The Road to Ise

Road to Ise

During the mass pilgrimage of the Bunsei Era (1818-1830), five million people traveled through Matsusaka over a six-month period.

Matsusaka Station

Flourishing Post Station Near the Ise Grand Shrine


Many connecting roads passed near to Matsusaka; some of the major routes connected Nara and Ise, Matsusaka and Wakayama, and travelled through Kumano. These served as trade routes for seafood, as well as roads for travelers and pilgrims. Matsusaka flourished as a post station, and the streets were lined with inns, leisure establishments, gift shops, and restaurants.

Sangu-kaido Road

Sangu-kaido Road

The Highway Bustling with
Pilgrims to Ise

Roads to the Ise Grand Shrine are all called “Sangu-kaido,” or “Ise-kaido.” Since there were no trains or automobiles at the time, people made the pilgrimage on foot, by horse, or in a basket palanquin.

During the boom of mass pilgrimage, the highway was packed with people from all over the country, and the crowded road was the subject of many woodblock prints and genre works.

Mass Pilgrimage

Head to Ise Once In Your Life


In a typical year, the Ise Grand Shrine received 200,000 to 250,000 pilgrims, but every 60 years saw an explosive boom of pilgrims known as the mass pilgrimage. In 1830, five million people—roughly one sixth the entire population of Japan at the time—descended on the Ise Grand Shrine.

The Flow of People and Information

The Flow of People and Information

People brought all sorts of information to the Sangu-kaido Road from around the country. That information is said to have had an influence in many different fields, such as the selective breeding of rice and vegetables, and the promotion of Ise Kabuki.


Groups of Pilgrims

Most people making the journey to the Ise Grand Shrine traveled in groups. Many wore white robes and sedge hats, and carried ladles to accept alms on their journey.

Sleeping Out In Front of Shops

Since there weren't enough accommodations in Matsusaka inns during the years of mass pilgrimage, many people slept out under bridges, eaves of houses, or beneath the awnings of temples and shrines.

Let’s Walk Matsusaka

Hino-machi Guidepost

You can still find a guidepost at an intersection in Hino-machi with the words "Left Sangu Road, Right Wakayama Road." This was the crossroads for the routes that led to the Ise Grand Shrine and Wakayama.

Hino-machi Guidepost

Matsusaka Great Bridge

Ornaments known as “giboshi” adorn the scarlet railing of the Matsusaka Great Bridge. Edo period giboshi were first put on the bridge when it was rebuilt in 1826.

Matsusaka Great Bridge Ornaments