Ise and Nagoya Report
I think I’m in danger of not posting about my 3-day weekend in Ise and Nagoya, so I better just churn something out, eh? Friday night, I boarded the overnight bus on a 6.5 hour journey down to Nagoya, arriving at the pleasantly deserted hour of 6 am. After a quick breakfast, I went another two hours south to Ise, home of the holiest shrines in Japan. Legend has it that the Japanese imperial family is descended from a particular god – this god gave the family three sacred treasures: a sword, a mirror, and a jewel. The mirror is enshrined at Ise, although no one has seen it for hundreds of years. The shrines themselves (there are two) are overwhelming Japanese in architecture, in stark contrast to many of the other famous shrines in Japan (particularly Nikko, their apparent rival for spectacular-ness). To top it all off, the shrines are completely torn down and rebuilt every 20 years according to Shinto tradition, which necessitates two separate (albeit adjacent) locations for the buildings. It’s quite the piece of Japanese culture and history. The most disappointing thing? You can’t take pictures near the inner shrines, so the memories will just have to live in my mind. :)
Anyway, I decided to make a day of it by seeing some of the other things Ise had to offer, including Oharaimachi (a traditional-style shopping area where I had very yummy shaved ice), Meoto Iwa (the famous “wedding rocks”) and Mikimoto Pearl Island (home of the world’s first cultured pearls). All in all, it was an extremely busy, tiring, and fulfilling day. I’m very glad I went.
On Sunday, I started out the day with a visit to Nagoya Castle, which was much more impressive and interesting than I expected (when you’ve seen one ferro-concrete Japanese castle reconstruction, you’ve seen them all – or so I thought). I also made a quick stop by the Nagoya Noh Theater to take a look at its small museum.
Of course, the main event of the weekend was the sumo tournament. I’ve gotta say, I really love sumo now. I thought it would be interesting in a cultural sense, but I really developed an affinity for the sport itself. In the morning, I squatted in the very pricey first row seats, getting an amazing view of the lower-ranked wrestlers – several actually fell about 6 inches from my feet, that’s how close I was. And it was just enthralling! I mean, with matches that only last 3-5 minutes, there’s no time to get bored. There was definitely some skill and strategy involved. And honestly, I didn’t mind the copious amounts of man-flesh.
A few hours later, I was joined by Grace, Rosalind, and Johanna who had been living it up in Osaka for a few days. We eventually migrated up to our seats in the balcony. The higher-ranked wrestlers definitely carried themselves as such – as the day went on, the matches got progressively longer and involved more pre-match intimidation. It was hilarious to see a wrestler suddenly get worked up, beat his chest in front of the crowd and then throw a handful of salt into the ring with such drama – the spectators’ folding fans would start fluttering with excitement and you knew it was going to be a good match. :) We saw several of the famous sumo stars, including Asashoryu, the only current yokozuna in the sport (who dispensed with his opponent relatively quickly and still remains undefeated during this tournament, I believe). You can read more about sumo and the July tournament here.
Ok, after that things were relatively mundane. The four of us headed to Outback Steak House in Nagoya for an extremely delayed but delicious dinner. The three musketeers went back to their capsule hotel in Osaka, while I bedded down in my Nagoya dormitory. Monday morning was spent shopping in Sakae, taking advantage of the amazing summer sales. And then I had another 6.5 hour bus ride to my home sweet home in Niigata.
And there you have it folks, the full report. Check out the full photo set here.