This blog is about travelling through Japan on a foldable bicycle (Brompton) but also by train, ferry, plane, bus or any other transport, if sea, weather, mountains or the like come between me and my desire to ride.
I have tried to summarise information that could be potentially helpful also for other bicycle travellers through Japan, such as list of bicycle roads, helpful web pages etc. Once I start my ride, I will upload the actual routes taken, together with some pictures and description.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Day 36 - Irago to Ise 伊良湖から伊勢市へ

Bicycle touring Japan - Day 36

Today to my final destination of this ride along the Pacific, over from Irago to Ise, the place with the most sacred shrine in Japan. A perfect day in the sun, on the ocean and riding through rural Japan.

Bicycle:  approx. 35 km
Ferry: 21 km
Riding time: ??? (see comment below)
Total ascent: approx 200 m
Route: Hotel to Irago port by bicycle, over to Toba by ferry and then on to Ise by bike
Weather: Sunny only a few clouds in the afternoon, maybe around 20 C

Today I woke up in my nice hotel in the middle of a national park with a great view from my window over the low growing bushes, a lake and something that is probably a golf court.

And started the day with a hot bath, with similarly nice views:

The hotel (Kyukamura Irago) was hiding in the woods when I left and set of towards the ferry which would bring me over to Mie prefecture over the Irago bay.

And off with the ferry in a calm, sunny day over the bay...

... to Toba. Toba itself is a touristic destination, that somehow got famous and very ugly. So I made it quickly out of the town and over in the direction of Ise. Shortly after leaving the town of Toba, I passed this very serene maritime landscape. The nets in the center of the picture are most likely farms for pearls. At least that's what Toba is famous for.

A bit further on, I came by the Meoto Iwa, two rocks in the ocean bound together as man and wife:

In that same shrine also frogs get apparently venerated.

But to get to this shrine, at least from direction Toba, one first is kind of forced to cross a big Omiyage shopping mall. Well, there is a way around it, but it is not obvious when you arrive to the parking lot, so I - together with hundreds of Japanese - trekked through the shops full of biscuits, pearls, dried fish etc, out to the coast. If one arrived from the other side, there is actually still an approach without any touristic shops. And that's where I got out of this area and on with my ride on this dyke:

It continues for quite a while. And then I headed inland. I somehow had expected the area around Ise to be much more built up. Maybe because Ise is such a famous place in Japan, but actually it is quite rural and my route brought me nearly up to the Inner shrine (Naiku 内宮) riding through this landscape.

To the shrine an actually quite nice shopping (omiyage) street was leading. However by bike I took a small parallel street down by the river and then found a perfect parking lot where to leave my brompton while I went off to explore the most sacred Japanese shrine.

This here is the special purification place in the sacred river:

The shrine itself is so sacred, that it is nearly all hidden behind a wooden fence. Pictures are only permitted from outside of the outer most fence.

Once up those stairs, you arrive before a gateway in the fence around the shrine on which a curtain is fixed. In front of that people are praying. The actual shrine is behind a third fence and an other building and one can only get some glimps of its roof. Per the description in the guidebook it is a remarkable architecture that is NOT influenced by other asiatic (aka Chinese) architecture, as this shrine was built before such influence started. Now the shrine itself is not very old (a mere 4 years) as it is being rebuilt every 20 years.

In the shrine grounds there are also a number of other shrines, that all seem to have a very similar structure. And all with a wooden fence around them.

And it would seem that ALL of them get rebuilt every 20 years. At least there is a free building space with the gravel already laid out like on the built up plot besides all of them.

The only thing that is already on the empty plot, is a small hut, most likely at the exact location where the inner sanctuary of the next shrine will be. Looks a bit like a summer cottage for the god living currently next house.

The shrine grounds are also very nice, with huge pathways through a towering forrest. And it is definitely a spot beloved by tourists, although at the most sacred shrine there were no queues or anything, probably because for most (Chinese) tourists, there is simply not too much to see there. With most of it being hidden behind a fence.

When I had finished walking through the grounds, I returned on my bike and rode down to the Outer shrine, Geku (外宮), which is quite far away, but in the city center of Ise. Surprisingly it is also in a similar wooden area.

Also the shrines here are very similar in their architecture and also seem to get reconstructed every 20 years, with the new building plots already available.

Then on to my last hotel of this second leg of my travel through Japan, close to the station of Ise. In the evening I had even some time to explore some remaining traditional streets right behind the hotel, which are not even very touristic. Probably tourists that come to Ise are already busy enough visiting the shrines, the rock in the water and the pearl island in Toba, and do not get allotted sufficient time to also tour the city.

After all this nice sunshine today and yesterday, for tomorrow (and the day after) rain is forecasted at 100% chance. As I need to be in Tokyo anyway mid next week, I will travel back to Tokyo tomorrow (by train), sit out typhoon # 22 in Tokyo and then restart at the end of next week. Yet to be decided where, but looking now to the weather forecast it seems that finally the autumn sun will come back.

Bicycle touring Japan - Ride maps

I had been taking today mainly the route I had planned out in Garmin months ago. Unfortunately at some point I must have hit the wrong key on the device, at least none of the ride information got stored. So you can't see one of the nice changes I did to the route, riding along the ocean on top of the dyke (see picture above, right after leaving Meotoiwa).

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