Ise Kaido and Ise Honkaido: the Scared Pirglimage to Ise

During the Edo Period, many “kaido” or historic roads were built and those roads were used by commoners to travel around the country.  Two o the most important roads construte at this time were the Ise Honkaido and the Ise Kaido. Each of these roads provided a crucial function–they brought pilgrims to Ise.  For many people, the most coveted destination was none other than the most scared place in Japan: Ise Jingu Shrine.

The Ise Pilgrimage

Going on the Ise Pilgrimage was a lifelong dream for commoners of the Edo Period. The desire even became a famous phrase:

I want to go to Ise. I want to see the Ise Kaido. Just once in my lifetime“,

In the Edo Period, people were not able to freely travel across the country. But pilgrims on the Ise Pilgrimage were able to go just about anywhere they liked! Unfortunately, people since peope were poor and unable to afford the journey by themseles they would often form groups called “ko”. These ko would raise money and then hold a lottery within the group. The winner of the lottery would then go on the pilgrimage on everyone’s behalf.

Picture of pilgrims on the Ise Pilgramge in the Edo Period
For some reason, people on the Ise Pirglimage always had some kind of rattle?

At this time, going on the Ise Pilgrimage was a sort of fad. As many as one in six people in the entire country, regardless of class, visited Ise Jingu Shrine.

Today the ancient roads they once walked on are no longer popular, since really– who walks to Ise these days*.  However, these roads do indeed still exist and while some elements have changed over the centuries, every now and then you untouched enounter bits of Japan’s past.


*We do. We walk to Ise because we are looney.


The Road to Ise

Ise Honkaido

The Ise Honkaido is a historic route from Osaka to Ise Jingu Shrine. Prince Yamato allegedly walked this road in search of the proper place to enshrine the goddess, Amaterasu, the main deity in Ise Jingu Shrine.

From Osaka to Haibara in Nara, the Ise honkaido mainly goes through the open, flat fields and has plenty of historic things to see.  However, after Haibara limited public transportation is extremely limited as the trail goes deep in the mountains along National Route 369. The trail is very good for hiking, though.

 SectiondistanceMajor Places to see
1Tamatsukuri Shrine (Osaka) – Hiraoka Shrine (Higashi Osaka) 

Higashi-osaka Rugby Stadium, Matsubara Post Town, Hiraoka Shrine

2Hiroka Shrine (Higashi Osaka) – Minami Ikoma (Ikoma, Nara) 

Kuragari Pass, Nishihata Terrace Rice Field

3Minami Ikoma (Ikoma, Nara)  – Kofukuji Temple (Nara) 

Muronoki Pass, Heijokyo Palace Park, Sajyo Street

4Kofukuji Temple (Nara) – Tenri (Tenri, Nara) 

Naramachi, Obitoki Temple

5Tenri (Tenri, Nara)  – Sakurai (Sakurai, Nara) 

Oyamato Shrine, Hashihaka Tumulus, Omiwa Shrine

6Sakurai (Sakurai, Nara)  – Hasedera Temple (Sakurai, Nara)  

Hasedera Temple  (Same route as Tokai Nature Trail)

7Hasedera Temple (Sakurai, Nara ) – Haibara (Uda, Nara) 

Haibara Post Town (Same route as Hase Kaido)

8Haibara (Uda, Nara)  – Yamakasu (Soni, Nara)  

Sumisaka Shrine, Takai Cedar Tree, Ishiwari Pass

9Yamakasu (Soni, Nara) – Ise Okitsu (Tsu, Mie)  

Mitsue Shrine, Mitake Cherry Blossoms, Okitsu Post Town

10Ise Okitsu  (Tsu, Mie)- Yokono (Matsusaka, Mie) 

Kamitage Post Town, Kitabatake Shrine, Hissaka Pass

11Yokono (Matsusaka, Mie) – Taki (Taki, Mie) 

Kahada Gorge, Tsuru River Cross, Oka Post Town

12Taki (Taki, Mie)  – Geku (Ise, Mie)  

Tamaru Castle


Ise Honkaido: Picture Gallery

Cosmos garden in Taki
Asian lizard’s tail garden in Mitsue
Kaisaka Pass
Scenery from Tamaru Castle
Kuratoge Pass
Mt. Ikoma

Ise Kaido

The Ise Kaido forks off from the Tokaido at Yokkaichi City in Mie Prefecture and leads to the Geku of Ise Jingu Shrine through Suzuka, Tsu, and Matsusaka along the Kintetsu railway. This route was used mainly by the people from East Japan to go to Ise Jingu Shrine.

