Gourmet Mie Day 2 – Divine Ise and Matsusaka beef(Article created by Cheeserland)

Gourmet Mie Day 2 –  Divine Ise and Matsusaka beef(Article created by Cheeserland)

Read my Day 1 blog post here about abalone feast at Shima Peninsula.

Mie Prefecture is blessed with the abundance of both treasures from the ocean and land. In my previous post we have had (actually just me, but it could soon be your experience if you allow yourself to! Hehe.) glorious abalone and other assorted seafood in the Shima region, today I’m bringing you to explore the crème de la crème of beef – Matsusaka from its namesake city.

But first, let’s pick up where we left in the previous post and start with a great lookout point in Shima region.

※This article was created by Cheeserland.

Yokoyama Observation Deck

Uninterrupted view of the stunning Ago Bay from the Yokoyama Observation Deck.

The massive scale of nature took my breath away. There are 64 island (islets?) surrounding the Ago Bay, and it reminded me of Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture – the final 3 Greatest Scenic View I’ve left on my list. Although I have not been to Matsushima, the view from Yokoyama actually left me wondering if Matsushima would be more enchanting than this.

There’s a little cafe at the top floor of the newly revamped deck where you get find specialty pastries and dessert produced by the local high school students. Indulge in a brief sweet moment while taking in one of the most beautiful views of Mie Prefecture.

Mikimoto Pearl Island

The visit to Mikimoto Pearl Island has changed my mind about the precious jewel. To be honest, I am not a jewellery kind of girl and I thought it was an attraction I don’t mind skipping on my already activity-filled itinerary.

But I’m glad I paid a visit to this world famous pearl brand and its birth place – Toba.

I’m sure you have heard of Mikimoto, but did you know that the founder, Mikimoto Kokichi (御木本幸吉), born in 1858, was the first person who had successfully create the first cultured pearl in the world?

Omg I just had a goosebump moment just like when first learnt about the inventor of instant noodles, Ando Momofuku’s story. Their life stories all share several similarities:
1. Undying support from their wise wife
2. Determination to get through multiple failures, near bankruptcy and hardship
3. A burning passion to seek innovation and improvement no matter the age
4. They both died at age 96

Creepy! Now I am really convinced that the saying – beside every great man, is a great woman – does hold water.

In 1927, Mikimoto met Edison, the great inventor who was in awe with his pearl cultivation. Edison commented, “Diamonds and pearls are the only things my laboratory could not produce.” – to which Mikimoto responded, “If you were the moon of the world of invention, I would simply be one of the many tiny stars”.

Oh. My heart.

I made it there just in time for the ama diver show. Instead of seeing dolphins glide along the water, you will see several ladies dip gracefully into the water to retrieve oysters that are ready for harvest.

Pay attention also to their special breathing technique in order to protect their lungs.

I have been to two different ama huts now, it was nice to finally see them in action for the first time. They were amazing.

In the Mikimoto Pearl Museum, you will find history of pearl cultivation documented with illustrations and real-life samples.

Natural pearls were in lots of random shapes. Mikimoto was also the person who has created the round-shaped pearls that are so widely seen today. I wouldn’t have known!!

Now the burning question is, how the hell are pearls even made? For sure the oysters don’t spit out random prized jewels every now and then when they feel like it.

No worries, the kind staff in the museum will be explaining about the process in details. It’s too complicated for me to explain it in 2019 English but basically you will need to perform a surgery to insert a round bead made of another oyster’s shell into the oyster and it will start to coat the bead with nacre (the shiny coating or what we call mother-of-pearl) as a natural defense to protect itself from an alient object in its body and therefore pearls are formed over time. So in a way, you can say that pearls are like your gallbladder stones, but shinier.

The first time I saw how a surgery was performed was in Uwajima, Ehime prefecture and I was clueless as hell but this visit has definitely opened my eyes the way you pour boiling water on clams. Haha.

Take the chance also to be a pageant queen or a princess for a moment, wearing Mikimoto’s pearl-encrusted crown. One can only wonder how much this is worth.

Though pearls are not my thing, I was quite interested in its pearl-calcium cosmetic range. The Chinese always have a thing for 珍珠粉 – pearl powder since ancient time, mostly for skin whitening and other beauty benefits.

If your wallet stops you from buying the prized precious pearls, at least check out their cosmetic counter and bring home some affordable skin care. I got a set of pearl masks to prepare for my next travel and I’m excited to use them!

Ise Grand Shrine

Ise Grand Shrine, or Ise Jingu, or just “Jingu”, needs nofurther introduction. I have also blogged about it twice. Once in 2017, and another time justweeks ago.

It was my third time here, and I loved it just as much.

One may expect the greatest shrine of whole Japan to be uniquely picturesque like Fushimi Inari in Kyoto, or at least photo-worthy like Hakone Shrine in Kanagawa. Not to disappoint you, but the shrine of Ise Jingu is extremely simple and plain, clad mostly ashen in earthy tones with the tamajari (玉砂利) – gravel that lines the sando (参道 – walkway to the shrine) and wooden structures of tones that seem to melt into each others. In fact, you are not even allowed to take photographs beyond the staircase to the main shrine (see above picture).

So, Ise Jingu is not an Insta photospot for social media boasting. Instead, it is a divine territory where one seeks to purify his soul and rediscovers gratitude in life. You can save the photo-taking for later, when you visit a nostalgic old town nearby (up right next!).

After having a fair share of spiritual quest and divinetopics, let’s move on to something jovial and loved by everybody – deliciousstreet snacks!

Oharai-machi & Okage Yokocho

Located just a short walking distance from Naiku (inner shrine of Ise), Oharai-machi is definitely not to be missed – for its many merchant stores selling an assortment of both modern and traditional craft, AND, endless delicious quick treats.

Okage Yokocho is located at the center of the district and is a newly build old town that replicates the Edo charm featuring lots of yummy eats. Here are some of my top picks.

Butasute Croquette

Butasute Croquette
My no.1 top recommended snack here is Butasute’s mince meat croquette. Do expect a queue depending on the crowd as it is extremely popular!

A 100 yen coin buys you the juiciest mince meat croquette you’ll ever taste.

Can you believe that this is my first budget meal in Mie? After being spoilt with abalones, cheap but delicious street food is surprisingly comforting too.


Just a short walk down the street is Wakamatsuya, a shop selling all sorts of nerimono – assorted grilled or fried fish cake. The signature is Ise Hiryozu, a stuffed fish cake filled with kamaboko, vegetables, mushroom and quail egg, it’s pretty filling so it’s best you share it with someone as there are many more food adventure waiting for you to discover!

From the same shop I also sampled Chizu-Bo, a fish cake filled with natural cheese that’s a hit with the young and old alike. It is said that over 1 million Chizu-Bo was sold and counting!

Fukusuke Ise Udon

Fukusuke Ise Udon
Mie is well known for all sorts of luxurious gourmet, but honestly I had yet to hear about any nationally famous affordable eats. However, there’s one you should be checking out especially when you are in the area, and it is the Ise Udon.

Tourist attractions covered by this article