Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ise Shrine and Tekone zushi

Me and Yukine went to Ise Shrine (only a 15 min train ride from her place in Matsusaka) to have our first shrine visit of the year today (hatsumode 初詣). From the Ise train station, the outer shrine (geku 外宮) was only a short walk down a very cute street lined with shops and restaurants. The Ise shrines are both very natural and beautiful looking, made of plain unpainted wood and set back into the greenest most peaceful forests I've ever seen. Geku wasn't that crowded and we were able to make our way around easily, but the main shrine (naiku 内宮) was packed full, and it took us an hour of standing in a sea of people (photo below) in order to toss in our yen and give our thanks.

It was amazing how far people came just to do their hatsumode at this shrine. There were periodic car announcements that were trying to tell people from Ehime, Gifu, Tokyo, and Hyogo Ken about how their car lights were on or something. I wish I knew more about this tradition. Considering Japan is a pretty unreligious country, there are so many traditions that involve going to the shrine or temple to pray and people go amazing distances just to attend the right ceremony, the famous festival or the best "power spot" for whatever.

After giving our thanks, we went out to eat Ise's meibutsu dish, Tekone zushi, which is basically a maguro donburi that has sushi rice underneath. It was really really good and I highly recommend trying it out if you take a trip down to Mie. I also got my first taste of Matsysaka gyu and bought a Matsusaka gyu man. Really hot but pretty good, although Yukine insists that it is nothing compared to the expensive steaks they serve in restaurants where the "meat melts in your mouth." Apparently we are going to try and eat some of that tomorrow for dinner so.... Excited!

Tekone sushi..... so sooo good.
Sea of humanity
Matsusaka gyuuu~
Almost to the shrine after an hour of waiting!

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