Chichukai Mura - Your Spanish Vacaciones in Japan

Chichukai Mura - Your Spanish Vacaciones in Japan

Come visit Shima Mediterranean Village in southeastern Mie Prefecture for an elegant Spanish-style getaway that is both relaxing and thrilling at the same time. As a day guest, you can enjoy activities such as tile art, fishing, and cruising, relax in a European style village cafe, or savor the succulent dishes at the 1 Michelin star restaurant RIAS, while enjoying magnificent ocean scenery. As a staying guest, enjoy all of that plus the natural hot spring and other facilities only available to you before retiring to bed in one of the luxurious suite rooms.

Chichukai-Mura, or “Shima Mediterranean Village” in English, is about 2 and a half hours from Nagoya by expressway. The trip itself is enjoyable. You can enjoy curving mountainous roads and spectacular views of ocean bays and waterways.

Located near Kashikojima, the site of the 2018 G7 Summit, the village style hotel is in an area with several high-class resorts and hotels. As I approached my destination, I thought to myself that only three kinds of people came to this area: rich people, people who work here, and people who are lost. And though I was able to experience the luxury I imagined, in the end, I would find out that the hotel wasn’t unreasonably expensive.

I arrived just before 10:00 - the time that day-visitors can enter the village. That’s right - this hotel has a system for day visitors! There are multiple parking lots and plenty of space to park. I learned later that the resort sometimes has upwards to 1200 day visitors in a single day - even more impressive when you consider the maximum of only 160 guests able to stay the night. This solved the riddle as to why there were so many parking spaces. Parking lot attendants are on hand to help you find a parking spot.

After exiting the vehicle, I must admit it was a little confusing as to where I should go to find the hotel. It was just 100 meters or so down the road from where I had parked until it was obvious where I should go. A sign along the way gave me a hint as to where I should go.

Coming around a corner to the right, the entrance to the resort came into view. The entrance itself appeared like the side entrance of a theme park, and I hesitated for a moment. Soon enough, I realized this was where I needed to go. There’s a small booth where you can pay the entrance fee and get information about the facilities. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any pamphlets in English, but in retrospect, I felt the resort was easy enough to navigate.

Past the smallish entrance, I felt a sudden change and it was as if I have been transported all the way to Spain! A beautiful fountain spread out in front, with wide, beautifully rock-paved walkways leading out to the right and left, and a wonderful view of the ocean peaking in between buildings.

This resort is not a single building full of guest rooms, but rather a sprawling complex with individual or small groups of guestrooms positioned as houses within the village. Even the front desk is disguised as a shop within the entire complex. It is located just to the right once you enter the resort. The road was wider in public areas, and became narrower in areas limited only to guests staying the night, providing privacy in addition to easy access.

The front desk is in a smallish room, but there is an adjacent room with a few sofas to relax on while someone in your group checks in. Here, the staff seats guests on the sofas and explains about the resort system. It was all very comfortable.

Another adjoining room on the other side of this lobby-lounge area held all sorts of pamphlets about places to visit in the Ise-Shima area. Further on, there was a souvenir shop as well.

Back outside, I felt that everywhere I looked was a perfect spot for taking photos and creating a memorable moment. It reminded me of the Miracosta Hotel at Tokyo Disney Sea. Not exactly the same, but a similar level of attention given to details in the design and decoration. All of that, but without the loud music and screams from people riding the attractions, of course. It’s quite relaxing! Being near the ocean, there is a light breeze and despite being overcast, it was extremely comfortable. There’s something very romantic and quaint at the same time about the entire village.

Craft Time!

Craft Time!

I decided to start my day of activities by trying my hand at creating some tile art. I entered the art room which was less than a minute away from the resort entrance and asked to participate. There were several others who had already selected frames and started on their designs. I spent the next five minutes trying to design a seascape, only to realize I didn’t like the idea and started over again, this time to make a simple design with my name.

First I selected and laid out the tiny tiles with either my hands or a pair of tweezers. Slowly, the shapes of the letters came together. When I added a background color, I realized I need to change my main color. Finally, I had things the way I wanted them so it was time to glue the pieces down. I picked up each tile with the tweezers and added a drop of glue to the bottom, and then replaced the tile to its spot and made fine adjustments in location and angle.

The last step was to add plaster into all the gaps and to clean off the tiles. In the photos, you can see the change of colors I used for my name, and how the overall appearance changes once the plaster has been added. If I were to do it again, I’d definitely spend more time making the initial arrangement. But, I was still pleased with the end result.

Cafe Amigo!

Cafe Amigo!

After finishing my craft, I was ready for a snack! Fortunately, just around the corner from the craft room was Café Amigo, and it is such a cute café! I heard that the pancakes served there were popular, so I was eager to try some of the highly recommend pancakes. The café itself is located near the entrance of the resort, just to the left. After entering, I noticed another door leading out to the back side of the café where I found an area surrounded by buildings with several more tables. It turns out that it was same area as the entrance to the craft room! It’s a very secluded and quiet area.

The staff said I could choose any seat I liked, so I sat in the outdoor area and ordered the pancakes.

