Tucked between Tokyo and Osaka and bypassed by the bullet trains, Mie Prefecture clings to a crinkled coastline on the Kii Peninsula, bounded by primeval forests.
The big drawcard is the sacred Shinto shrine precinct, Ise Jingu. The main sanctuary, Kotai Jingu, is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, who is said to have given birth to the Japanese imperial family. To walk across the wooden Ujibashi Bridge towards the shrine, which was established some 2000 years ago, is to cross from everyday life into a sacred realm.
Another part of Japan’s creation story unfolds in the fishing town of Futamigaura, where two rocks known as Meoto Iwa jut out of the sea, bound together by sacred rope. It’s said these “married” rocks gave birth to the islands of Japan. Seeing the sun rise between the two is unforgettable.
Beyond its spiritual riches, Mie is also naturally beautiful, its picturesque bays dotted with jewel-like islands. One of those bays, Ago, is home to Amanemu (aman.com), a boutique Aman resort that offers the elegance and hospitality of a traditional ryokan with the flexibility and comfort of an international hotel. In a luxury take on a spiritual retreat, the contemporary Japanese-style suites and villas open onto private decks with baths and views of the bay, where ama, the famous female divers, search for abalone, spiny lobsters and clams.
After diving all morning, the ama retreat to huts where they can warm themselves by the fire and cook lunch. Some huts are open to the public so you can hear the women’s stories over lunch. (Amanemu and several local companies can organise a visit.)
Nearby Toba is the birthplace of cultured pearls – Kokichi Mikimoto successfully produced the world’s first here in 1893. There’s a museum on Mikimoto Pearl Island and plenty of opportunities to buy beautiful jewellery.
In another claim to fame, Mie’s town of Matsusaka rivals Kobe for its Wagyu beef. Try it at Wadakin, where you’re seated in a private dining room overlooking a small traditional garden while kimono-clad staff cook dishes at your table.
And if you’re travelling with kids,
don’t miss the Ninja Museum of Igaryu in Iga. See live-action shows, learn techniques and explore a house full
of tricks and traps. If the Mie Prefecture isn’t well known outside of Japan, perhaps it’s because the secretive ninja clans want to keep it that way.
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