Jon and I went out on a quick run around his neighborhood. I think that people are still talking about the white folks running so slowly near the soccer stadium. We passed numerous people dressed in serious track and field collegiate uniforms, there must have been a track meet. They must have thought we were crazy, running for 3 minutes then walking.
After eating breakfast and getting ready we left for Ise-Shima, one of the most important, largest Shinto shrines in Japan. After a two hour drive, we arrived at the town. Walking from the parking lot to the actual shrine was an experience in itself. There were cute little shops lining the narrow streets, kind of like a much cleaner, cuter Nashville Indiana. We stopped a few times to sample some of the food, with a few winners (roasted chestnuts, saltwater soaked cucumber, and charcoal grilled Uni), and one big loser: mochi walabi. We confused it with mochi gohei, a super tasty treat we had at Nagoya jo. They were both white bars covered with a sauce, but the former had a super weird texture that shouldn't be consumed or described further.
Amazingly, the Shinto tradition mandates that the buildings of the shrines be rebuilt on a slightly different location every 20 years. The spirits of the shrines are then transferred to the new buildings and the cycle begins again. There were so many people walking through the streets and to the shrine. We walked along a wide, winding stone path along a river to the shrine. The grounds were filled with huge, old trees. When we arrived at the shrine there were so many people lined up to walk up the stairs and give an offering at the shrine that it took quite awhile to get up to the front. Taka's mom was with us and we should have followed her lead, bolting off to the side where the line was shorter. This particular shrine cannot be entered, and there was a large sheet covering the entrance so that we basically went on a long walk to steal a glimpse of a courtyard. An interesting experience for sure. Off to the side of the main stairs there was a monk guarding a passageway. Apparently for a "donation" you can celebrate your new business, or special occasion by entering the outer courtyard and saying a prayer.
It was beginning to look like rain, so we headed back to the car for the trip back to Nagoya. It was pretty amazing traffic for a Saturday. Tons of motorcycles all over as well. Lots of Harley-Davidsons in addition to the ubiquitous Honda cb400 out enjoying the beautiful weather.
Taka, her mother (Keiko), and sister-in-law Hitomi prepared an amazing dinner for us on Saturday night. It was a roll-your-own-sushi feast in including spicy tuna, tai (red snapper), salmon, jellyfish in Uni (sea urchin) sauce, and boiled chicken salad. For Lisa they had pickled daikon, cucumber, tamago (egg omelet), steamed tofu, snap peas from Hitomi's parent's garden, mioga (a gingery shalloty bright pink veggie), kobocha squash, and tasty mushrooms. Keiko made several little rice balls and the nori (seaweed wrapper) was cut into individual strips so rather than having a single roll with the same insides, you could make individual rolls with whatever you wanted. The food was excellent, and afterwards we all played wii ping-pong, tried some Japanese strawberries and cherries and some special Ise mochi, and then took the devil-dog on a walk around the neighborhood.