ODAI GOURMET PICNIC IN YOUR FAVORITE SPOT - Eat a Delicious Lunch of Local Specialties in the Beautiful Spot of Your Choice

ODAI GOURMET PICNIC IN YOUR FAVORITE SPOT - Eat a Delicious Lunch of Local Specialties in the Beautiful Spot of Your Choice

Odai is a lovely traditional town in the countryside of Mie Prefecture. It is located in an official UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the surrounding area is bursting with natural beauty that visitors can explore. There are forest-covered mountains, crystal clear rivers and abundant wildlife. The area is also home to green tea plantations, sake breweries and many farms that produce delicious fruit and vegetables.

For outdoor enthusiasts who also love great food, the Odai Gourmet Picnic In Your Favorite Spot experience checks all of the boxes. This experience takes about an hour and is available year-round every day of the week except for Tuesdays for groups of 2-6 people. The cost is ¥2,200 per person and that includes your guide fee and a lunch box that is packed with incredible local specialties made from the freshest of ingredients. Your friendly guide will take you to the scenic spot of your choice to enjoy a delicious meal in the spectacular mountains near Odai.

Written by: Vern Begg 
About the Author:
Trying fresh, local food and dishes has always been one of the best parts of traveling for me. When I moved to Japan, I already loved Japanese food. Then I realized that I had only scratched the surface of what this country’s cuisine has to offer. Whenever I have a chance to visit a different part of Japan, new food experiences are always on my to-do list.

I made a reservation for the Odai Gourmet Picnic In Your Favorite Spot experience with hopes of enjoying a delicious lunch made with local ingredients next to a river or a waterfall. One of the features that drew me to the package was the option to choose the location where I would eat lunch with my guide. I also had my choice of a rice ball (“onigiri” in Japanese) or sandwich set for lunch. 

Of course, we can’t control the weather and, when you are in the mountains near the ocean in Japan, it can be unpredictable. On the day I scheduled my picnic experience, the clouds rolled in and hung low over the mountains near Odai. I wasn’t sure what the day had in store for me, but with a positive outlook and the willingness to find the silver lining in all situations, I made my way to the Okuise Forestpia to meet my guide.

Caption: I waited to meet my guide inside the Okuise Forestpia.

When I arrived, the rain had already started coming down. I was dressed for the rain, but I wasn’t sure a picnic in the elements was going to happen. When my guide showed up, however, I knew it was going to be a good day and an interesting experience. Tatsumi-san, a local mountain hermit/guide, introduced himself and let me know that our plans were going ahead rain or shine. His big smile, lively eyes and pure white beard were all I needed to see to put my trust in him.

Caption: My guide was Tatsumi-san, a local mountain hermit.

Tatsumi-san led me outside to his waiting van and told me it would be a short drive to our picnic location. As we wound our way down the mountain roads, I was enjoying the woodland views and we were even lucky enough to see a mother deer and her fawn running alongside us for a short stretch before they bounded into the dense forest of the mountains.

Caption: The mountain road passed through the lush forest.

After about 10 minutes, we stopped and my guide asked if I needed to use the facilities at a roadside stop. Even the restrooms here seem like they are a natural part of the landscape and when I got out of the van I breathed deeply and enjoyed the freshness of the moist heavy mountain air.  After our brief pit stop, we jumped in the van and headed back down the road.

Caption: In the mountains of Japan, eventhe public restrooms are nice.

Our next stop was at the entrance to a red suspension bridge that crossed the beautiful Miya River (“Miyagawa” in Japanese). The rain had almost stopped and the mountains looked gorgeous with crowns of misty low hanging clouds. Tatsumi-san told me our destination was on the other side of the bridge and that I should cross on foot so I could enjoy the view.

Caption: The clouds were hanging low on the mountain tops.

Caption: The view from the bridge was incredible.

When I reached the other side of the bridge, we got back into the van for quick drive to where we would be enjoying our picnic of local Odai delicacies. After we arrived, we got out of the van and I looked around. The first thing I noticed was a replica of the bus stop from the movie “My Neighbor Totoro”.

Caption: When we arrived for lunch, Totoro was there to greet us.

Tatsumi-san told me to follow him up some stone stairs on the side of the mountain and we walked up into a very interesting structure. When we reached the top of the stairs, there was an open air eating space with a table, stools and a sink to wash my hands. When I asked if this was a guesthouse, my host informed me that we were at his home. He explained that due to the rain, this was the best location to guarantee a relaxing lunch.

Caption: The stone steps leading up to Tatsumi-san’s home in the mountains.

I now realized that Tatsumi-san was a true mountain hermit. His home was literally on the side of a mountain and deep in the forest. He made sure I was comfortable and went to get our lunch from his house. When he returned, I was amazed to see the selection of delicious local foods that were in my lunch box. There was even an English menu with a description of each item and information about where the ingredients came from.

Caption: The lunch box menu that included the sources of the ingredients.

A local Italian restaurant that prepares their dishes with locally sourced Odai ingredients had prepared my lunch box. The pizza roll was fresh and delicious. It was not a traditional Japanese dish, but I was impressed by the quality of the ingredients and happy to see that they came from the surrounding area.

Caption: It was a healthy and delicious lunch made with local ingredients.

Tourist attractions covered by this article