ISE, MIE PREF. – As the leaders of the Group of Seven nations grappled Thursday with global economic issues, first lady Akie Abe introduced some of their spouses to the natural beauty and traditions of Japan’s spiritual heart.
In tandem with the start of the two-day summit in the Ise-Shima area of Mie Prefecture, Abe hosted Joachim Sauer, husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; and Malgorzata Tusk, wife of Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.
They visited Ise Jingu (Ise Grand Shrine), where they were met with a lush forest and Shinto architecture exhibiting the staid beauty of unpainted wood.
The shrine is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, who according to legend is the ancestral deity of the Imperial family.
As they crossed the wide wooden Uji Bridge over a river running through the shrine complex, symbolizing the division between the material world and the realm of the divine, the spouses were welcomed by a group of children attending a preschool attached to the shrine.
They then tasted the culinary pride of Mie Prefecture at a luncheon hosted by Abe just outside the inner shrine grounds.
The dishes were cooked by students from Mie Prefectural Oka High School, and included Mie’s renowned Ise lobster and Matsusaka beef, as well as a rice strain named after Abe.
After lunch, the group visited Mikimoto Pearl Island to learn about pearl cultivation and watch ama female divers demonstrating their craft.
Facing the Pacific Ocean, Mie’s undulating coastline is renowned for its pearls and for the ama, who harvest the tiny treasures and shellfish from the depths without the assistance of artificial breathing devices.
The spouses are scheduled Friday to view exhibits on Japanese technology and Mie’s heritage at the summit’s official media center.