Exploring the Mie Prefecture in Japan (Part 1)

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Exploring the Mie Prefecture in Japan (Part 1)
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You may or may not have heard about this prefecture, but it is one of the prefectures that is shared by both the Kansai and Tokai Region of Honshu Island. The closest entry cities are also Nagoya and of course Osaka.

So, what is popular and famous in the Mie Prefecture that will possibly attract you there? Well, it is not your regular Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya but a more peaceful and serene destination in Japan. This simply means that you will not be experiencing the fast-moving Japanese lifestyle here but more of a laid back culture destination.


What is Mie Prefecture Famous For?

There are three highly popular genres of tourism found in Mie Prefecture and they are the Suzuka International Racing Circuit, some of the oldest shrines in all of Japan and the famous world Ama female divers.

But then again, there are also a number of increasingly popular places that have been attracting many tourists, namely the Nabana no Sato or illuminated light tunnel which is very popular during the wintertime.

For photography, culture and landscape lovers, you should make Mie Prefecture one of your destinations to visit in Japan due to some of the spectacular shrines and temples found here. Over in the city of Ise, there is a well-known 7th century Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu called the Ise Grand Shrine. The location of the shrine is in a dense forest and by a river that provides beautiful scenery for visitors, namely photographers.

Ise Grand Temple. Photo by Wikipedia.

And if you have heard about the world-famous Mikimoto Pearls, then you should know that they come from here in the Mie Prefecture. There is an island dedicated to the pearl industry called Mikimoto Pearl Island in the Isa Bay area.

Below, I will be highlighting the areas to visit, based on the cities and towns that provide easy access for those travelling by train or public transport. Take note that the city of Tsu is the capital of the Mie Prefecture and your best access to this part of Japan is via Nagoya.


East Coast Experience of Mie Prefecture

The best way is to travel via train from Nagoya all the way down to the city of Tobu. The train service runs on the coastline, stopping at major cities and this will provide visitors with a great experience of hopping from one city to another, and possibly putting up a night at one of them.

The Nabana no Sato illuminated lights during winter. Photo CC Wikipedia.


Yokkaichi City

The closest large city to Nagoya and home to the world famous Nabana no Sato illuminated light tunnel. It is here that during winter, thousands of local and foreign tourist come to visit the spectacular light show and display. And of course, the illuminated light tunnel and Mount Fuji are the star attractions. Best to visit during the wintertime.

If you are here during the month of August, do look out for the unique Whale Boat Event called Kujira-bune Gyoji Festival of the Toridejinja Shrine. This event takes place in mid-August from 14th to 15th yearly, so if you are travelling during this week, do make a stopover and experience the festival.

The Kujira-bune Gyoji Festival. Photo by Yokkaichi City Website.

There is a nice little local theme park called Nagashima Spaland which offers some pretty thrilling rides and is not your average roller-coaster experience. This theme park is known for their world-class rides and there is also a kids town theme park for those travelling with families.

To Get Here – Use the Kintetsu-Nagoya Line, departs every 12 minutes and price is ¥1130 per person and journey is 38 minutes. There is a slower train which takes about 47 minutes and half the price at ¥740 per person via the Kansai Line and Rapid Mie train.

The beach at Tsuzumigaura which attracts a lot of visitors.

Suzuka Circuit and Surrounding (Suzuka)

This stop if for any car racing and formula one fans, and also for those who want to explore the Suzuka vicinity. You will be surprised but Suzuka does, in fact, have quite a number of things to do. There are beautiful mountains like Mount Nonoburi, Mount Senga-dake and Mount Nyudo-gatake where you can hike the wilderness and do camping.

There are also beautiful beaches found along the coast of Suzuka and one of the most popular places is Tsuzumigaura Beach which offers white sands and shallow shoreline. This beach is also very popular during the summertime, attracting many locals from Nagoya and the surrounding areas.

Hot Air Balloons taking off. Photo CC Wikipedia.

