There’s not much happening in Mie. It’s a prefecture a little way east of Kyoto, and it’s pretty quiet. I rode in on the train on a rainy day, and watched everyone get off the train before I did, as I pulled into Iga-Ueno station to check out some ninjas.
With all the mist in the mountains, it wasn’t difficult to see why this area was one of the two which contest for having had the best ninjas in Japan, back in the time when that still counted. These days, it’s perhaps a slightly wider-known secret, and the ninjas walking around Ueno these days don’t seem quite so hardcore as the ones of old probably were.
But, after arriving at Iga-Ueno station, and realising that there was nothing around, I wondered how to get to Ueno-shi, where all the action was. I approached a random mother and daughter who had just seen someone off, and they offered to drive me to where I needed to go! Maybe they just wanted something to do. So I jumped in the car, feeling pretty confident in being able to take both of them if they tried anything funny – even if they were ninjas – and they drove me to the centre of town, as well as around various hotels until I found the cheapest one in town to book a room for the night. The daughter took a photo of herself with me after pulling out some kind of space-age camera with bits and pieces that mechanically unwound and popped out all over the show. It looked like the Matrix.
They left me at Ueno Castle, and I wandered over to the Ninja House. This particular ninja wasn’t doing a particularly good job of keeping himself hidden by the looks of it.
So, I bought a ticket at the Ninja Ticket Office, and got in line. Inside some tour guides showed us how a real ninja would have lived in his house back in the day, and showed us all the little tricks and secrets in his house where he could appear and disappear at ease, and the hidden places where weapons were stored so the ninja could confuse and trap anyone who might have wanted to attack him. After that, we were lead into the Ninja Museum, where we got to see a bunch of tools of the trade and have the Ninja Secrets Exposed!
Following that was a live Ninja Show, with real life Ninja Weapons! It was all pretty full-on, but to be honest, ninjas are pretty cool.
I got a message from my ex, saying that she would come and visit Mie with me, so, already being 5 o clock, and everything in Ueno having already shut down, I just went back to the station to wait.
Checkout at the hotel was 10am, so at 10.02am, the old lady behind the counter was banging on our door, reminding us that she was terribly sorry, but it WAS past check out time. Love that Japanese punctuality.
Leaving behind the ninja cars and other various ninja apparel, we got on the train and headed out to Ise, home of Ise Jingu, the most sacred shrine
It’s actually a collection of smaller shrines bound together, and a modest 4.5 kilometres from the central shrine to the outer. The central area is the nicest, though, and where Japan’s supreme Shinto deity lives – Amaterasu Omikami.
This place was so sacred that tourists weren’t allowed in the shrine grounds – even photos weren’t allowed in the general praying vicinity. So I could only steal a shot of the top of the place over the fence. While we were there, there was one couple who got
lead inside by a monk after being purified. My ex said that it was probably for blessings for a new marriage.
Must have been expensive. I have a book which I carry to every shrine and temple I go to – my shuinchou – and can get the official shrine stamp, as well as some beautiful calligraphy for that temple added to it for a small fee. It makes quite a cool little memento. But at this shrine, they only stamped it. Apparently the stamp is too holy to write on. Unless you buy one of the pre-made, pre-blessed ones, of course. Which look cool, but at 500,000 yen apiece, I can do without.
The grounds themselves were gorgeous. They were huge, and filled with tall trees. Not as big as the NZ kauri, or course, but pretty big by Japanese standards 😉 Also, apparently these trees can grant wishes. I don’t think the NZ trees can do that.A nice river ran through it as well. Luckily the weather had cleared up for today, and it was a nice time to relax.
We took a nice little shopping street back to the outer shrine area, where we had a little wander around before getting on the train home. Turned out to be an awesome couple of days, except for I came down with a wicked throat virus. Really bad. This was over a week ago, and I’m still knocked out by it. At least, last weekend, my ex came round and cooked my poor sick self lunch. Not too sure what’s happening there.
Anyway, as for the title of this thread, there has so far been no mention of cats – although some of you more perverse readers may have read that into certain parts. I have decided to make it my challenge to get to every one of Japan’s 47 prefectures in the time I am here. And in a worryingly gay fashion, and a sign that I have been in Japan plenty long enough, I have decided that as a memento of each prefecture, I will pick up a Hello Kitty phone strap representing the area. Kitty-chan was decided on when I noticed that she was the only character to consistently turn up Every Fucking Where. And so, I should be able to get a full collection. Mie marked my 18th prefecture, and the version I picked up here was the ninja persona!
So, here’s where I’ve been so far, Mie with the star! Only 29 to go!