The Lost Blogs #34
Travel Dates: July 28 – 29, 2012 (Summer 2012)
My friend lives and works in a tiny town named Tsu, which is located in Mie Prefecture, about an hour away from the city of Nagoya. We decided to spend two nights in Mie because the guest rooms in the center she works at only cost 1,000 yen/person per night + a small cost for electricity. As mentioned in a previous post, our goals for the trip were to visit parts of Japan that we either had not been to, or did not spend enough time in. Our other goal was to make sure overnight accommodation was cheap, because now we were kind of like vagabonds, wandering around Japan without a home or job.
I actually had traveled to Mie Prefecture before with my friend Nat. The two of us took advantage of the Aozora Free Pass which let us travel from Toyohashi Station throughout the Greater Nagoya area on local JR trains unlimited for one day. We visited Ise Jingu and the nearby Oharaimachi, which you can read about here. My husband however still hadn’t been, which is why I decided we should make a trip out together so he could cross it off his list of places to visit.
Aside from Ise Jingu, there isn’t much to see in Mie, as you can see from this travel guide. Most people probably won’t travel out here if they have a short time in Japan because the rest of the prefecture is made up of small, rural towns. However if you have a chance to visit, I recommend even passing through for a day just to see what real daily living in Japan is like. Life seems relaxed and slower paced compared to the busy city life of Tokyo and other cities. People living in Mie looking for shopping and entertainment need to head to Nagoya, which can be as far as an hour away if not longer, depending on the train and distance.
As for the food, which is my top priority when traveling, it was delicious! Local specialties of the region include Matsuzaka Beef Matsuzaka region of Mie, Ise Udon, and Akafuku-gori (green tea shaved ice with mochi covered in sweet red bean paste). Let’s take a look at some of my favorite meals during our two days in tiny Tsu…
Above is Chicken Karaage lunch set from Tomiya Karaage Restaurant in Edobashi, Mie. Tomiya Karaage is a small, local restaurant which has been recognized for it’s delicious chicken dishes. You can get karaage pretty much anywhere in Japan, even at the conbini, but if you want good karaage, I recommend you come here. Cheap karaage often has a thick batter, and the meat sometimes has too much fat content. The karaage here are large in size, have a higher meat to fat ratio, and the batter is thin but crispy. The lunch set comes with shredded cabbage, potato salad, a bowl of rice, and miso soup. It’s been a while so I don’t remember the exact prices, but I do recall all of the lunch sets being under 1,000 yen. That’s less than $10 for all that food! I actually couldn’t finish.
Tomiya Karaage also offers a unique chicken dish which I hadn’t seen offered before at other restaurants: Chicken Tempura. As with the karaage, the lunch sets include shredded cabbage, potato salad, rice, and miso soup. The chicken is sliced long and thin and lightly coated in tempura batter. Very delicious!
Sandai Wagyuu is a term which means “the three big beefs”. I’m sure you have heard of Kobe beef, but did you know that there are actually three regions which are famous for producing top-quality wagyu beef? The three regions are Kobe, Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture, and Matsuzaka from Mie Prefecture. Matsuzaka beef is produced from female black-haired wagyu which are fed fodder, soy pulp, and ground wheat. As with Kobe beef, they receive massages and listen to soothing music on a regular basis. This kind of treatment ensures that the beef will have a good taste and high fat-to-meat ratio.
We were able to taste Matsuzaka beef in two forms while strolling through Okage Yokocho in Oharaimachi (near Ise Jingu). Above is a Matsuzaka beef donburi, which was also served with a small side of Ise udon noodles. We were also able to try the Matsuzaka beef yakitori-style from one of the street vendors.
Ise Udon is another specialty which I talked about in my previous post on Ise Jingu. Thick noodles with a thick sauce made of soy sauce and sake, and served with a light garnish of green onions. The dish is famous for its simplicity.
Akafugu-gori, which I also mentioned in a previous post. The most famous place to buy this shaved ice dish is from the Akafuku Cafe in Okage Yokocho.
And lastly, because it was a hot summer day, I couldn’t help myself to two desserts to cool myself down. I stopped by a shop in Okage Yokocho which serves tofu soft cream. For 270 yen, you can get a full serving in either a cup or cone; or you can buy a children’s size for 170 yen.