Mie prefecture is situated in the centre of Honshu, bordered by Nara and Kyoto. It is home to some of the oldest and holiest Shinto sites as well as some of the freshest and most delicious seafood you can come by in Japan. Additionally, it provides a lot of local charm, giving you a chance to watch a demonstration of the female pearl divers or to go back in time to the streets of the Edo period. Here are 10 unmissable experiences that can be found in Mie prefecture.
1. Meoto-iwa (The Wedded Rocks), Mie
These two sacred rocks provide both an interesting insight into Shinto practices and a picturesque viewpoint in Ise City. Otherwise known as “The Wedded Rocks”, the pair are connected by a thick shimenawa rope. This rope is said to act as a divider between the spiritual and earthly realms. The rocks themselves are said to celebrate the union of marriage. The larger of the two rocks represents the husband while the smaller represents the wife. The husband rock has a small torii gate at its peak.
During high tide, the rocks are separated by water and many people try to catch a glimpse of the famous view of the sun rising between the two rocks on a fine summer morning. On days when the weather is especially clear, it is possible to see the silhouette of Mount Fuji in the distance as the sun rises.
【opening hours】7:30 am – 4:30 pm
【Access】Walk 15 minutes from JR Futaminoura Station
2. Nabana no Sato, Mie
Nabana no Sato is one of the largest botanical gardens in Tokai and hosts one of the most stunning light displays in Japan. During the day you can enjoy beautiful seasonal flowers such as roses and hydrangeas. In contrast, night time offers a completely different atmosphere, as the garden is illuminated by over 8 million LED lights. The highlight of the event are their light tunnels, which transport you into a magical world where you are completely surrounded by twinkling stars. The light up event is very popular and therefore it’s recommended that you go on weekdays later in the evening or when it is raining. When it is raining there are usually less people and you get the added bonus of seeing the lights reflecting off the ground, which creates an even more spectacular experience.
【Season】mid Oct – early May
【Opening hours】10 am – 9 pm (light up starts when dark)
3. Kumano Kodo Iseji Route, Mie
Kumano Kodo refers to a network of pilgrimage routes stretched across the mountainous Kii Peninsula. For over 1000 years, people have used these routes to make spiritual pilgrimages to Kumano, undertaking rigorous religious rites of worship and purification along the way.
Of all the Kumano Kodo routes, the Iseji route is the longest at 170 kms long. The route runs along the east coast of the Kii-Peninsula between Ise-jingu shrine and the Kumano Sanzan temples. The route contains a number of passes and those who are willing to make the entire pilgrimage will be treated to picturesque views such as bamboo forests, terraced rice paddies and beaches. Historically, pilgrims would use this trail to reach the three major shrines in Kumano Hongo after paying homage in Ise. These days, it is a challenging but rewarding hike that can be completed over the course of a week, albeit with a fairly demanding itinerary. Rest assured, if you don’t have a week to spare it is possible to choose a specific passage of the route to hike and each provides equally unique and beautiful surroundings.
【Access】From Iseshi Station take the no. 51 or no. 55 Geku-Naiku Line bus for around 13 minutes and get off at Naiku mae. Ise Shrine where the Iseji route starts is about a 12 minute walk from this stop.
4. Suzuka Forest Garden, Mie
At Suzuka Forest Garden you can find a variety of weeping plum blossoms, some as old as 100 years. Weeping plum blossom trees can be differentiated from regular plum blossom trees by their long branches that droop down towards the ground. The garden is home to a wide variety of weeping plum blossom trees, all with distinct features and tended to by experts in the field. The variety of pink and white hues provided by the different types of blossoms, when set against the backdrop of the distant Suzuka Mountains, creates a striking view that is truly unique. The weeping plum blossoms can be enjoyed at all hours of the day and at night there is a light up event where each weeping plum tree is illuminated, creating an enchanting and dreamy atmosphere.
【Season】late Feb – mid Mar
【Opening hours】9 am – 4 pm (during light up period opens until 9 pm), last entry is 30 minutes before closing
【Cost】¥700 to ¥1,700 (varies according to bloom)
【Access】During plum blossom season there is a shuttle bus between JR/Kintetsu Yokkaichi Station and Suzuka Forest Garden.
5. Mikimoto Pearl Island, Mie
Mikimoto Pearl Island was named after Mikimoto Kokichi, the first person in the world to succeed in culturing pearls. Over the years the island has become a popular tourist destination. There is a museum that commemorates Mikimoto’s life and provides a wealth of information about pearl cultivation. Additionally, a selection of jewellery of differing styles made from pearls cultivated on the island can be bought. One of the biggest attractions on the island are the ama (sea women) who are female divers that farm the pearls. There are demonstrations of how they gracefully dive underwater and retrieve the pearls. Though they no longer use this method to harvest pearls commercially they played a significant role in pearl cultivation. Their methods are a fascinating reminder of the island’s history.
【Opening hours】8:30 am – 5 pm (last entry 4 pm), times can vary during different seasons
【Access】Take the Sangu Line from Iseshi Station to Toba Station. Walk for around 7 minutes to Mikimoto Pearl Island, which is connected by bridge.