The Ise Kaido goes through many small cities, so it doesn’t always feel like you are hiking an ancient road. However, the original small road still exists in the many parts of the trail. There are not only many historic things along the way, such as shrines and temples but also, a few restaurants where pilgrims dined.

Ise Kaido 
1Yokkaichi to Suzuka  


2Suzuka to Tsu  

Ise Ueno Castle, Tsu Kannon Temple

3Tsu to Matsusaka 

Historic District of Matusaka

4Matsusaka to Geku 



Hase Kaido

The Hase Kaido, commonly called Aogoe Ise Kaido, is the road from Hase-dera Temple in Nara to Matsusaka in Mie Prefecture via Nabari and the Aoyama Pass along the Kintetsu Osaka Line. Because the trail goes through a less mountainous area than Ise Honkaido, it is often used by people in West Japan to Ise Jingu Shrine. After Matsusaka, it connects to the Ise Kaido.

It is also quite a historic road, used by Emperor Temmu during the Jinshin War and shrine maidens called Saio, who were specifically devoted to serving to Ise Jingu Shrine.

Hase Kaido (Aogoe Ise Kaido)
1Hasedera to Haibara 

Haibara Post Town

2Haibara to Nabari 


3Nabari to Iga  


4Iga to Sakakibara Onsen 


5Sakibara Onsen to Matsusaka  



Other Roads to Ise

Furuichi Sangu Kaido

The Furuichi Kaido is a short historic road that connects Geku and Naiku of Ise Jingu Shrine. While it entirely goes through the neighborhood of Furuichi, which used to be a huge red district of pilgrimages, now there are few historic things left to indicate so. I think walling this road can be a great way to enjoy the traditional way of Ise pilgrimage.

Furuichi Kaido 
1Geku to Naiku 

Sarutahiko Shrine, Oharaimachi


Furuichi Kaido: Picture Gallery


Ise Betsu-Kaido

The Ise Betsu Kaido forks from Tokaido in Seki in Mie prefecture and then merges with Ise kaido at Tsu City. This road was mainly used by pilgrimages from Kyoto as a shortcut to Ise.

This also goes thorough the city area, but the small, narrow road and old post towns along the way still does exist as it what it used to be.

Ise Betsu Kaido
1Seki (Kameyama, Mie) to Tsu (Tsu, Mie) 



Takenouchi Kaido and Yokooji

The Takenouchi Kaido and Yokooji, date to the Asuka Period (7th century) and are the oldest national roads in Japan. These roads were once primary by government officials and foreign personnel commuting between Sakai in Osaka and Sakurai in Nara. However, later in the Edo Period, it was commonly used as a road to go to Ise. For this reason, this road has many interesting things such as Kofun, ancient burial mounds for Japan’s kings (Yes! Japan once had kings.)

In Sakurai, it merges with Ise Honkaido.

Takenouchi Kaido and Yokooji
1Sakai (Sakai, Osaka) – Furuichi (Habikino, Osaka) 

Mozu Furuichi Tumulus

2Furuichi(Habikino, Osaka)- Nagao Shrine (Katsuragi, Nara)  

Takenouchi Pass, Taimadera Temple


3Nagao Shrine (Katsuragi, Nara) to Sakurai (Sakurai, Nara) 

Yamato Sanzan, Imaicho Historic District


Takenouchi Kaido and Yokooji: Picture Gallery

Imai Town
Nagao Shrine
Takenouchi Pass
Yagi Fuda no Tsuji
Mt. Miminashi
Vineyard in Kashiwara

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