Before we left for Ise, I told Brad we needed a relaxing weekend that allowed the kids to play and enjoy nature. I was feeling pretty beat down by our fantastic but exhausting trip to France. I wasn't up for dragging the kids from site to site, and I really wanted them to enjoy weekend.
We visited some of the famed sacred shinto shrines in Ise and loved them, but I think our favorite activities involved relaxing while the kids played in and by the water. In fact, we found this river on the way to the grand shrine and we ended up never seeing the shrine. The kids enjoyed playing in the water (fully clothed) so much and the place was so serene and beautiful in the evening light that we just didn't want to leave.
We left drenched and happy.
Ise was Brad's pick. As it's the home to Japan's most sacred Shinto shrines, he was intrigued by the description of unique heritage and religious sites in Ise. I wasn't sure what to expect but, as usual with Japan, I was not disappointed.
Futami Beach felt like the Pacific North West coast. Two of those big rocks in the distance are part of the sacred shrine--husband and wife rock, tied together by a shimenawa rope, which separates earthly and spiritual realms.
The kids played in the water for a long time--except for Skye, who favored the land and refused to touch the water.
We visited Mikimoto Pearl Island, where they harvest pearls, and learned about the process and watched the women divers, all dressed in white, dive for pearls. It was really unique and interesting to see.
We finished the trip with a hike to a cave where the sun goddess, Amaterasu, hid for a while from her jerk brother who was destroying all her stuff, thereby passive aggressively punishing him and everyone else with darkness--because she, the sun, was hiding. Or that's how I understood the story. I'm sure I've got it wrong. We expected this giant cave because.. well, she's the sun.. but instead found a tiny cave barely big enough to hold Skye! Japan makes me laugh sometimes.
Ise was the perfect low-key vacation for us and once again I found Japan to be more beautiful than I did before.