore the Ama tradition, observe the divers’ way of life, and learn about their work.
The Ria Coast in Ago Bay（英虞湾）
The Ria Coast in Ago Bay stands as one of the most beautiful and unique features of Ise-Shima National Park. This coast is dotted with numerous inlets and islands, formed by the land subsiding and the sea levels rising post the Ice Age. Visitors can embark on boat tours to explore these inlets and islands, visit quaint fishing villages and ports, or hike up cliffs for panoramic views. And don’t miss out on savoring the fresh seafood available at the numerous restaurants and shops along the coast!