So what do you drink if you're thirsty after a visit to Japan's most sacred shrine? Shinto Beer, of course. That's just one of the excellent craft ales on offer from Isekadoya, a local brewery that has set up shop in the city that is best known for the magnificent Grand Shrine of Ise (aka Ise Jingu).
And thankfully, these beers are available at its outlet just a short walk from the entrance to the Naiku Shrine.
As specialist beer bars go, it must be the most atmospheric in all of Japan. It's actually not old at all, but it's been built – like the whole neighborhood outside the Naiku Shrine – to evoke the days of yore (the Edo Period some 200 years ago) when pilgrims used to descend on Ise from all over Japan, and this area was a hotbed of raunchiness.
I'd worked up a righteous thirst, so one beer was obviously not going to be enough. Plus I'm not down in that neck too often, so I needed to try as many brews as I could. So I started with the Sinto (ie Shinto) Beer along with a glass of the Kumano Kodo ale (on the right).
The former is fine for quenching the initial thirst. But the latter – named after the sacred pilgrimage route that leads through the mountains to Kumano – is far more satisfying as a beer: excellent flavor and body.
Among the snacks and foods served here, the deepfried unagi eel caught my eye. Forget fish and chips: this is what goes perfectly with Japanese beer!
Isekadoya also make a great porter. And a pretty adequate amber ale too (right photo).
The only thing wrong with this tavern — it's too classy to call it a pub or a bar — is that it closes early, like the rest of this tourist-oriented neighbourhood. In fact the whole area is just about deserted as soon as it gets dark.
No problem, really. The same beer is available in cans around town — including the train station, to help you on your travels…
I would never had found this Isekadoya outlet had I not had the brilliant Craft Beer Japan app on my iPhone. Highly recommended if you're travelling around this country with a thirst for good beer.