Ise-Shima, in Japan’s Mie Prefecture, is enjoying a boost in tourism after hosting the G7 summit in May, as visitors flock to the area to follow in world leaders’ footsteps. Shima Kanko Hotel, where world leaders stayed for the summit, was at 85 per cent occupancy throughout November, normally the low season.
PAX explored attractions throughout the area last week to learn how guests can follow in the Trudeaus’ trail (or catch the last waves of Obama-mania) in this Pacific coastal area of central Japan.
This most important of Japan’s Shinto shrines was the site of the official welcoming ceremony for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the other G7 world leaders. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau also visited the shrine as part of the summit’s official Partners’ Program.
Dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu-Omikami, the ancestral deity of Japan’s Imperial family, the enormous site actually incorporates 125 individual shrines, where 1,500 rituals are conducted every year to ensure peace, an abundant harvest and the prosperity of the Imperial family. Entering the site by crossing Ujibashi Bridge over the Isuzugawa River, visitors are said to cross into a sacred world.
The two main shrine buildings and Ujibashi Bridge are dismantled and rebuilt every 20 years to look exactly as they did before, ensuring that the ancient architecture is maintained while keeping the structure itself new. Carpenters pass the traditional construction skills down generation to generation so the traditional knowledge is never lost.
The G7 leaders gather at Shima Kanko Hotel in Ise-Shima - ©2016 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Mikimoto Pearl Island
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and other leaders’ spouses visited this island in Toba, site of the first successful creation of cultured pearls in 1893 and home to the Pearl Museum.
It takes four years to create a Mikimoto pearl. First, farmed oysters take two years to reach maturity, at which point each is implanted with a nuclei made from clamshell. The oysters then go to work, coating the nuclei with layers of pearl substance for two years before the pearls can be harvested. Only 30 per cent of all oysters will produce a marketable pearl, and only five per cent will fall into the “top lustre” category. Non-marketable pearls are used in cosmetics and medicine.
Today, pearls are mainly harvested from rafts that are pulled from the water from November to January. But traditionally, female free divers known as Ama (or “sea women”) harvested the pearl oysters from the sea floor. Visitors to Mikimoto Pearl Island can watch an Ama demonstration where divers dressed in traditional white cotton clothes retrieve pearl oysters from the sea.
Shima Kanko Hotel
The Shima Kanko Hotel was the official venue of the G7 summit, with world leaders staying and meeting at the hotel. The Trudeaus stayed in the property’s The Bay Suites, while President Barack Obama stayed in The Classic building because of his more extensive security needs. Both buildings have panoramic views over Ago Bay.
There are two treadmills in the gym at The Classic, and Obama is confirmed to have used one of them – so if you use both you can say for sure you have stepped in Obama’s footsteps.
Guests of the hotel can also stand in the footsteps of any of the G7 leaders on the official summit “family photo” marker in the Sunset Garden of The Bay Suites building, or sit in the leaders’ chairs at tables in the La Mer the Classic restaurant and the Café & Wine Bar Lien, where the leaders conducted working meals.
Learn more at the website of the Ise-Shima Tourism and Convention Organization.