Itsukinomiya Hall in Mie Prefecture

Donning a traditional kimono is one of the most unique and memorable things you can do in Japan, but consider taking up a notch by wearing a 12-layered ceremonial kimono – just because. At Itsukinomiya Hall, visitors can experience life as a member of Heian royalty by trying on traditional garments and playing ancient games. 

Get dressed in a 12-layered ceremonial kimono    

Itsukinomiya Hall - jyūnihitoeImage credit: @itukinomiya_319

Located in the town of Meiwa and just 10km from Ise Grand Shrin – arguably the most important Shintō shrine in Japan – Itsukinomiya Hall is a museum that allows visitors to experience life during the Heian Period, a prosperous era in Japanese history where art and literature flourished. 

Itsukinomiya Hall - jyūnihitoe
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In particular, Itsukinomiya Hall is dedicated to Saikū (斎宮), a small village that served as the residence for Saiō (斎王), an unwed female member of the imperial family who participated in religious rituals at the nearby Ise Grand Shrine on behalf of the emperor.  

This system lasted for 660 years, and the imperial princess would spend her days composing poetry or collecting shells at Ōyodo beach. 

Itsukinomiya Hall - jyūnihitoe
Image credit: @itukinomiya_319

To experience what it’s like to be a Japanese imperial princess, female visitors can don an elaborate ceremonial kimono, also known as jyūnihitoe (十二単). Comprising 12 layers, the kimono comes in both winter and summer versions. 

Due to the sheer amount of layers, the staff will be helping guests with the fit. The experience fee costs ¥7,000 (~USD47.06), and reservations have to be made in advance over the phone. Note that the service is only available on select days, and visitors will have to reach the museum by 1.30pm or the appointment will be considered cancelled. 

The dates can be found on the official Itsukinomiya Hall website.

Itsukinomiya Hall - jyūnihitoeImage credit: @itukinomiya_319

Currently, due to the pandemic, the kimono-wearing experience is only available for visitors who have received at least 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. They will also need to test negative on the day of the activity.

Take Heian royalty-themed wedding photos

Itsukinomiya Hall - wedding plan
Image credit: @itukinomiya_319

For all you lovebirds out there, Itsukinomiya Hall offers photo packages where couples can get dressed in elegant Heian aristocratic garments and memorialise their upcoming royal wedding.  

Itsukinomiya Hall - wedding plan
Image credit: @itukinomiya_319

Plans are priced ¥150,000 (~USD1,011.83), and prior reservations have to be made via telephone. The package is not offered every day, so do refer to the Itsukinomiya Hall website for the schedule. 

Itsukinomiya Hall - wedding plan
Image credit: @itukinomiya_319

And those who are extra bouje can consider shelling out for the wedding ceremony plan (¥150,000, ~USD1,349.02), which includes a traditional wedding procession where you can invite guests, and photo-taking with your loved ones. 

Experience life as a Saiō 

Itsukinomiya Hall - kai awase
Kai awase, a game that involves finding 2 halves of the same shell.
Image credit: @itukinomiya_319

Aside from putting on gorgeous ceremonial garments, visitors to the museum also have opportunities to try their hand at traditional games enjoyed by nobility in their free time. 

In particular, they can paint and customise a pair of shells that are used in kai awase (貝合わせ), a simple ancient game which involves finding and pairing 2 halves of a shell. To participate in the activity, simply head to the museum on designated days and pay a small fee of ¥500 (~USD3.38)

Itsukinomiya Hall - hand weave textile
Weaving experience.
Image credit: @itukinomiya_319

For ¥2,000 (~USD13.50), you can even hand weave textile using takabata (高機), a type of traditional floor loom.

Itsukinomiya Hall - ban sugorokuImage credit: @itukinomiya_319

Board games which were all the rage during the Heian Period, such as ban sugoroku (盤双六), can be played free of charge. 

How to get to Itsukinomiya Hall

Itsukinomiya Hall - exterior of museumImage credit: Iseshima Kankō Nabi

Itsukinomiya Hall is accessible via the Yamada Line that’s operated by Kintetsu Railway. Alight at Saikū Station and the museum is just a 1-minute walk away from the station. 

Address: 3046-25 Saikū, Meiwa, Taki District, 515-0321 Mie
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9.30am-5pm (Last admission at 4.30pm) (Closed on Mondays and 29th December to 3rd January)
Contact: 0596-52-3890 | Itsukinomiya Hall Website

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Cover image adapted from (clockwise from left): @itukinomiya_319, @itukinomiya_319 and @itukinomiya_319

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