Above: Watch the fascinating sunset of Meoto Iwa
Ise Shrine and Amaterasu Omikami
Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, one of the most sacred destinations in Japan, is linked with the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano via the Kumano Kodo. Ancient legends state that the Japanese Imperial family is descended from the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, who is enshrined in the Inner Shrine or Naiku at Ise. In keeping with traditional beliefs in cycles of death and renewal, the shrine is rebuilt every twenty years, with 2013 marking the occasion when the deities are transferred from their old homes to the new ones.
The Wedded Rocks and other Marvels
The sacred Meoto Iwa or the ‘Wedded Rocks’ on the coast near Futama are said to represent the Japanese creator spirits, Izanami and Izanagi. The rocks are joined by a sacred rope or ‘shimenawa’, examples of which can be seen at many Shinto shrines around Japan.
Iga Ueno, which is midway between Osaka and Nagoya, will satisfy both lovers of military and literary history. In addition to being the birth place of the famous poet, Matsuo Basho, Iga Ueno is home to a castle which boasts the highest stone walls in Japan.
Rice Cakes and Rare Beef
A visit to Mie Prefecture is not complete without trying Akafuku mochi, a pounded rice cake with a wonderfully chewy consistency, which is beautifully complemented by sweet red bean paste.
While this delicacy is readily available throughout the prefecture, a visit to the Oharai Machi shopping precinct near the entrance to the Inner Shrine at Ise is highly recommended.
Mie prefecture is also noted for its Matsuzaka beef, which hails from cattle fattened on beer and massaged to improve the texture of the meat.