Ise, Shima, Toba & Matsusaka on the Kii Peninsula : 4 Days/3 Nights
Ise, Shima, Toba and Matsusaka are located in central Japan’s Mie Prefecture, which is a part of the Kii Peninsula. Kii Peninsula is the largest in Japan, and is home to large parts of Osaka and Nagoya Prefectures. Nara is located in North part, Wakayama in Southwest part and Mie Prefecture in the Southeast.The Kii Peninsula was selected as a Best in Travel Top 10 Regions winner, coming in 5th Place in 2018 by Lonely Planet.Mie Prefecture is best known for Ise Jingu Grand Shrine, the holiest site in all of Shinto and the top dog among all of Japan’s tens of thousands of shrines. Still, the area is more than a religious center, with beautiful nature, a lively fishing industry, and delicious local delicacies to explore.
Day 1: Afternoon tour
in Ise-Jingu Grand Shrine and Okage-Yokocho Shopping Street
You’ll travel from Tokyo Station to Ise-shi Station by “Shinkansen” (bullet train) and JR Express Train. (Total travel time: approx. 3 hours 20 minutes.)
Your first destination is Ise-Jingu Shinto Shrine. Shinto is the indigenous faith of the Japanese. It is a way of life and a way of thinking that is an integral part of Japanese culture. Observing the Shingo faith means worshipping ancestors as guardians of the family and also means showing respect for the myriad deities residing in the natural world.
There are deities of mountains and the sea, deities of rain, wind, thunder, water, flowers and rocks. They are all around us in everything and every person so they may be worshipped anywhere. However, many people visit Shinto shrines to pray, cleansing their hands and mouth at the entrance to purify the body and mind.
Shinto Shrines are called “jinja” in Japanese. There are 80,000 jinja in Japan today where various deities are enshrined. Jinja are sacred places and are always kept clean and pure. Often surrounded by trees, jinja are infused with the divine energy of nature.
Ise-Jingu, officially “Jingu”, includes 125 jinja dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu-omikami. It is roughly the same size as Paris. More than 1,500 rituals are conducted here yearly to pray for the prosperity of the Imperial family and the peace of the nation.
Amaterasu-Omikami was formerly worshiped in the Imperial Palace, but following an epidemic, the 10th Emperor decided to move her symbol, the sacred mirror, that she might be worshiped more respectfully and thus end the disaster. It was the 11th Emperor who ordered his princess, Yamatohime-no-mikoto, to see the most appropriate place to permanently enshrine and worship Amaterasu-Omikami. It is said that the princess traveled the land searching for this special place until she received a revelation by the banks of Isuzugawa River. This is origin of Naiku (Inner Shrine) of Jingu you will visit this afternoon.
After Ise Jingu’s Naiku (inner shrine), you’ll have the opportunity to pick up locally crafted products and food in the Okage-yokocho shopping street, which was built to reflect the atmosphere of the Edo and Meiji periods and to reconstruct the old towns. You will feel the nostalgia of old-town Ise.
You’ll arrive at your ryokan by 4pm and have traditional Japanese cuisine called Kaiseki before relaxing in a natural hot spring bath.
Suggested lunch: Traditional local cuisine called Mehari-Zushi (Sushi)
Suggested dinner: Traditional local cuisine and sake at your ryokan (Japanese inn)
Suggested accommodation: Yumeyuuka, Shimakanko Hotel The Classic, Amanemu, Nemu, The Earth
Day 2: Toba Day Tour—
Mikimoto Pearl Island & Secret “Toshi-jima” Island of Fishermen
On your second day in Mie Prefecture, after meeting your tour guide, you will head to your first destination, Mikimoto Pearl Island.
Kokichi Mikimoto was a founder of Mikimoto Pearl Company. In 1893, he etched his name in history when successfully creating the world’s first cultured pearls. Before the development of cultured pearls, only natural pearls were available, which were mere products of chance. Less than one in a thousand oyster shells may produce a pearl during their lifetime.
On Mikimoto Pearl Island, you will see the finest collections of art made of high quality Akoya pearls at Mikimoto Pearl Museum, learn history and how to cultivate the pearls, see demonstration of traditional female divers called Ama, and visit a jewelry store filled with beautiful pearls.
