Episode 5 – Sailing Spiritual Waters (2015 – Season 1)

Synopsis : 

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Stranded at a river without a boat, things look bleak, until the team wander into the most inviting and fascinating temple experience any of the team have ever experienced. A whole afternoon is spent with Eijin, the temples priest, learning how to make the perfect green tea, beating the giant gong and decorating dragons with gold leaf. Finally their boat arrives and elated with what has just happened, they begin paddling down the Kiso River to reach the Bay Of Ise. Travelling to Ise by boat is a completely original experience and everything from a night on Toshi-Jima Island, meeting the female Ama divers and of course Ise’s Grand Shrine, await them!


Dean Newcombe, Duncan Buckley, Megan Page and Natali Jacobsen


Mie Prefecture

Points of Interest

Nagoya Castle, Kiso River, Jisen-In Temple, Ise Bay, Ryofuso Cave Hotel, Tsu Castle, Toshi-Jima Island, Sakatejima Island, Toba, Ise Grand Shrine

Day 1:

Temple on the River

A new episode begins at ‘Nagoya Castle’. They eat snacks in this beautiful setting, before Dean puts his foot down. They have eaten their way around ‘Shizuoka’ and ‘Aichi Prefecture’, but it was time to burn some serious calories again! Dean jumps on the bike and rides over to the ‘Kiso River’. There, he meets up with the team again. In complete contrast, they go from exploring a Japanese convenience store, with all that is weird and wonderful about them, to finding the beautiful and unknown to them, ‘Jisen-In Temple’. They meet ‘Eijin’, the temple’s priest, who spends hours with the team, introducing tea drinking, drumming, and decorating with gold leaf. Sadly they cannot stay the night, as they wish to make it to ‘Mie Prefecture’ which can be reached by following the ‘Kiso River’ to the sea. For Dean and Duncan it was time to return to the kayak and paddle in dusk peacefully, with the flow of the river.

Day 2:

Kayaking Ise Bay

The previous day, Dean and Duncan retired before they could reach the river-mouth of the ‘Kiso River’, due to darkness falling on them. Megan would continue on this new morning, supporting Dean to the ‘Bay of Ise’. Reaching the bay was calm and enjoyable, but crossing the ‘Ibi River’ which runs beside the ‘Kiso’ proved to be a very different story. To get to the bank on the other side of the ‘Ise Bay’ meant fighting a strong current. The fight was long and hard, and had Megan and Dean scared, but eventually they managed to battle through, and meet the team on the other side. Here, Duncan once again joined the kayak, in the fear that his strength could be vitally needed to continue. Luckily, following the coast line further into ‘Ise Bay’ proved easier, and they paddled as far as they could before disembarking in a boat harbor. The banks were high and getting the boat out wasn’t easy. Luckily a local was quick to help, and even had them playing games on the shore. For tonight they would rest up and have dinner in a Cave restaurant and hotel called ‘Ryofuso’, which translates as ‘the place of the cool breeze’.

Day 3:

Toshi-jima Island 

A new day, and yet still a very long way to go to reach the famous shrine in Ise. To speed up the journey, Dean goes inland with his bike passing through ‘Tsu Castle’ and ‘Tsu Kannanji Temple’. Unexpectedly he meets a BMX gang, with the youngest rider he has ever seen! Once back at the bay, it’s time for Natali to help Dean in the kayak, along the coast toward ‘Toshi-jima Island’. Megan decides to race the boat, running along the shore line and easily beating them to the next beach. For the last paddle of the day, Duncan returns to the boat for a sea crossing over to the island. They pack for the night not knowing what to expect and arrive at ‘Toshi-jima’ as the sun sets beautifully behind them. An old lady warns them of wild-boar as they head for the hills, so instead they make camp in a schools grounds, where it’s ‘Calorie Mate’ for dinner!

Day 4:

Ise Grand Shrine

The night is long, laying wild in sleeping bags on the playing fields of the school. Mosquitos eat them alive all night, and then it’s a cold wash in the beach toilet block before returning to the sea. It’s still very early and only they and fisherman are awake. They paddle on glass-like seas, in their element in nature. On nearby ‘Sakatejima Island’ they meet a local fisherman, who cuts one of his fresh catches raw, and they eat it right there in the boat. The boys land in ‘Toba’, famous for the harvesting of pearls. They visit the pearl museum and see female ‘Ama Divers’, collecting pearls in the traditional way. Finally the team all head to ‘Ise Grand Shrine’, one of the most important Shinto places of worship in Japan. Ancient trees are decorated and respected, arranged stones are believed to give power, and at the end of the long walk through the shrine, people bow at the inner ‘Naikuu Shrine’. After paying their respects, the team try green tea and ‘Akafuku’ Japanese sticky rice sweets, famous in these parts. On the way back from the shrine, they meet a rickshaw owner and the girls are even brave enough to let Dean try to escort them! Tonights dinner could only be ‘Ise-Ebi’, or local prawn, renowned throughout Japan. They visit the restaurant of a fisherman whom they had met at sea, and are treated to a very special dinner. The Ise-prawn is served still moving, dividing the team on respect for Japanese culture versus morally treating animals in the right way. With hotels around the city full at this time, they finally find a hostel style accommodation in a small temple on the hill. The perfect ending to this spiritual journey.