The Suzuka Hot Air Balloon Festival also takes place at the end of November, and if you are travelling around this time, do make a stop at the Suzuka River River Greenery & Suzuka Circuit. This is highly recommended for any hot air balloon fans and the event takes place from 22nd to 24th November 2019. More info: http://suzuka-balloon.jp/

The beautiful Tsu Castle. Photo CC Wikipedia.


Tsu City

This is the capital of the Mie Prefecture, and without fail anyone who visits Mie Prefecture should also make a stopover at the main city. There are quite a number of local attractions which include some outstanding parks, gardens and temples.

While you are here, the local Japanese food from this prefecture is not to be missed as well. Try Hashiya, a local charcoal grilled eel delicacy. Or you can also opt to experience the fragrant charcoal grilled eels at Shintamatei Restaurant which is almost 120 years old.

Some of the mouth-watering charcoal grilled eel dishes in Tsu. Photo Mie30.

Desserts and sweets are not to be missed here as there is one well-known dessert shop called Heijisenbei Honten, who has been serving the emperor and empress of Japan since 1928. They specialize in making Tamago Senbei or Japanese egg crackers.

A must-not-miss landmark is no other than the famous Tsu Castle and its lush landscaping that dominates the surrounding area. There are also many other smaller local tourist shops, museums, parks and the best place to get more information is by stopping over at the Tsu Tourist Information Center which provides all kinds of information, and also popular Tsu city souvenirs.

The world-famous AMA pearl divers of Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba. Photo CC Wikipedia.


Toba City

Your final stop on the east coast of the Mie Prefecture is Toba City. This is where you can find the world-famous Ama Divers who free dive into the sea to collect the precious Mikimoto Pearls. There is also a small island dedicated to this industry called Mikimoto Pearl Island, which is open to visitors.

If you are travelling with your mum or aunty, this is definitely one stop you must make as on the island, they have the entire process of the Mikimoto Pearl industry, including a shop, museum, and many other things.

One of the seaside resort hot springs at Toba. Photo Japan Travel.

For Japanese Onsen lovers, prepare to be spoiled for choices as all around the Toba coast area, there are a total of nine, yes, nine hot springs along the seaside here. This would be a bonus if you have been travelling from city to city and ending up in Toba. Apart from the nine Onsen, there is a whopping total of 56 hot springs located all over Toba.

For those who love marine life, there is the famous Toba Aquarium, which is known to house the most species of fish in all of Japan, including the unique sea cow or Dugong. The aquarium also doubles as a zoo and botanical gardens, making this one of the most visited man-made attractions in this part of Japan.

Matsusaka is a more premium beef than the Wagyu. Photo CC Wikipedia.

And for the serious foodies, don’t forget to look for the Matsusaka Beef, which is touted to be another type of Wagyu and is preferred locally versus the rest of the world claiming that Wagyu is the best.

The Matsusaka Beef is known to fetch higher pricing due to the premium marbling, and this is a very local thing. Most foodies claim that Wagyu and Kobe are the best, and have not heard about this little secret. Some restaurants in Toba and other parts of Mie Prefecture serve this exclusive beef, so keep a lookout for Matsusaka when you explore the city areas.


A map showing the cities on the east coast of Mie Prefecture and Nagoya.

Best Way To Explore Mie Prefecture

The best way to explore this part of Japan is to rent a car and self-drive the coast from city to city, making stops at any of the destinations and attractions along the way. However, if budget troubles you, then there is always the option of taking the train as it runs along the coast stopping at all towns and cities. For the train journey, I will strongly recommend getting the Kintetsu Rail Pass at the Nagoya Station. A five-day pass will cost an adult ¥3,800 and for children ¥1,900.

 

David Hogan Jr
David Hogan Jr
A multiple award-winning travel writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. He has been traveling to Japan since 1990 and all over the world for his work. His work has been featured on CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Lonely Planet and many other publications. David writes at: http://malaysia-asia.my and is on social media platforms as @MalaysiaAsia

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