6. Oharai Machi, Mie
Near Ise Shrine lies Oharai Machi, a recreation of a typical town Edo period. As you walk through the cobblestone streets you can find all kinds of local specialities and souvenirs from Ise. Continuing to the centre of this town you’ll reach Okage Yokocho, where Mie’s local traditions can especially be observed. Some traditional local foods to try include Ise Udon noodles, akafuku-mochi made of sweet red bean paste as well as Matsusaka beef skewers. You can also see traditional performances such as a lively taiko drum demonstration and paper theatre performances, which tell stories through pictures and paper figures.
【Opening hours】9:30 am – 5pm (Oct-Mar), 9:30 am – 6pm (Apr – Sep)
【Access】From Iseshi Station take the no. 51 or no. 55 Geku-Naiku Line bus for around 13 minutes and get off at Naiku mae.
7. Akame 48 Waterfalls, Mie
Beautiful all year round, Akame 48 Waterfalls follows a peaceful 4 km path with tea houses where you can relax in along the way. This area is known to be where ninjas trained and meditated. At the entrance of the trail is a ninja training school. At this school you can take a 90 minute course where you’ll learn about the ways of the ninja; shuriken throwing, rope climbing as well as wall scaling. Ninja costumes can be rented here to either practice the ninja techniques or to hike in. Keep in mind that a reservation must be made an hour before and at least two people must be participating.
Another point of interest along this trail is the Japanese Salamander Center, which is both educational and fascinating. Here, you’ll be able to get an up-close look at Japanese salamanders, which are the second biggest species of salamanders in the world. The waterfalls themselves create a serene atmosphere as you can hear the water trickling down the rocks and enjoy the stunning and peaceful views. Though there aren’t 48 waterfalls there are plenty of waterfalls, which vary in size and strength.
【Opening hours】8:30 am – 5:00 pm (Apr – Nov), 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (Dec – Mar)
【Access】From Kintetsu Akameguchi Station take the Kotsu Akametaki-yuki bus and get off at Akametaki bus stop.
8. Ise Shima Skyline, Mie
Iseshima Skyline is a scenic road that runs through Mount Asamayama. Along this road you’ll be able to find great look out points with mountain and ocean views. One of the highlights of Iseshima Skyline is its footbath with a view. Here, you’ll be able to soak your feet and enjoy the stunning views. Additionally, on a clear day you’ll be able to spot the majestic Mount Fuji.
At the summit of Iseshima there is an active postbox where you can send yourself a postcard to commemorate your visit or send one to your loved ones to show you’re thinking of them. Postcards can be purchased at the souvenir store also located on the peak of the mountain. At night the scenery is equally beautiful and you’ll see the glittering lights of the town below. In fact on new years eve many people come here to watch the first sunrise of the year.
【Opening hours】7:00 am – 7:00 pm (Sep -Apr), 6:00 am – 8:00 pm (May – Aug), open all night on New Years Eve
【Access】Take a taxi from JR/Kintetsu Toba or Kintetsu Isuzugawa station for 20 minutes.
9. Matsusaka Beef, Mie
One of the three Sandai Wagyu, the “three big beefs of Japan”, Matsusaka beef is the meat of Japanese Black cattle reared under strict conditions in the Matsusaka region of Mie prefecture. The cattle produces beef with a high fat-to-meat ratio and as a result has earned a reputation for being the most luxurious beef in Japan. Matsusaka beef can be recognised by its heavy marbling, which carries with it an equally heavy price tag. However, many would argue that the price is worth it. Matsusaka beef melts in one’s mouth and is exquisitely tasty with or without seasoning.
Matsusaka beef is traditionally enjoyed in Japanese hot pot dishes such Shabu-shabu or sukiyaki, though influence from the West has also seen it enjoyed as steak. However you choose to enjoy Matsusaka beef, you are guaranteed a dining experience that you will not soon forget.
10. Mie’s Seafood, Mie
Due to Mie prefecture’s ocean-side location, it is famous for its fresh seafood. The mouth watering list of seafood in Mie includes oysters, abalone, lobster, hijiki seaweed, tiger blowfish, red sea bream and various types of tuna all providing a nutritious and delicious dining experience.
One of the best ways to enjoy the seafood Mie prefecture has to offer is to visit the Ama hut Hachiman kamado. In this rustic food hut, you can eat seafood barbecued by the Ama’s themselves (female divers), while enjoying tales of their experiences as divers as well as costumed performances based on Japanese folklore. There is an English translator on site, so people from all over the world can enjoy the tales told by the Ama. This charming and cultural experience has recently become more popular for international tourists and as a result earned Hachiman kamado the 4th Japan Tourism Award in 2018.
【Opening hours】9:30 am – 6:30 pm
【Cost】Tea Time Experience and ama talk ¥2,160, Ama Hut Experience and food ¥3,780, Traditional Clothing Experience ¥300 (reservation required for all experiences)
【Access】From Toba Station take a taxi for approximately 25 minutes.
Mie has something for everyone, whether you are a fan of history, nature or delicious food. Just a short distance from Kyoto, it is well worth a visit and is sure to provide an unforgettable cultural experience. If you have any other places or food in Mie you’d like to recommend feel free to leave them in the comments down below.