Travel back in time to old Japan! Strolling around Sekijuku

Travel back in time to old Japan! Strolling around Sekijuku

When you think of historical spots in Mie Prefecture, Ise Jingu Shrine is one place that comes to mind, but that’s not all. On this trip, we visited Sekijuku, a town that makes you feel as if you have traveled back in time to Japan hundreds of years ago.

Written by Pete Leong

Sekijuku is located in Kameyama City in the northern part of Mie Prefecture, on the Tokaido Road, which used to be Japan’s main artery connecting Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Kyoto. About 200 old buildings line both sides of the 1.8 km-long street, and Sekijuku has been selected as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.

Sekijuku thrived as a transportation hub, as it was on the highway connecting Edo and Kyoto, and also as a route for visitors to Ise Jingu Shrine. The area was lined with various buildings such as hatago (inns), restaurants, and confectionary stores for travelers to rest and refresh, some of which still remain today.

Let’s take a look at some of the recommended places we found while walking around Sekijuku.
We started off our adventure around the Seki Jizo-in Temple. A beautiful, quintessential Japanese temple founded in 741 and which has a seated Buddha Jizo inside, said to be Japan’s oldest.
From here we made our way down along the famous street. I couldn’t help but feel as though I had stepped into a samurai movie. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, most of the shops were closed and only a few locals were in the area.

We strolled by several of my favorite kinds of shops – antiques. We enjoyed window shopping, peeking through the windows to see what was inside.  Eventually, we found one that was open and had to take a look inside. It was a maze of old and interesting finds from not only Japan but all around the world. I could have easily spent all of my pocket money just in this one shop alone.

A little further along and we found an old-style candy store. There were a bunch of school kids there picking up a few sweet treats and it brought me back to my childhood of buying lots of “lollies,” as we called them, on our way home from school in Australia.

We stopped next at Maedaya Seika (Shiratama-ya), this time more of a “grown up’s” sweets variety shop. Not being a fan of them myself, my partner tried one of their Ichigo Daifuku (rice cake stuffed with a strawberry and sweet bean paste) and said she loved it. We also tried some traditional matcha tea, which was the first time for me. I quite enjoyed it, not as strong as I thought it was going to be.

As it was close to Hinamatsuri “Girls Day” time, many of the shops had Hina dolls on display in their shops. One man out on the street called for us to come in to visit his various rare Hina displays. There were some very old ones that apparently dated back to the Edo period (1603-1867). They all looked very old, ornate, and beautiful.

Sekijuku Hatago Tamaya Historical Museum

Sekijuku Hatago Tamaya Historical Museum
Next we visited the building of “Tamaya,” which was one of the major inns in Sekijuku. It is a historic and valuable building that shows us what it was like to be inside a traditional inn during the Edo period. Tools for daily life and historical materials related to people’s travels at that time are on display.

I was immediately struck by the size of all the tatami rooms with their doors opened up so that people can see all the way through them. They are all immaculate and one section opened up to show a small Japanese garden.  Further to the back, there was an even bigger Japanese garden.

We also saw old traditional cooking ovens and utensils. Tamaya also houses a very tall float, used for the annual street festival in Sekijuku, but unfortunately, the floats were not open to the public to view. Still, it was a wonderful experience and really the closest feeling to stepping back into the Edo period.

It was a very exciting, educational, and fun place to explore and photograph. I look forward to visiting again on a weekend when more of the stores are open and hopefully to experience their festival sometime.

Tourist attractions covered by this article