Visiting Mie with your family: Experience the beauty and charm of life by the sea

Visiting Mie with your family: Experience the beauty and charm of life by the sea

As an island nation, Japan has many beautiful coastal areas where visitors can learn about the diverse creatures in the ocean, eat delicious seafood and enjoy hands-on tourism activities. Mie Prefecture offers tourists an incredible range of experiences that can be enjoyed by families looking to create special memories while in Japan. Mie is only about three hours from Tokyo by train and it is easy to combine multiple activities into a fun-filled tour. Most activities are family focused and children will marvel at the uniques experiences available in one of Japan’s most spectabular coastal areas.

Written by Nathan Raymond
About the Author:
I am originally from New York and I now live with my family in Japan. I love spending time near the sea and Mie is one of my favorite prefectures. Finding fun activities to try and eating fresh seafood is always something I enjoy.

Ise Sea Paradise Aquarium

When I was planning my visit to Mie Prefecture, I decided to start at the Ise Sea Paradise Aquarium. I love animals and I had read that there are plenty of opportunities to see a wide array of interesting creatures up close and interact with them at the aquarium. 

Caption: The Ise Sea Paradise Aquarium is a large facility located next to the ocean.

When I first arrived at the aquarium, the first things I noticed were many tour buses and lots of children excitedly heading into the building. It is definitely family friendly and there were cute designs and decorations at the entrance to the actual aquarium inside. At the front of the building, there are also some restaurants and gift shops for buying souvenirs.

Caption: The shows featuring the animals are fun and interactive.

In the first section of the aquarium, there are many large tanks with different species of fish, sea turtles and other sea creatures. All of the tanks were clean and had room for the animals to swim freely. It was a short walk until I arrived at the penguin enclosure that was surrounded by large tropical plants and high ceilings that let in a lot of natural light.

The small penguins were very cute as they roamed around their area and played with each other. It was easy to see them because the fence was low and there were some glass-enclosed platforms that the birds could climb into for a close-up view of the people who had come to visit them.

After spending some time with the penguins, I went outside to where the larger animals are housed. The first enclosure was home to two playful sea lions that were splashing around in the water. They had a lot of energy and were having fun moving quickly around their space.

Caption: The sea lions were splashing and playing.

Next to the sea lions were two of Ise Sea Paradise Aquarium’s star attractions, the walruses. I was amazed by their size as they jumped into the water inside their enclosure and swam along the glass so the visitors could get a good look.

I noticed that some aquarium staff members were arranging some mats and other items in front of the walrus enclosure and they soon announced that a performance was about to start. A crowd quickly gathered around the perimeter of the mats and you could feel the anticipation starting to build. There were many children visiting with their parents and their faces lit up when the walruses left their enclosures and waddled onto the mats in front of us. 

Caption: The walruses put on an entertaining show for the crowd.

The walrus show was fun and there were many opportunities for the guests to interact safely with the animals. Everyone was singing together and the walruses made gestures for treats and even posed for selfies with some people. The staff did a wonderful job of keeping the energy level high and making sure it was a memorable show with the massive creatures.After the walrus show, it was time for one of the aquarium’s playful little otters to steal the spotlight. The top otter’s name is Kirari-kun and I could understand why the cute little animal was a fan favorite. At show time, a young trainer with a bucket of fish treats and ice joined the otter in a glass enclosed room. 

After the walrus show, it was time for one of the aquarium’s playful little otters to steal the spotlight. The top otter’s name is Kirari-kun and I could understand why the cute little animal was a fan favorite. At show time, a young trainer with a bucket of fish treats and ice joined the otter in a glass enclosed room. 

Caption: The otters are clever and fascinating little animals.

The array of tricks that Kirari-kun could perform was amazing and the crowd gathered around the glass walls was laughing and smiling during the entire performance. It was clear that the little otter and the trainer had a special bond. To earn treats, Kirari-kun gestured, posed for photos and played with various objects under the direction of the trainer. It was a great show that left the children and their parents smiling from ear to ear.

I finished my time at Ise Sea Paradise Aquarium in the large indoor space holding numerous fish tanks of various sizes. Each tank was spotlessly clean and beautifully decorated. There was a vast array of small fish and other creatures to observe and learn about. It had been a great visit and on my way out I picked up some cute souvenirs to take home.


Caption: Meoto Iwa is also known as the wedded rocks.

The next stop on my visit was to walk along the rocky seaside to get a good view of Meoto Iwa, the famous rock formation. It was a short trip because the Futami Okitama Shrine and the pathway leading to the best views of the rocks are a short distance down the road from the Ise Sea Paradise Aquarium.

This unique pair of rocks in the sea are said to represent the union of couple in marriage and are considered to be sacred by the worshippers who visit the shrine to pray. The larger rock is said to be the man and there is a small torii located on its peak. A heavy rope made of rice straw (“shimenawa” in Japanese) connects the two rocks and I learned that is replaced triannual in a special ceremony.

When I arrived at the shrine grounds, the weather was comfortably cool and a refreshing ocean breeze was blowing in from the sea. It wasn’t too busy and I could stroll along the pebbled path towards the viewing point at my own pace. Frogs are prominent in the design of the shrine and the sea wall along the path features many stone versions of the creatures.

Caption: "Kaeru" means frog, but its many homophones possess other meanings, such as "buji ni kaeru" (Someone returns home safely), "kashita mono ga kaeru" (That which was lent returns ), and "okane ga kaeru" (Ones’ money comes back)

As I was walking, the sounds of the waves lapping against the rock face to my left and the footfalls of the other visitors on the pebbles created a calm atmosphere. When I reached the purification basin where worshippers cleanse themselves, I noticed more frogs in the design. From some information near the entrance, I learned that worshippers at Futami Okitama Shrine often pray to receive money.

