For this week’s Exploring Japan, we continue with another Kansai prefecture, Mie.
Mie prefecture is in the western part of Kansai, though it has closer ties with Nagoya than Kansai. It faces the Pacific Ocean. It has a population of 1,855,177. The capital is Tsu. The 5 largest cities are:
The population of Mie is pretty steady, while the larger cities are growing. Those in the north are basically industrial cities and bedroom communities for Nagoya.
Tsu Castle in Tsu has a reconstructed turret, though it’s not historically accurate. There is decent stonework and a gate in existence, as well.
Kuwana Castle in Kuwana is mainly a park now, though it has two reconstructed turrets.
Things to see and do
There wasn’t much I knew about Mie, other than the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ise Jingu shrine and the Suzuka Circuit, Japan’s most famous racetrack. As I researched about Mie, I noticed that each city doesn’t have much to see, but there is plenty to see in the entire prefecture.
Tsu, the prefectural capital, doesn’t have much to see. Of course, it has the castle ruins, but other than that, there is a festival that might be good to see, the Tojin Odori.
Yokkaichi, the largest city, is a mostly industrial city. Surprisingly, it has little to see. There are some festivals, though, including the Amagasuka Ishideri Festival, the Great Yokkaichi Festival, and the Matsubara Ishideri Festival.
Iga, which is home to Iga Ueno Castle, the best castle in the prefecture, has several things to see. The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum is probably worth seeing, originally used by the Iga Ninja clan, one of Japan’s most notorious ninja clans. The Basho Museum looks interesting on the outside, and it’s dedicated to the haiku master Matsuo Basho. You can also see the Tenjin Festival in October. Also, there’s a 5 week long festival dedicated to ninja, the Iga Ueno Ninja Festa.
Ise city is home to Mie’s most famous site, and probably the holiest shrine in Japan, Ise Jingu. A lot of the shrine is inaccessible to the public, but there is still a lot to see. Kawasaki Kaiwai is the historic merchants area of the city. Meoto Iwa are a pair of rocks in the sea that are joined by a Shinto rope that weighs more than a ton. They are also known as the Wedded Rocks or Husband-and-Wife Rocks. Futami Sea Paradise is a small aquarium. Oharai Machi and Okage Yokocho are historic areas that are good for shopping and dining. Also, while in Ise, it’s probably worth trying Ise-ebi, or Japanese spiny lobster, though it’s quite expensive. Much of the city is within Ise-Shima National Park, where you can enjoy the coast, islands, mountains, and forests. And of course, the Ise Festival is quite popular.
Kumano is a small city further south on the Kii Peninsula. There, you can see some natural formations, including Shishiwa, or the lion rock, and the Onigajo, or demon castle. The latter is a rock cave formation. Hana no Iwaya is a very old shrine. Senmaida is a thousand rice paddies that is planted by hand every year. It’s on the side of a hill, so no machines can be used. You can hike the Kodo, part of an old pilgrimage route. Doro Gyo is a gorge you can ride a boat through.
Matsusaka has the Matsusaka Castle ruins, but also beef. Matsusaka beef is one of Japan’s famous types of wagyu beef.
Shima is known for its pearl cultivation. It also has some sites. Parque Espana is a Spanish village theme park. Goza Shirahama is a very popular and crowded beach. Shima Marine Land is a small aquarium.
Suzuka is famous for one thing, the Suzuka Circuit. It’s Japan’s most famous racetrack, and is part of the Formula One race circuit. You can also visit the Tsubaki Ogamiyashiro shrine.
Toba is a city near Ise that’s very popular for holidays. You can see Mikimoto Pearl Island, which is dedicated to the cultured pearl and has demonstrations by Ama, female pearl divers. Toba Aquarium is considered the best aquarium in Japan, and only one of 4 aquariums in the world to have dugong. The Toba Castle ruins are also available to see.
Owase is a small city, but has plenty to see. The Kumano Kodo Center is made entirely of cypress, and you can see the history of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, as well as go hiking nearby. Owase Shrine has a very old tree, while the Kongobuji temple next to it has some fierce statues at the entrance. Mikisato Beach has beautiful water. Sugari and Kuki are fishing villages nearby that you can look around and take a tour. Finally, you can see the Nakamurayama Castle ruins, which is a park now.
Kuwana, next to Nagoya, has a couple places to see. Nagashima Spa Land has an amusement park and shopping mall, and it includes one of the largest roller coasters in the world, while in summer, you can enjoy waterslides. Kyuka Park features a sumo ring. Tado Shrine holds a big festival every year, the Tado Festival.
Mie is most famous for its Matsusaka beef, the local variety of wagyu beef. For seafood, spiny lobster is very well-known.
Have you been to Mie? What would you recommend to see and do?