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Friday, March 23, 2007

Tsu Mie Prefecture

津市、三重県

Tsu is the prefectural capital of Mie Prefecture located on the coast of Ise Bay about 75km west of Nagoya.

Tsu Castle, Tsu, Mie Prefecture

Tsu has a population of around 150,000 people and is Japan's smallest prefectural capital by population.

Tsu is certainly a laid-back and unhurried sort of place. One of the city's attractions is a giant salamander in the Prefectural Museum in Tsu Park (Kairakuen). *The Prefectural Museum MieMu moved in April 2014 to a new site.

I watched the beast in its tank for about five minutes (it had to be pointed out to me as it looks just like a rock) and it never moved. Tsu Park is the site of the former villa of the feudal lord Takatora Todo and is a short walk from Tsu station across the road from Gokoku Shrine.

Tsu was an important castle town in the Edo Period and a transit point for pilgrims visiting Ise Jingu farther south along the coast. The original castle was built in 1580 by the younger brother of the warlord Nobunaga Oda and expanded by the noted samurai warrior Takatora Todo, whose equestrian statue stands in the castle grounds. Parts of the old castle's massive stone walls and moat still survive and there is a 1950s reconstruction of a three-storey turret.

Shitennoji Temple, Tsu

Shitennoji Temple near Tosei Bridge is worth a visit for its tranquil garden and impressive wooden gates. Shitennoji Temple was founded by Prince Shotoku (574-622) and was rebuilt in 1615.

Not far from Tsu Castle and the prefectural buildings is Kannonji Temple, which has a five-storey pagoda. Other notable temples and shrines in Tsu are Senju-ji Temple (Tel: 059 236 5701), also known as Takada Honzan, (take a bus 20 minutes from the station to Honzon-mae bus stop) and Yuki Shrine, which is dedicated to Munehiro Yuki (died 1338) a general of the Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) and famous for its plum blossoms in spring.

Kannonji Temple Pagoda, Tsu

Tsu Festival, which dates back to the 17th century features period costume parades and a unique "Toujin Dance" (唐人おどり). The elaborate costumes and masks supposedly mimic a delegation of Korean diplomats, who visited Japan at that time, no doubt causing wonderment among the native Japanese.

Toujin Dance, Tsu Festival

The town's beaches, notably Niezaki and Akogigaura, draw avid wind-surfers throughout the year and swimmers and sun-bathers in summer.

Access

From Nagoya Station Kintetsu Line train or JR Line train (approx. 50 minutes).
From Osaka Namba Station Kintetsu Line train or JR Line train (approx. 90 minutes).
By car, Tomei Expressway from Nagoya.
There are highway buses from Tokyo taking around 8 hours.
There is a fast boat from Tsu to Chubu International Airport (approx. 40 minutes).

Information on the Toujin Dance (in Japanese)

Guide to Nagoya

Japanese Art - byobu screens

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