Matsusaka, Ise, Toba, Atsumi (Mie/Aichi)
Tour Code: OK1129
Tour Fee: 12300 Discount Price: 9850
Date: Sunday November 29th
We begin with a visit to Matsusaka Castle, built by Ujisato Gamo in 1588. The samurai barracks (“Gojoban-Yashiki”), amongst just a handful of original tenements of this period left in Japan today, are amazing. We will enter one, a rare chance to see exactly how the families of samurai lived.
Quite a few of the houses are still occupied by the direct descendants of the men who were serving the Tokugawa Daimyo of the Kishu domain when the Tokugawa Shogunate fell from power in 1868.
There are many interesting things to see, including an image of Mary, hidden and buried at the base of a stone lantern by a secret Christian after the banning of the religion in the 17th century. There is almost no information about the lantern in local literature, but it is possible to visit and see the image.
Next are the famous wedded rocks of Futamigaura, where pilgrims cleansed themselves prior to visiting the Ise Grand Shrines, the most important shrines in Japan.
From here we head to the delights of Okage Yokocho, an old style neighborhood where pilgrims would let their hair down so to speak (class distinctions were usually ignored amongst pilgrims, offering men and women of different social class all sorts of possibilities).
These days Mie is increasingly famous for its incredibly good beef – “Matsusaka-gyu”. Many of the shops are centuries old, and we will enjoy a Matsusaka Beef lunch like no other. Lunch is included in the tour fee, so please let us know in advance if you are a vegetarian. There will also be some free time. There are usually taiko drumming performances and other displays available, and the district is superb for souvenir hunting.
After lunch we’ll visit the Naiku (“Kotai Jingu”) of the Grand Shrines complex. Dedicated to the worship of Amaterasu-ōmikami, and rebuilt ever 20 years since either the 4th or 5th century (the records are not provable), the buildings of the Naiku provide a perfect example of pre-Buddhist architecture, and are the most important shrines in Japan. The Naiku shrine is supposed to be where the Emperor’s sacred mirror is venerated (It is probably just a common 4th century Chinese bronze mirror, but you can’t see it, and it is probable that no one else has seen it for many centuries).
From Ise we head to nearby Toba. Toba has a rich maritime history (even access to the castle gate was by water) and is now primarily a tourist destination. It was in Toba that the world’s first cultured pearls were developed by Mikimoto Kokichi in the late 19th century. One of the showpieces of Japanese inventiveness, at Mikimoto we also watch female Ama divers working the seabed (without breathing apparatus) and enjoy a superb museum.
The displays and exhibits are fascinating, and it is sometimes difficult to get the female participants out of the gift/jewelery shop, but there is a lot to see, including some extremely beautiful works of art utilizing pearls from throughout the world, including pieces from the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea region during the days of the Roman Empire.
From Toba we will drive aboard a ship, and sail across the mouth of Ise Bay to the Atsumi Peninsula in Aichi. It is much cooler at sea, you get good views of the islands and secluded beaches, and if you are lucky you can see the dolphins that often play in the bow waveｓ of the ferry.
All in all, it is a pretty nice way to travel.
When we reach landfall, our final destination is Hii-no-Sekimon. These are rock formations and caves formed from wave action. Great place for photographers and beachcombers. From here we will head to Akabane Long Beach, very popular with the Japanese surfing community, before leaving at sunset.
Please bring a towel etc for this trip.
Departs: East Exit, JR Okazaki Station, Saturday, 8:30am. Returns: 9:00pm (approx)
Mode of transport: Minivan or Microbus
Deadline for Discount Price: 14 days prior
Tour Code: OK1129 (needed for application form below)