Our brief visit to the Ise Peninsula felt otherworldly. We drove in (and out) through the most impossible fog and heavy rain but this didn’t dampen the magic. I was most excited to get a glimpse of the Ama divers, even if, as a visitor, my only access would be at the Mikimoto Pearl Museum. Their performance didn’t disappoint. The ritualistic diving demonstration played out like a water ballet. Robed in long layers of white the women slipped gracefully into the murky depths and surfaced with treasures whistling with every breath. The tradition of female Ama diving is about 2,000 years old. And while the original Ama foraged for pearl oysters among the thick forests of seaweed, today this task is commercialized. However, a small number of women in rural coastal communities still continue this practice (some into their 80s!) diving for abalone and other sea food delicacies.
The rain unfortunately prevented us from exploring much of the Ise Grand Shrine and its beautiful grounds. Instead we huddled inside eating plates of delicious Japanese curry at Jamise and pastries at the famous Tonchin bakery. We spent the night at Kazami Guesthouse, a simple, eco conscious place.
On our way back to Tokyo we drove via the Ise-Shima Skyline road to the top of Mount Asama. The drive culminated at a near-abandoned visitors centre—it’s brutalist architecture contrasted by the eerie melody that quietly played from the loud speakers (listen below). Thick fog quickly began to envelop us as we looked out over the Pacific. Fade to white.