1-Day Itinerary: Experience Samurai Culture and Japanese Food [Mie Pref. Central Area]

1-Day Itinerary: Experience Samurai Culture and Japanese Food [Mie Pref. Central Area]

Matsusaka, a historic city in central Mie Prefecture, is an enchanting destination that makes an unforgettable day trip. Located within a few hours’ reach of Nagoya and Kyoto, it entices travelers with its delectable offerings of Japanese cuisine. Renowned for its Matsusaka Beef, one of Japan’s top three wagyu beef brands, fresh fish sourced from nearby Ise Bay, and Ise Green tea, it is guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds. Additionally, if you extend your journey to just outside the city, you can also enjoy the popular commercial resort VISON. Beyond its culinary delights, Matsusaka charms with its rich history and natural beauty. Visitors can step back in time to the Edo period (1603-1868) as they wander through samurai houses and merchant streets. The following model route is recommended for visitors looking to spend a day in the central area of Mie Prefecture with a focus on the magical Matsusaka.

Written by John Asano

-Table of Contents-

・Lunch at Hinakaya
・Former Ozu Residence
・Former Hasegawa Residence
・Matsusaka Castle Ruins
・Gojoban Yashiki Samurai Houses
・Wrap Up



The picturesque setting of Vison in Taki Town

Begin your day of sightseeing at VISON in Taki Town, just outside of Matsusaka City. This hidden gem is Japan’s largest commercial resort at 54-hectares and brings together the finest offerings from across the country, including those from the local Mie Prefecture. The name “VISON” meaning “beautiful village” in Japanese, perfectly encapsulates its breathtaking setting amidst the picturesque mountains of Mie Prefecture. 

One of the specialty stores at VISON

This culinary paradise is home to around seventy specialized stores showcasing an array of Japanese food ingredients. Visitors can explore one of Japan’s largest farmer’s markets, indulge in luxury villas, rejuvenate in medicinal herbal bath and therapeutic spa, and stay in a resort-style hotel.  

Various kinds of miso at VISON

Herbal baths at VISON

Lunch at Hinakaya

A short 10-minute drive from VISON is Hinakaya, a kaiseki multi-course restaurant in a traditional gassho-zukuri thatched roof farmhouse in the beautiful countryside of Mie’s Taki district. Visitors here can enjoy a tasty journey into the heart of Japanese cuisine while surrounded by the majestic mountains and pristine Miyagawa River.  

Hinakaya is surrounded by rice fields and mountains

Entering Hinakaya for lunch 

The view from inside Hinakaya 

All the dishes are made with locally sourced ingredients from Mie with the dining experience further enhanced by the ambiance of the historic old house. The delicious seasonal food at Hinakaya has earned the restaurant a prestigious Michelin star. After lunch, it is time to head to Matsusaka City to discover some of its historic charms.  

The spectacular dishes at Hinakaya

Former Ozu Residence

A short walk from Matsusaka Station is the former Ozu residence, once home to one of the wealthiest merchant families in Japan. The Ozu family made their fortune selling washi, traditional Japanese paper in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Matsusaka flourished during the age of the samurai, producing wealthy merchants who established their dwellings along the main street, in close proximity to Matsusaka Castle.  

The Former Ozu Residence  

The house looks simple on the outside with its wooden lattice and bamboo fence but is surprisingly spacious with expansive rooms and two kura storehouses. It has been restored to look like it did during its peak in the 17th to 19th centuries. The current property is only about three-fifths of its former size, but it is still impressive with magnificent rooms and beautiful gardens. It is an ideal starting point in Matsusaka to learn about the lives of the local merchants.  

The spacious main house at the Former Ozu Residence  

Stunning garden at the Former Ozu Residence

Former Hasegawa Residence

The former Hasegawa residence is only a 3-minute walk from the Ozu residence. The Hasegawa family started their business in 1675, making their fortune as cotton wholesalers in Edo. This magnificent estate reflects their wealth through Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in simplicity and embraces a refined sense of luxury. Throughout the home, visitors will find architectural and decorative designs that gracefully adorn the well-preserved historic home. The historical and cultural significance of the house has earned it the title of an Important Cultural Property of Japan.  

The Former Hasegawa Residence

One of the magnificent rooms at the Former Hasegawa Residence

Tourist attractions covered by this article