GRAND TOURING: The Ise Peninsula, Part 01

R3a-803a_Ise Peninsula

Our destination for this tour was Mie Prefecture, some 250 miles southwest of Tokyo on the far side of Ise-wan (the same wan in Wangan, meaning “bay”). Known for its ancient craft ceramics and as the birthplace of the ninja, Mie is rife with history and culture, but we also hoped for the usual automotive diversions. 

R3a-806a_Ise Peninsula_Yoshida CastleR3a-807a_Ise Peninsula

Instead of taking expressways from Tokyo via Nagoya, as would be the fastest route, we planned to hop a ferry from Aichi Prefecture across the wan. On the way south, we stopped to look at the old streets around Yoshida Castle and its original kura still standing.

R3a-805a_Ise Peninsula_Toyota Crown S120

On the local backstreets we came across one of Aichi’s finest, a period-plated wing mirror-equipped S120 Toyota Crown, fitting in perfectly with the surrounding old world atmosphere and royal aura.

R3a-810a_Ise Peninsula_Toyota HiAce VanningR3a-811a_Ise Peninsula_Toyota HiAce Vanning

Waiting for the ferry at Cape Irago, we parked our Honda CR-V next to a mildly winged Toyota Hiace. Compared to other practitioners of the vanning lifestyle, a mere three sets of roof-top wings, no fins, and modest overhangs for actual ground clearance, it was obviously a compromised daily driver.

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In typical Japanese fashion, the ro-ro ferry has us driving on board smoothly for a departure time scheduled to one or two increments of  ”JR Time” — fifteen seconds per increment of departure accuracy. Motorcycles, and even bicycles are chocked and tied down for the 45-minute journey across the mouth of Ise Bay. On the passenger deck above we lounged at a pleasant tatami and table, a typical Japanese setup. We did not pay the extra ¥300 per person for the luxury, upper, upper deck.

R3a-814a_Ise Peninsula_ferry

The ferry’s approach to Toba City on the western coast of Ise-wan is peppered with numerous islands, some featuring hotels that were obviously designed by the same architect commissioned by the Thunderbirds for their Tracy Island base. With outlooks to both sea and other islands in the bay, views from the ferry are spectacular.

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Though another castle overlooks sits atop the hills overlooking Toba, I was more interested in the old Sea School sharing the common grounds. Built in the 1920s, it was magnificently furnished with period appointments and decor.

R3a-838a_Ise Peninsula_Nissan Skyline C10 Deluxe

Our destination for the night was the coastal area further south. Taking some back roads there, we discovered a four-door, four-cylinder Skyline Deluxe, sitting outside in the weather, with some very curious for sale company — a USDM Lincoln Town Car and Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

R3a-839a_Ise Peninsula_Nissan Skyline C10 DeluxeR3a-840a_Ise Peninsula_Nissan Skyline C10 Deluxe

Possibly the most common version of the C10 generation originally built, it is fast becoming the rarest. Though I’ve seen what seems like thousands of six-cylinder GT-X, GT-R, and GT-R HT spec hakosuka, this was perhaps only the second short-nose sedan I’ve seen close up.

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The slow roads cris-crossed with Japan’s vast rail network at traditional level rail crossings, where even the warning signs are adorably pastoral.

R3a-859a_Ise Peninsula_Daihatsu Copen

We also stumbled upon the local Daihatsu Copen club’s lunch meet, but sadly our CR-V had to sit at a different table than the 660cc steel-roofed kei convertibles.

R3a-859a1_Ise PeninsulaR3a-859a2_Ise Peninsula

At the most strangely decorated restaurant we had stopped in in quite a while, we dined on a regular favorite lunch of tonkatsu and red miso shiro.

R3a-869a_Ise Peninsula_VW Beetle

Around the corner from the Ise Grand Shrine, built to honor the sun goddess Amaterasu, a collection of VW Beetles stood out against the Japanese backdrop.

R3a-861a_Ise Peninsula_Datsun 312

En route to the shrine, we also stumbled upon a lone late-1970s Renault 4 and its companion in decay, a Datsun 312.

R3a-864a_Ise Peninsula_Datsun 312

When Nissan introduced the Datsun 312 in late 1962, they gave it a wide, grand grille to distinguish it from the mechanically identical 311 and 310 that had come before. Somewhere along the way though, this particular 312 lost its trademark latticework. The hastily affixed aluminum strips that replaced them were perhaps once considered a temporary solution.

R3a-865a_Ise Peninsula_Datsun 312R3a-866a_Ise Peninsula_Datsun 312

One would be hard pressed to construct a ghostlier scene. Brambles enveloped the old Datsun like a lace veil more befitting of a horror movie.

R3a-863a_Ise Peninsula_Datsun 312

In actuality, the car sat within spitting distance of utter modernity where new machines moved with ease. Though we wanted to rescue the Bluebird predecessor, we had to move on. Next stop: the Ise-Shima Sky-Line.

Stay tuned for Part 02.

Skorj is a photographer living in Japan and co-founder of Filmwasters. All photographs (except food) taken with a Bessa R3a and Kodak Ektar.

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16 Responses to GRAND TOURING: The Ise Peninsula, Part 01

  1. Diego said:

    You guys should have a meet/tour for us Americans who would love to come visit japan. As there really isn’t any tours for car shows, having a local show us around would be awesome! Obviously compensation would be offered.

    • kingsice said:

      I love this Idea and I’d definitely join the tour :)

      • Skorj said:

        Days and days of driving around back roads and ko-michi looking for old stuff? Stopping every 1km or so, jumping out and walking down even smaller streets? Talking to locals about strange things? Sleeping on tatami with a bag of rice for a pillow? You would -pay- for that?

        • Tyler said:

          I, for one, would rather take a vacation like that than stay in some homogenized resort area. I’ve never been to Japan but feel a trip like that would be a great place to start.

  2. moominsean said:

    There were quite a few VWs in the same area as the Renault and Datsun. Maybe 1/2 mile away there was a lot with a couple Buses and Bugs. All good stuff, makes me miss it all so much!

  3. Toyotageek said:

    Looking forward to part 2.
    We stayed in Ise for a few days late last year….. great place, but I see that I need to travel with you next time to see the really good stuff. ;-)

  4. Bart said:

    Skorj, your posts are awesome, and always make me long for another trip to Japan. Can’t wait for part 2.

  5. goki said:

    Dang! i was just at the Ise Peninsula less than a month ago!

  6. acbpanda said:

    Cool, now why am i not attracted to the awesomeness known as Four door skylines? :O

    • Brian said:

      Heretic! Burn the witch!!

      Seriously though, how can you not dig that? What is it about it you dont like? Too many doors?

      • acbpanda said:

        Not too many doors, just the fact that A. I can’t drive for a while, still doesn’t mean i can’t be a part of the fanbase. and B. I can’t get it because it is in Japan.

  7. Tim said:

    These grand touring posts are my favorite posts on this site. I can’t wait for part 2

  8. Nigel said:

    Looking forward to part two, to see more interesting and cool stuff.
    Another great post Skorj.

  9. Nakazoto said:

    Oh how I long for a short nose four door to mod to the end of the Earth!
    Exactly write up Skorj! Next time you pass near Nagoya, let me know, I’d love to meet up for a bit to eat!

    • Skorj said:

      Part Three of the Shio no Michi touring I suspect will now hold a bit for the Mr. Inside-Outside Classic Car Collection… Thanks!