Most visitors to Japan have Tokyo and Kyoto on their itinerary. But if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, wander off the beaten path and visit Mie. Here are the top things to do in Mie Prefecture.
Mie prefecture is a couple of hours east of Osaka. The region hugs the Pacific coastline, and 36% of its area is comprised of protected National Parks. Hiking isn’t the first thing I think when I visit Japan, but after visiting Mie, it’s topped the list. You’re missing out if you don’t hike along one of Japan’s coastlines (and that’s coming from a person who hates hiking!).
Mie is home to some of the Japan’s most sacred sites, such as Mount Koya and the Kumano Kodo trails. Flanked by ocean and mountains, the region is known for it’s delicious seafood and undisturbed natural scenery.
Here’s 6 Things to do in Mie Prefecture, Japan:
1) Visit Toba
Toba is a small, sea-side city famous for its pearl cultivation history. A unique draw to Toba is the ama culture, which dates back 2000 years.
Ama are free-diving women. They scavenge the sea for delicacies such as abalone, sea urchin, and of course, pearls. Amas sell their goods in local markets or prepare their food in ama huts for visitors. Stopping by an ama hut for a meal is a unique regional experience. You’ll get the chance to try fresh seafood and support the divers who hand-caught your meal.
Another spot worth visiting is the Mikimoto Pearl Island, a pearl cultivation museum. You can learn a bit about the history of the area and watch an ama demonstration to see these badass women at work.
2) Visit Ise Jingu Shrine
Ise City is home to Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines: the Ise Shrines. The Ise Shrines consist of 125 buildings in a sprawling complex.
Many deities are thought to be enshrined in Ise Jingu, most notably the sun goddess Amaterasu-omikami.
Tucked into temperate forest, the Ise shrines are simpler than the colourful displays at other famous shrines. However, it’s importance as one of Japan’s holy sites makes Ise Jingu one of the top things to do in Mie.
Amazingly, every 20 years, worshippers completely rebuild some structures of the shrine. This ritual represents the Shinto belief of of death, renewal, and the impermanence of all things.
Just outside of Ise Jingu is Okage Yokocho, a shopping street with original Edo-period buildings. Souvenir stores and restaurants line the streets to grab a gift or a bite to eat.
While you’re here, make sure to try Ise Udon. This regional take on udon consists of thick, soft udon noodles, served in small amount of flavourful broth. The broth serves as a thick dipping sauce rather than a soup.
3) Hike Kumano Kodo
Kumano Kodo is a famous network of pilgrimage routes. It tracks through quiet forests, idyllic towns, and past plenty of onsens. These pilgrimage routes are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and date back over 1000 years.
The route connects sacred sites along the Kii peninsula, spanning over a hundred kilometres and several prefectures. Hiking the entire route can take days (if that’s your thing – go for it). It’s worth it for the misty forests, religious towns, mountain passes, and bubbling creeks along the way. If you don’t want to commit to a multi-day hike (🙋🏻♀️), there are plenty of places to park and walk shorter sections for a quick day trip.
I’m not religious, but hiking Kumano Kodo was a spiritual experience. The weathered stone paths reminded me that thousands had walked this route for centuries. I was walking alone the same routes as ancient Japanese emperors, monks, and pilgrims – and that was a pretty cool feeling.
4) Wander through Nabana no Sato
Nabana no Sato botanical garden blooms beautifully during the summer, but it’s better known for it’s winter display. The garden and themed park hosts a stunning winter illumination that runs from October to May. Millions of lights are used to create seven installations, and it’s known for its photo-worthy tunnels of light.
The park is located about 35 minutes from Nagoya station. If you can handle a little weather, it’s best to visit on rainy days when the park is less busy. Each year has a new theme, and it’s worth the brisk winter stroll.
5) Stop by Iga & The Ninja Museum
Iga province is the birthplace of the Iga-ryu style ninja. Historically, Iga was home to one of the most well-known ninja schools in Japan.
Nowadays, Ninja MUSEUM of Igaryu is the talking point of Iga. The museum teaches visitors about ninja culture. It contains a ninja house as well as archives displaying real throwing stars and swords. They also throw a pretty exciting ninja performance.
6) Join the crowds at Suzuka Circuit
Suzuka Circuit is most notably used for the Formula One Grand Prix in Japan. The track is an easy day trip from nearby Osaka or Nagoya.
It’s an exciting spot for auto racing fans, but has activities for the whole family. The racetrack has a racing theatre and attractions, and there is an amusement park next door. After attending a professional race, you can hop next door to ride a roller coaster, or visit the nearby water park in the summer.
There are so many unique things to do in Mie Prefecture – it’s truly one of Japan’s hidden gems.
Looking for tips to travel Japan on a budget? Check out my Japan budget travel guide here.