I moved on past the shrine where some people were praying and the occasional deep drumbeat would sound out to signify something. The buildings of the shrine complex had a clean simple design and were built mostly with light-colored wood.

After the buildings, it was just the path with the ocean to my left and a rock face to my right. I could see Meoto Iwa ahead in the water and the rocks looked lovely with the waves splashing against them. The massive rope joining the two rocks hung between them looking relaxed, but strong. Most of the visitors were taking photos and many couples were trying to frame the perfect shot with the wedded rocks in the background.

Caption: Bring your camera and capture the beauty of this wondrous sight.

I was leaning on the pathway wall and enjoying the view when a black seabird landed on top of the larger rock and began preening itself to the delight of the onlookers. It added a special touch to the scene and put a smile on most people’s faces. The water was crystal clear just below the path and I felt refreshed in my mind and soul as I relaxed and gazed out at the solid pair of rocks sitting in the vast ocean as they had been doing for thousands of years.

The enduring bond and beauty of Meoto Iwa made me reflect on my own marriage and think about how important it is for partners to support each other. When I walked a little further down the path and saw the backside of the rocks, I could see what many would consider to be the less attractive side of the pair. I saw this as a metaphor for the struggles and hard work that must go into a marriage to make the beautiful parts possible.

When it was time to go, I was glad to have stopped and spent some time at the famous wedded rocks. Not only did I enjoy the natural splendor of the spot, I was also able to reflect on my own life and feel more committed to working at strengthening my own relationships.


One of the best things about a trip to Mie Prefecture is the chance to eat incredible seafood and local dishes. After all of the walking at the aquarium and Meoto Iwa, I decided to eat at Ebimaru near Ise Grand Shrine. The restaurant is only about 15 minutes from the Meoto Iwa parking lot by car.

The restaurant is located in the beautiful area of Okage Yokocho, where the buildings are constructed of wood using traditional design and craftsmenship. The restaurant is large with seating for 128 and is family-friendly.

Caption: The seafood in Mie is worth the trip. 

Ebimaru was built to resemble a fisherman’s house, which is fitting because they specialize in regional fish and seafood dishes. The sign over the front door features a spiny lobster which is known as “Ise Ebi” in Japanese. Ise Ebi is one of the most famous dishes in Mie Prefecture and, historically, lobsters have been considered good luck. 

I selected a set meal that includes Ise Ebi and fried shrimp along with many other wonderful side dishes. When my order arrived at the table, it looked spectacular and I gave thanks for my food with the traditional Japanese phrase “itadakimasu”.  

Caption: Giving thanks for the amazing food I was about to eat.

I had a good appetite from all of my morning activities and I was excited to try the Ise Ebi for the first time. It did not disappoint and the flavor was truly special. The entire meal was delicious and the atmosphere of the restaurant was bright and lively. There were couples and families enjoying their food all around me.

Caption: The meal tasted as good as it looked. 

My meal was completely satisfying and it had exceeded my expectations. Each dish had its own unique flavor profile and it was a pleasure to savor the local ingredients from Mie. For seafood lovers, Ebimaru is a must visit restaurant if you are in the area.

Mieken Shinju 

The final stop on my trip to Mie was at Mieken Shinju to learn about pearl harvesting and make my own souvenir for a loved one. I always enjoy hands-on experiences where I can make something real to take with me when I head home. 

Caption: I learned how to open a fresh oyster to retrieve the pearl.

When I arrived at the shop, the friendly staff got me set up right away and we were down to business. They had fresh Akoya oysters that had just been pulled out of the water and selected one that would be mature enough to have produced a quality pearl. It was very interesting to see the process of making pearl jewelry from the very beginning.

Caption: My oyster contained a lovely pearl.

After giving me some advice on how to open an oyster properly, my host let me pop one open. It was simpler than I had imagined it would be and I was soon looking at a lustrous pearl on the tray in front of me. It was quite pretty and I was looking forward to making a nice accessory with it.

Caption: After some cleaning, my pearl was ready to be used.

I had never really thought about where pearls come from and it was great fun learning about the industry directly from experts. Ise-Shima is considered to be the center of the Japanese pearl industry and is the first in the world to have successfully cultivated pearls. For that reason,there are many oyster farms and jewelers in the area. It was clear that my hosts knew what they were doing and I appreciated their willingness to share their expertise with me as I learned about their trade.

Caption: The staff patiently guided me through each step.

I selected a cat design for my jewelry because my wife and I are both cat lovers. I thought it would be a thoughtful gift for her from my visit to Mie. It was really fun to make the piece myself from start to finish.

Caption: I was ready to present this labor of love to my wife.

When I was finished with my creation, I was proud of how nice it looked. I hoped my wife would like the gift I made for her. I also wondered if I could inspire others to visit Mie and enjoy a similar experience. It really was easy and fun to make the jewelry.

It was a nice experience to meet some people who have devoted their lives to the pearl industry and are keen to share their knowledge with tourists. I never thought I would make jewelry for anyone, but even I could make something beautiful.

My trip to Mie had a little bit of everything that I love about visiting the coast. The interactions with the walruses and otters had been a blast. My time at Meoto Iwa gave me a chance to reflect on what matters in my life and reminded me to keep my bonds strong. The seafood meal at Ebimaru was sensational and I’ll never forget the first time I tried Ise Ebi. It was fun and informative to learn about the pearl industry while making a special souvenir for my wife with my own hands. Mie truly offers visitors the best of what makes life on the coast so special.

Tourist attractions covered by this article