When you step off the train, you may feel that Ise is a drab city, but hidden in two forests of towering cedar trees are the most important and impressive Shinto shrines in Japan. Indeed, the city's income comes mainly from the pilgrims who visit Geku 外宮 and Naiku 内宮, the Outer and Inner shrines, respectively. Near the Inner Shrine you'll find an array of shops hawking souvenirs to the busloads of tourists and a few spots to eat such local specialties as Ise udon (udon noodles with a thick broth) and akafuku (sweet rice cakes). The busiest times at Ise Jingu are during the Grand Festival, held over a weekend in mid-October every year, when crowds gather to see the pageantry, and on New Year's Eve and Day, when hundreds of thousands come to pray for good fortune.


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