Ise City, located in Mie Prefecture, is home to many notable sights such as the Ise Jingu – Japan’s most notable shrines, which will be next in my to-go list. I decided to drop by on a few other sights, namely Shima Spain Mura (also known as Parque España) and Meoto Iwa (the wedded rocks).
To start off the day, we went to visit Spain Mura first which is around 2.5 hours away by train from Osaka. This itinerary can easily be done as a relaxing day trip!
To get there, you can get off at Ugata station where a direct shuttle bus to the park can be ridden outside the station, and the station itself is covered with promotional advertisements for the park. The Kintetsu Rail Pass is a good deal to buy here because the price of the pass already covers the trip (and more) going there; plus you can get a 10% discount off the entrance fees to the park (and also to other places you might be going to such as the temples in Nara).
The shuttle bus from Ugata station costs Y380 per person and takes around 15 minutes. Unlike other theme parks in Japan, not many people visit Spain Mura so there won’t be any lines to buy tickets and you can get on the rides almost immediately, making it a very relaxing place to imagine that you’re in Spain and to get some thrill. The tickets cost Y5,300 for a day pass but with the Kintetsu Rail Pass, you can get in for about Y4,800.
Upon entering the park, you will be greeted with a large central area reminiscent of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Occassionally, the adorable park mascots will come to greet you personally.
As there are not a lot of people, the mascots directly engage a lot with the visitors – greeting you, playing some games with you, or inviting you to join and dance in their parade. When they invite you, please do join them as they put on a sad expression when people don’t want to join 😦
You can just walk in the whole park and bask in the European atmosphere, as they have Flamenco performances and architecture which will remind you of Spain.
They have numerous rides, roller coasters, cruises, parlor games, and even a reproduction of the birthplace of Francis Xavier: The Xavier Castle Museum. They also have a train which can take you around the whole park.
Aside from the sights, they also have a cafeteria which serves Spanish cuisine like Paella (although it tastes like a Japanese version of the classic Paella as it’s a bit sweet). Can I just say that their animal mascots are so adorable T_T I wish more people can see and support them.
You can easily go on all the rides in a day, but we had another place to go to so we had to say adiós to this charming park and hop on the train to our next destination: Meoto Iwa.
Meoto Iwa is located 15 minutes away by foot from JR Futaminoura station and is situation near the ocean from the town of Futami. This place is quite obscure that the station is unmanned – as in there’s no staff anywhere and it’s not even evening yet. Also, we were the only ones in the station. It gives you an eerie feeling!
I would recommend walking there from the station as the coastline is just breathtaking and you can pass by some small temples along the way.
The way to Meoto Iwa starts from the entrance of Futami-Okitama Shrine, where a number of shinto deities (kami) are enshrined. The shrine has frog sculptures scattered around as people believe that they are a type of charm for bringing lost people/things back. This is because the kanji for frog, 蛙(かえる; kaeru),reads the same as 帰る, which is the verb for “return”. It’s notable that the Goshuincho for this temple is quite pretty, so for those who collect 御朱印, or temple seals, you might want to buy their notebook here.
A few steps further on, and you will come to the Wedded Rocks, or Meoto Iwa. It is recommended that you visit during high tide so the rocks will be separated by water. Unfortunately for us, we came by during low tide but it was still worth seeing. The two sacred rocks represent Izanami and Izanagi – two deities who are said to have brought the deities of Shintoism, and celebrate the union between man and woman. The rocks are connected by a shimenawa rope, which serves as a divider between the spiritual and earthly realms, and is replaced three times a year with a ceremony.
Another famous view is the view of the sun rising in the middle of the rocks on a summer morning. You can also see the silhouette of My Fuji in the distance but the visibility needs to be extraordinarily clear. They say that if you are blessed by the gods, you can see the sun rising between them during high tide, along with the silhouette of Mt. Fuji.
With this, we ended our day and thanked the deities for a great experience. The walk back to the station was just as relaxing as the way going here due to the lack of tourists, so you can just really take in the ocean breeze. I will definitely visit this part of Japan again (especially since I forgot to buy the Goshuincho as the shrine was closing already). When you’re staying in Osaka and looking for a good adventure off the road, this is the place to go!