An Inviting Destination: Ise-Shima and the G7
The city of Shima is a rural town of about 53,000 people located in Mie Prefecture. Despite its rural atmosphere, or perhaps because of it, Shima has been chosen as the site of the 2016 G7 Summit meeting. The exact location will be the Shima Kanko Hotel located on Kashikojima. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chose the location because of the city’s proximity to historical cultural sites in addition to the area’s abundant natural beauty.
Shima is located in and around the Ise-Shima National Park and is easily visited by tourists from major cities like Nagoya and Osaka by train. There are even scenic express trains that can take you all the way to Kashikojima, which is the final stop, in a few hours.
Photo in the Public Domain
The Ise-Shima area is famous for its pearl production. Pearls produced in this area are world renowned for their quality. Traditionally, the all woman troupes of free divers known as “Ama-san” gather oysters, sea urchins, and other bounty from the bottom of the sea for use in local crafts and cuisine. Their all white uniform and oval diving masks are instantly recognizable to many Japanese and tourists. Ama-san still have a strong cultural affinity in the minds of Japanese people despite the fact that the number of new recruits has been dwindling in recent years.
One of the most famous of the cultural sites in the Ise-Shima area is the Ise Grand Shrine. The Shrine has a history that spans over 2,000 years and was even mentioned in the Genji Monogatari, considered by some to be the world’s first novel. The Shrine complex is divided into the inner and outer shrines, which are separate from one another. Each site is rebuilt every twenty years, with the most recent reconstruction being completed in 2013. Unfortunately, it is because of this that the shrine cannot become a world heritage site.
The highest peak in Ise-Shima National Park is Mt. Asamagatake, at 1,821 feet. It is said that the area around the mountain is the farthest place you can see Mt. Fuji with your naked eye in Japan. The rugged coastline and lush forests of the park add to the scenic beauty of the Ise-Shima area.
The Ise-Shima area is also famous for its fresh seafood and other culinary delights. One example is “Ise Ebi,” which is the Japanese word for lobster. In the winter abundant shellfish of all kinds can be harvested in the clean and clear waters around the park. The area is known for other seafood as well, such as red sea bream, eel, and fugu (blowfish). Mie Prefecture is also a famous producer of wagyu, better known as Kobe beef in the U.S.
It can be expected the world leaders visiting Shima next year will be able to enjoy their stay and receive some of the best “Omotenashi,” the Japanese word for hospitality, that Japan has to offer.