SPIRITUAL ROUTE CYCLING & MATSUSAKA BEEF BBQ - Visit One of Japan’s Most Significant Shrines and Taste World Famous Beef

SPIRITUAL ROUTE CYCLING & MATSUSAKA BEEF BBQ - Visit One of Japan’s Most Significant Shrines and Taste World Famous Beef

Takihara Grand Shrine (“Takiharagu” in Japanese) is one of the most sacred places in all of Japan. It is an associated shrine (“betsugu” in Japanese) to Ise Jingu, one of Mie Prefecture’s most famous sites. Matsusaka beef comes from Japanese Black cattle raised under very specific conditions in Mie Prefecture. It is considered to be one of the top three kinds of Japanese beef. The Spiritual Route Cycling and Matsusaka Beef BBQ experience offers participants an amazing combination of outdoor activity, Japanese culture and some of the world’s best beef. The price for this incredible 5-hour package is ¥13,000 per person (+¥2,000 for a guide) and it is an unforgettable way to enjoy some of the best activities Taiki Town has to offer.

Written by Vern Begg
About the Author:

Travel has always been one of my passions. There was a time in my life when I thought I would never stay anywhere long enough to put down roots. Then I met my wife and we decided to start a family in Japan. I moved to Osaka in 2015 and I am always seeking out new experiences in this incredible country.

I love cycling and it is one my favorite ways to get around in Japan. When I saw the opportunity to do a cycle tour that included a visit to Takiharagu and a Matsusaka Beef BBQ lunch, I knew this was something I would really enjoy. It is always the blending of traditional Japanese culture and modern conveniences that make me appreciate this amazing country. A perfect example of this was my schedule for the day of visiting a sacred shrine and traveling by E-bike through a small town to eat a local delicacy at a traditional guesthouse.

For ¥13,000 (plus tax), the tour package included my E-bike rental (with helmet), my Matsusaka Beef BBQ lunch and a route map. I decided to add a guide for the day, so I wouldn’t be cycling alone. If you prefer to ride on your own, you can just pick-up your E-bike and cycle to your stopping points using the provided route map.

On the day of my bike tour, the weather was perfect and I met my guides at Takiharagu. I was looking forward to spending some time at the shrine in the morning before picking up my E-bike. Walking up to the unpainted torii (traditional gate to a Shinto shrine) at the entrance, I immediately felt the importance of the site. Once inside, the first thing that I noticed was the sheer size of the cedar trees along both sides of the path.

Caption: The torii at the entrance toTakiharagu.

Caption: My guides at Takiharagu showinghow massive some of the cedar trees are.

There weren’t many other people when I was there due to the time of year, so it was very relaxing and calm to stroll around the grounds. Of course, many of the visitors were there to pray and make offerings, so there was a general atmosphere of quiet reflection.

Caption: Gorgeous old growth cedar trees surround the path.

There was one massive tree that stood out from the rest. The main reason was that it was located in center of the path and the other was that it was the only tree with bark that had grown in a spiral pattern. My guides explained to me that this was due to a magnetic anomaly in this spot and that this tree was quite famous. It did appear that all of the other trees had straight vertical bark patterns.

Caption: The only tree at Takiharagu with aspiral bark pattern.

I saw some other visitors going down a side path so I decided to follow. This path led down to a river that flowed quietly under a beautiful canopy of trees. After spending a few moments in the solitude of the riverside, I headed to the main shrine area. There were some gorgeous stone steps leading up from the river to re-join the main path.

Caption: That side path led to a beautiful spot next to the river.

Caption: The ancient stone steps led me back to the main shrine area.

When I reached the main shrines, my guides provided me with some details about the deity that was enshrined here, the sun goddess Amaterasu. It is said that over 2,000 years ago, as Yamato Hime no Mikoto was searching for a place to enshrine Amaterasu, she was so moved by the natural beauty of the area that she decided it was a worthy of the goddess. The two main shrines of Takiharagu are beautiful wooden structures and I was surprised to see how new they looked. What I came to learn was that every 20 years the shrines are dismantled and then rebuilt. The caretakers of the shrine have repeated this process now for hundreds of years.

Caption: The main shrines where visitors can make offerings and say their prayers.

Caption: The design of the main shrines is simple and natural.

The beautiful grounds where are the shrines previously stood and where the current ones stand now are covered with perfectly manicured stone gardens. As I stood quietly and just enjoyed the calm of my surroundings, numerous people approached and performed the ritualistic prayers to Amaterasu.

Caption: The previous location of the two main shrines before being dismantled and rebuilt.

After spending about an hour at Takiharagu, I was ready for some physical activity and looking forward to my cycling trip. I met my cycling guide, Taka-san, outside the shrine gates and he was waiting for me with my pristine white Panasonic E-bike. After some quick introductions, we were ready to roll. It didn’t take us long to get in sync and the E-bike was a breeze to ride.

Caption: Our E-bikes were a perfect way to get around.

The route we took to our lunch destination was spectacular. Riding on an ancient route with towering trees on the left and a rushing mountain river on the right was invigorating. Cruising along in the quiet of the countryside allowed my mind to clear and I was able to completely connect with my surroundings.

Caption: Heading into the forest along side a rushing river.

We rode alongside a river until Taka-san indicated that we were going to make a stop. We popped-off our helmets and locked our bikes next to the road. My guide led me across the road and pointed to hole in the base of the mountainside. Then he told me that we were going to climb down into a cave. This part of the tour was a surprise, but I was more than glad to scramble down into a cool cave on a warm day. 

Tourist attractions covered by this article