Explore the natural wonder and rich culture of Mie Prefecture on a two-day adventure.

Explore the natural wonder and rich culture of Mie Prefecture on a two-day adventure.

The journey from Osaka to Mie Prefecture will take you into a completely different part of Japan. Over a two-day visit, you can hike the Hajikami-toge Pass on the World Heritage Site Kumano-kodo pilgrimage trails, relax in an outdoor onsen surrounded by the tall trees of a mountain forest, eat local gourmet food at a beautiful mountainside hotel and be amazed by the spectacular cliffs of the Dorokyo Gorge. A trip to Mie Prefecture can provide a perfect opportunity to get away from the bustle of urban life and seek out serenity while exploring the natural beauty and culture the area is famous for.

Written by Vern Begg
About the Author:
I am a Canadian that now calls Osaka home. I am always looking for adventures and experiences in my adopted country that will reveal something new and interesting about Japanese culture.
I traveled to Matsusaka city from Osaka by train on the Kintetsu Railway. The trip on a limited express train took just over 90 minutes and there was some amazing scenery to enjoy as I moved towards Mie Prefecture.

Once I arrived at Matsusaka, I had to rent a car for my visit. There was a car rental company located next to the station and I was soon on my way to hike the Hakijami-toge Pass, the first stop on my two-day itinerary. It takes a little over an hour to get from Matsusaka to the parking area near the trailhead and it is a relaxing drive that takes you through the mountains of the Mie countryside.

Hajikami-toge (Kumanokodo Iseji) 

The parking area at the base of the pass is large and there are toilets and vending machines for hikers to use in preparation for their trek. I was soon ready to head into the forest and make my way to the top of the Hajikami-toge Pass.

Caption: There are signs pointing the way to the trailhead.

Entering the forest at the start of the hike was a wonderful moment as the sounds of the modern world melted away. Knowing that the trails of the Kumano-kodo were first used over 1,000 years ago added to my anticipation of the hike to come. 

Caption: The mountain forest was quiet and calm. 

The tall trees of the mountain forest rose high above the trail and the lush undergrowth on the mountainside felt untouched by time. The pitch of the trail soon started to increase and I was able to lose myself in the beauty of the forest as I made my way deeper into the woods.

Caption: The ground cover of the forest was vibrant and bursting with life.

The route to the top of the pass was not challenging, but there were sections near the top that required some mild effort due to the elevation change. I made sure to stop occasionally and appreciate the natural splendor of the forest.

Caption: It felt great to the reach the top of Hajikami-toge Pass.

When I reached the top of the pass, the view was worth the effort of the hike. The viewing area has a few benches for hikers to rest on and look out at the Mie coastline. The islands in the distance looked amazing and I was glad to savor the moment before making my way back down on the other side of the pass.

Caption: You can see a long way down the coastline from the top of the Hajikami-toge Pass

Yunokuchi onsen

After finishing my hike, I refreshed myself with some cold tea from the parking lot vending machines and headed to my next destination. I was going to enjoy the comforts of the Yunokuchi Onsen that is known for offering an incredible outdoor hot spring experience.

To get to the onsen, I decided to take a unique form of transportation from my hotel. There is a small train that takes guests and visitors on a 10-minute ride through a 1 km tunnel to add a little more fun to the experience. 

Caption: You can take a small train to the Yunokuchi Onsen.

I bought a combination ticket that included my ride on the train and entrance to the Yunokuchi Onsen. The cars of the train are a little tight, but I was glad I chose to make the most of my time in the area by adding this fun option to the experience.

Caption: The train takes passengers through a 1 km tunnel to the onsen.

Caption: One of the trains leaving for the Yunokochi Onsen.

When I arrived at the Yunokuchi Onsen, I was amazed by the location at the base of the mountains. I was excited to get inside and enjoy the wonderfully warm water of the hot springs. It had been a long day of trains, driving and hiking before my arrival and I needed to refresh my body.

Caption: One of the open-air hot spring pools.

The Yunokuchi Onsen was even better than I had imagined it would be. The structures of wood and pools of stone created an atmosphere that felt connected to the nature around the facility. I have been to many onsens in Japan, but I had never visited one like this. So much effort had gone into designing the various pools.

Caption: The indoor pools had nice views of the countryside.

My favorite area of the onsen was the sleeping bath pool with stone “beds” where guests can fully lay down and use a log for a pillow. I made sure to experience each area of the onsen and let the efforts of the day leave my body. Once I had reached a complete state of relaxation, I was ready to go back to my hotel for a gourmet dinner featuring local dishes.

Caption: It felt great to refresh myself in the natural waters of the hot springs.

Hotel Seiryuso

By the time I returned to the Hotel Seiryuso, it was dark and the entrance of the hotel was lit up beautifully. The design of the hotel is modern, but it has a wonderful Japanese feel to all of its features.

Caption: The Hotel Seiryuso has a modern Japanese design aesthetic.

My dinner was “kaiseki”, a traditional multi-course Japanese meal made with local ingredients from the area around Kumano. As would be expected, the service was excellent and the staff explained the origin of the ingredients for each dish they brought out.

Caption: The menu for my kaiseki meal at the Hotel Seiryuso.

The main dish of the meal was chicken nabe (hot pot) that would be cooked at the table while I enjoyed the first few courses. I started with some very fresh sashimi from Kumano where fishing is a major part of the culture and economy.

I moved onto some vegetable dishes featuring mushrooms and greens that had been grown locally. After that course, my server brought out some salmon that had been cooked to perfection. This was followed by some mixed tempura with seafood and vegetables.

By this time, the chicken nabe was ready to eat. The chicken was tender and had the clean taste only very fresh chicken has. Mixed with the tofu and vegetables in the broth, it was a lovely simple dish.

Caption: My meal looked as good as it tasted.

For dessert, there was a slice of persimmon and a square of citrus-flavored jelly that are both popular Kumano delicacies. It was an unbelievable food experience and I was completely satisfied with what had been a perfect finish to a great day in Mie. 


When I awoke the next day, I looked out of my hotel room window and saw the mist hanging low over the mountaintops on a beautiful morning. I got ready for the day and jumped in my rental car to see the last spot on my tour, the spectacular Dorokyo Gorge.

Caption: Morning in the mountains always feels special.

I started by taking a drive up a mountain road to find a nice view of the river. I wasn’t disappointed when I reached a viewing area that provided a clear look at the river valley below. After taking some photos and enjoying the fresh morning air, I was ready to see the Dorokyo Gorge.

Caption: The mountains and river looked amazing in the morning mist.

It was a short drive to the viewing area of the Dorokyo Gorge. This spot is listed as a National Important Cultural Property in Japan and I can understand why. The bright blue-green waters flowing between the sheer rock faces of the gorge creates a living work of art in Mie.

Tourist attractions covered by this article