After Mikimoto Pearl Island you will head to the next destination on a 15-20 minute ferry ride, Toshi-jima Island. Toshi-jima is a small secret fisherman island, but the biggest island in the Ise Bay. Explore and stroll around the island with your guide. Find out and see what kinds of products were caught today in the local fish market.
In a secret alley, you will find a small tofu maker and taste fresh soy milk made this morning and ganmodoki, deep fried tofu mixed with thinly sliced vegetables, which were just shaped and fried in front of you. You’ll enjoy having the best sushi using local products from the Ise Bay for lunch at a local sushi restaurant in the island.
Suggested lunch: Sushi made using fish in season from Ise Bay for lunch at the best local sushi restaurant in Toshi-jima Island
Day 3: Shima Day Tour—Explore Ago-Bay & Experience Local Culture
Upon meeting your guide, you will head to Shinju-no-Sato by private car.
Shinju no Sato is located in a small hidden inlet of Ago Bay surrounded by only sea and mountains, and is managed by a family who’s been engaged in the pearl aquaculture business for over 65 years. They offer you simulated experiences of the various pearl farming processes, such as nucleus implantation and harvesting. You will also try your hand at making accessories from harvested pearls. Enjoy making your own accessories by extracting pearls from the shells!
After Shinju-no-Sato, you will head to Katsuo-no-Tenpaku.
“Katsuo-bushi” (bonito flakes) have a long history in Japan dating back before the 16th century. Katsuo No Tenpaku, a brand of bonito flakes, is harvested by a locally famous Tenpaku craftsman family who has a very long history in making katsuo-bushi. In 1946 the family established its own business, which is now in its 4th generation.
Here, you get a full demonstration on how to make katsuo-bushi flakes the traditional way, after which you will taste sample the freshly shaved bonito flakes with rice. In Japanese cuisine, bonito flakes are eaten with rice, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, tofu, and more. They are very popular!
Next, you’ll visit an Ama’s hut to meet a real Ama-san, female divers who catch products in the sea, and have seasonal fresh seafood there. Ama culture used to be seen in seaside villages all over Japan; however, Ama culture is dying since young women don’t want to do it anymore as it is a really hard job. This region is one of the few places in Japan where real Ama culture has continued to be passed on.
After experiencing Ama’s culture, stop at Yokoyama Observation Deck on the way to your hotel.
From this observation deck, you can take in the full view of Ago Bay’s coast and 64 islands dotted around the bay.
Suggested lunch: Seasonal fresh seafood at an Ama hut
Suggested dinner: Traditional local cuisine and sake at your ryokan (Japanese inn)
Day 4: Morning Tour to Matsusaka & Departure
On your last day of the tour, after checking out your hotel, you will stop at the last destination, Matsusaka City on the way to Chubu International Airport by private car.
Here you will experience three specialties of Matsusaka, which are:
Matsusaka Cotton—try on a cotton kimono at a local kimono shop
Matsusaka-cha (or tea)—visit a local tea shop to enjoy tea tasting
Matsusaka Ushi (or Matsusaka wagyu beef)—taste A5 lank of Matsuzaka Ushi or Matsusaka Wagyu Beef for lunch at one of the best Matsusaka Ushi local restaurants
Anyone who serves Matsusaka Ushi must have a certificate shown at each restaurant. Matsusaka Ushi isn’t imported, which may be the reason why Matsusaka Ushi is little-known to outside Japan compared to Kobe beef.
After lunch, you will be transferred to Tsu Port to take a high speed vessel to Chubu International Airport.
Suggested lunch: Matsusaka Ushi or Matsusaka Wagyu Beef in Matsusaka City
Travel With Kids
We offer exciting tours that can be enjoyed along with your children.
We can also arrange for child care, as well as a doctor or nurse should the unfortunate need arise.
The total tour cost will be based on the hotel rooms you have selected, and include transfers, a private vehicle with driver, an English-speaking private tour escort, specialized field guides, travel insurance, activities and entrance fees, and breakfast at the hotel. (Room prices at ryokans typically include breakfast and dinner in the room, or in some cases in the hotel’s dining room.)
Optional special activities will be quoted separately.
Some personal expenses, including lunches, dinners, alcoholic beverages, and spa treatments will need to be directly paid at the time of consumption.
Prices may vary depending on the season and chosen level of accommodation.
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