The Best Scenic Drive: Ise Shima Pearl Road

The Best Scenic Drive: Ise Shima Pearl Road

Are you looking to experience the scenic Japanese countryside? Break away from the crowds and experience Japan like never before by taking a drive on Pearl Road. Pearl Road is a 23.8 km route connecting the cities of Toba and Shima. It is a pleasure to drive while watching the incredible coastline and enjoying the stunning natural scenery all the way. More importantly, it is free of charge, and you can drive without pressure. Pearl Road is in Ise Shima National Park, which gained renown as the location of the G7 Summit in 2016. It was also selected as one of the 50 Best Roads in Japan by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association in 2002.

Written by Bonnie Chow

-Table of Contents -

・The Magic of Pearl Road

・Gourmet Barbecue Buffet Lunch at Matchan Shokudo

・Toba Observatory

・Shinmei Shrine in Ousatsu-cho

・Teatime at an Ama Hut

・Wrap Up

A paddy field along Pearl Road  

Since its selection, motorcyclists, bikers, and travelers have developed a fondness for driving Pearl Road. It is a magical route combining natural scenery and delicious seafood, as well as experiencing the unique sustainable Ama diver culture of Japan.  

 The azure sky and lush greenery along Pearl Road are refreshing 

The Magic of Pearl Road

If you are planning to spend a morning in Ise City to visit Ise Jingu, instead of taking the train from Ise station to Toba why not rent a car and drive to Toba? From Ise to Toba, there is a 16.3km toll road called Ise Shima Skyline where you can overlook the beautiful coastline and small islands. Better yet avoid the tolls and take a drive on Pearl Road. 


There are numerous spots along Pearl Road with excellent scenery and they are all dotted with great rest stops. At the start of Pearl Road, we saw one of ten scenic views in Toba: Ounoura Bridge, which connects the Imaura and Motoura areas. The white bridge, the blue sky, and the lush green mountains combine to create a wonderfully contrasting color. The rafts floating near the bridge are used to cultivate oysters for pearl production in this area. 

Ounoura Bridge at the start of the Pearl Road 

Gourmet Barbecue Buffet Lunch at Matchan Shokudo

Gourmet Barbecue Buffet Lunch at Matchan Shokudo
Matchan Shokudo opened in 2023 and offers a seafood barbecue buffet with an excellent sea view 

Ise Shima area has a rias coast and inlets and a warm climate, therefore it is gifted with abundant seafood. After enjoying the spectacular views along Pearl Road, we stopped at Matchan Shokudo, a newly opened restaurant in February 2023 to enjoy spectacular food too! Situated next to the coast with a spacious parking lot and coastal views. Matchan Shokudo is the best place for lunch on Pearl Road. 

The barbecue buffet and the scenery are amazing 

There is a wide range of seafood, meat, vegetables, and desserts to choose from  

If you are a seafood lover like me, you will be so excited to savor the fresh seafood, meat, dessert, and drinks during a 2.5-hour charcoal grill barbecue buffet while relishing the wide-open sea view. Delicious Ise lobster can be requested for an additional cost.   

Clams, turban shells, scallops or oysters! All you can eat in 150 minutes 

The all-you-can-eat buffet for adults starts at ¥3,480 (add ¥500 for drinks), and the course lasts for 150 minutes so you can eat your fill. Be aware that starting January 5, 2024, the restaurant has announced that due to rising costs prices will be increasing (¥4,400 to eat and drink). Seafood such as clams, oysters, scallops, and shells from the Ise Shima area are extremely fresh and delicious and were a highlight of our road trip! 


Choose your seafood and grill over a traditional Japanese charcoal fire 

Toba Observatory

After a fruitful meal, we continued to drive another 9 km to the best viewing spot on the journey. Toba Observatory, 163 meters above sea level, offers an expansive view of intricate rias coast, verdant nature, and a beautiful blue seascape 

Toba Observatory offers an outstanding view of the rias coast and forest 

The sea breeze in this area is very pleasant and makes for the perfect place to relax. Keep heading up for amazing views of the sky and the sea, you can head on to Hakodayama park observation deck and Toba Observatory

The road leading to Hakodayama Park 

The view of Hakodayama Park is spectacular 

Standing here feels like you are on the same level as the clouds in the distance. Toba Observatory is also a famous spot for watching the sunrise and painting the sea orange. If conditions are right, you may see Mt. Fuji in the distance! From this spot, you even have a clear view of Pearl Road. 


Pearl Road from Toba Observatory  

Omoshiro Observatory

Once we had our fill of the views we headed back to Pearl Road. Driving along for another 6km, we found Omoshiro Observatory. Omoshiro means fun in English. Recently renovated and full of blooming flowers, it is a nice spot to chill.  

The brilliant colors of flowers add the charm of Omoshiro Observatory  

Admiring the beauty of nature from the observatory 

Shinmei Jinja Shrine in Ousatsu-cho

Time to get off Pearl Road and head to Ousatsu, a small fishing village where Ama divers live. With all the rich seafood in the sea, the Ama profession is historically important to the Ise Shima area. Ama are women divers who catch seafood to earn a living. It is believed that women diving in the ocean to catch shellfish started more than 2,000 years ago. Even now, Ama divers work diligently catching abalone and seaweed. 

Since ancient times, local divers have visited Shinmei Jinja Shrine (aka Ishigami-san) to pray for good catches and safety. Ishigami-san is enshrined at Shinmei Jinja Shrine. She grants women’s wishes and has become famous recently attracting worshippers from all over the world, and the shrine often goes by the name of the goddess as well. It was a great spot for us to drop by and pray. 

Shinmei Jinja Shrine, one of the prominent shrines in Toba, is a must-visit spot in Ise Shima area 

Tourist attractions covered by this article