Stroll along the beach of Ise Bay and discover an Imperial guesthouse from the Meiji era.By Alma Reyes
In the town of Futami-ura, Mie Prefecture, a six-minute train ride from Iseshi station, known for Japan’s most venerated shrine, Ise Jingu, sits the historical Hinjitsukan, former guesthouse of Imperial families from the late Meiji period.
An easy stroll along the beach from Futaminoura station and steps away from Meoto Iwa (wedded rocks) takes you to the striking Shonin-style architecture of Hinjitsukan, epitomizing a slight mixture of a shrine, temple and castle.
The building was erected in 1887 as a lodging facility for dignitaries visiting Japan. Empress Dowager Eisho (1835-1897) stayed here in 1888. Prince Yoshihito of the Taisho era also vacationed in the villa in 1891 to escape the heat and practice swimming. After several reconstructions, the building was donated to Futami town in 2003 and converted into a museum. It was designated as an important cultural property in 2010.
On the Premises
The wood and stone entrance gate opens to a picturesque traditional Japanese garden with magnificent views of the sea behind. There are two characteristic suikinkutsu “water piano cave,” an upside-down buried pot with a hole where water drops into and produces music. You can also find a well made of Kurama stones, stone lanterns, ponds, and rock formations. Scenes of pine, cypress and maple trees from the upper floor of the mansion are particularly breathtaking.
Hinjitsukan consists of two floors and twenty rooms. Corridor floors, ceilings and walls reveal delicately preserved chiseled wood. Antique floor and overhead lamps light up the hallways. Glass sliding doors peep through charming inner pocket gardens. A materials room on the first floor displays old documents, signboards of the inn and works by Japanese painter Sashu Nakamura, born in Futamicho. The second floor presents the two most impressive rooms: the Great Hall (Ohiroma) and the Palace Room (Goten-no-ma).
There is a full-size Noh stage, still used for performances. The luxurious Palace Room boasts a double coffered ceiling and an alcove with floor frames decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay in Wajima lacquerware.
Next to the windows, sitting corners are furnished with Taisho and Showa furniture, providing an excellent panorama of the garden and Ise Bay. The other guest rooms are all constructed in Shonin style and are sometimes used for meetings and exhibitions.
Hinjitsukan is an ideal representation of an ancient Imperial guesthouse depicting Japanese architecture from traditional to Western influences.