The pancakes came soon. I was surprised how high they were stacked! I can hardly believe it! Light and fluffy, they had a gentle, creamy custard-like sauce covering the entire stack of pancakes and they came with a variety of sliced fruits and some ice cream. Anyone would love this, and I'm sure the pancakes would be a hit with the ladies! Personally, I thought the fresh fruits were the best part! Very high-quality and the ice cream was amazing! I would order another set just to eat the fruit and ice cream.

When making payment for the pancakes, I noticed several dishes being delivered to other patrons. The food here looks very appealing! It’s definitely a cut above theme park fare!! I might come back later for lunch, but now it was time for fishing!

Gone Fishing!

Gone Fishing!

I was excited to try fishing. The front desk staff were very helpful in explaining and getting me set up. 1200 and plus tax will get you a fishing pole and some bait. You can borrow the pole for two hours and fish at the the docks down past the main restaurant and swimming pool. Fishing here is strictly catch and release.

The weather was cloudy with a stiff wind blowing, so while not the best weather, it was fine for fishing. According to the hotel staff, there are a variety of small fish that can be caught here, but I found Ago Bay quite relaxing so even if you don’t catch anything, it’s still very enjoyable. The occasional “sea taxi” or bay cruiser goes by, providing some additional visual entertainment to the beautiful landscape around the bay.

When you finish, you just take your pole and bucket to the cute “Return” sign made of tiles and written in Japanese.

There are a total of three souvenir shops in the village. The main souvenir shop is located next to the front desk, and the other two are a short walk past Cafe Amigo.

One of them, Shop MODA is a women’s fashion and accessories store. The other, Shop REGALOS has various dishes and nicknacks. You are sure to find some good gifts in these shops. I particularly liked the colors of the dishes in the last shop.

RIAS - Restaurante Mediterrâneo

RIAS - Restaurante Mediterrâneo

If you walk to the right from the main entrance and then head down the stone path leading down to the waterfront on the left, you will easily find the resort’s main restaurant.

RIAS, a top class restaurant with an amazing view and equally amazing menu, boasts one Michelin star. RIAS has a gorgeous menu full of fresh seafood prepared by Spanish cooks and served with the elegance one would expect of a restaurant with such a status.

I was particularly excited to try the Ise Lobster Socarrat, their signature plate. A visually stunning lobster dish, it was a wonderful fusion of modern fine dining and Japanese taste. The dish consists of a lobster broken down into the body and head. The head was used to make a sauce, which was made into a risotto and then pressed down into a patty and grilled. The body of the lobster was placed onto the patty and covered with the same sauce as well as a black garlic dressing. It’s worth coming here just to eat this and the other menu items while enjoying the amazing view!

I was still hungry so I decided to head back to Cafe Amigo for the rest of my lunch. Aside from fun deserts, they have a simple menu with a variety of items to satisfy any age. I decided to try both their pizza and their “Hayashi” rice, along with a blood orange soda.

With the resort having a slight feel of a theme park, I must admit I was a little worried about the taste performance being similar to what you might find at an amusement park etc., but I recalled the great pancakes which I had enjoyed earlier and was pleased to find that both the pizza and the rice dish were also well made and tasty!

I had the pleasure of receiving a short tour by the hotel manager. We started at of one of the guest rooms. They were, in a word, gorgeous! Using imported chandeliers and window shutters etc. the spacious rooms had modern comforts with a classical Spanish flair. Windows on one side gave you a view back into the village area, and windows on the other side provided an ocean view. 

The suite rooms are two-floored with a large bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, and an even larger living room with a dining area and even a kitchenette with a sink on the second floor.

Originally, all the hotel rooms were all owned by individuals who used them as second homes. They were eventually bought up and the village was turned into a resort hotel as it is today. A few of the rooms are still privately owned. Truly a unique place!

Prior to the G7 Ise Summit held just across the bay, the resort’s occupancy rate was about 40%, but due to media exposure during the summit, that rate shot up to 60%! Shima Mediteranean Village hosts upwards to 1200 day visitors on the weekends in contrast to its ability to accommodate 160 overnight guests. The village is popular with Instagrammers and looking at the photos, it’s easy to see why!

After leaving the guest room, I saw a small shop selling drinks. I was delighted to see that on the other side there was a small room with a stage. I learned that there are sometimes surprise musical performances for the guests. How exciting!

On the side of the same building, there were stairs leading to the roof where an even bigger surprise was waiting. A rooftop area with great potential for a special event. Raindrop lights were hanging from a framed area which connected to a small wet bar. What a great place to have a small celebration!

*Guests should inquire to the hotel regarding the use of the roof or theater room below.

Mediterranean Village has a beautiful natural spa available for overnight guests. The interior decoration is stunning! The dressing room has latticed styled lockers and elegant, curved arch awning-like coverings over each sink and mirror. Lined up, they looked like something you might see in an eastern European country.

The spa areas were gorgeous. Bright colors, beautifully designed tiles, and warm, of course, due to the constant flow of hot spring waters flowing from approximately 1,430 meters below the surface. I was happy to have the chance to see inside, but it was a shame I could not enjoy the baths as a day guest. It adds that much more appeal to coming here to stay for the night.

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