All About Japan

Traditional Shopping in Ise

| Historical Site , Shopping

Oharai-machi and Okage-yokocho are two small shopping districts located just in front of Ise Grand Shrine, Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrine, located in Ise City, Mie Prefecture. They're great spots to visit after the shrine to sample some delicious local food and pick up a souvenir or two from one of the many traditional shops in the area.

Oharai-machi

Oharai-machi (or "Purification Town") is a small side street located near the entrance to the Inner Shrine of Ise Jingu. The name comes from the old tradition of purifying oneself before entering a Shinto shrine. The street is almost a kilometer (0.6 miles) long, and is lined with many traditional, old-style wooden buildings, shops and restaurants that recreate a flourishing Edo Period (1603-1868) town.

It's also home to akafuku, a traditional local sweet made from sweet bean paste and pounded rice (mochi). This tasty treat has been enjoyed by pilgrims to Ise Grand Shrine for hundreds of years, so it must be good!

The street is like taking a trip to the past, but be warned: it's extremely crowded, especially on weekends.

Okage-yokocho

Okage-yokocho is located in the center of Oharai-machi, and recreates traditional townscape architecture from the Edo Period to early Meiji Period (1868-1912). Completed in 1993, this small district is quite modern, but Okage-yokocho contains fantastic eateries and a large number of shops selling traditional goods. We highly recommend the Matsusaka beef croquette and Ise-udon noodles, which are served in a thick soy sauce.

Shoppers can catch a traditional taiko drum performance on weekends in the central square, which further adds to the wonderful charm and festive atmosphere of this nostalgic place. The area also has traditional picture story shows (kamishibai) and a museum about the Ise pilgrimage. The name of the alley, Okage, meaning "thankful," symbolizes pilgrim's spirit of gratefulness.