For those who missed Part 1 of this trip, here’s what happened in short. I visited my friend Yumi in her hometown and, on the first day, she brought me to visit two famous spots in Gifu prefecture, Shirakawa-go, and Takayama. How could I best describe our nice journey? Historical spots, loads of laughs and many tasty snacks to fill up our stomachs!
Curious about what happened next? Here’s how the weekend continued!
After the long day, a relaxing night bath at the amazing onsen (Japanese hot springs) of Nagashima Spa Resort, and good sleep in a comfortable futon were all that I needed to recharge my batteries! And in the morning, we were all set and ready to start our next adventure. Destination? Mie Prefecture and Japan’s most famous shrine, Ise Jingu.
Day 2: Tasty snacks in Mie Prefecture.
Restaurant Cultivate in Matsusaka
※Address: 1688-5 Ureshinoshimonoshocho, Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture, 515-2354 Japan.
Unlike our day in Gifu where we only had snacks here and there, it was time for a proper meal.
Lucky for us, Yumi’s friend, who joined us for the day, knew a very cute little restaurant right on the way to Ise. Located in the countryside, Restaurant Cultivate is not that easy to find if you are not actually looking for it. However, I guess the place has a big reputation since it was full. This doesn’t surprise me at all as the food was delicious.
The restaurant specializes in dishes inspired by the Chinese cuisine but originally reinvented to adapt to the Japanese tastes.
We all opted for the Dan Dan Noodles lunch set (Only 1800 yen!!!)
It included a spicy potato salad, a kind of pork stew, Sesame & soy milk flavored Dan Dan Noodles, Chinese Tea of the day (my favorite, Jasmine tea), and green tea pudding for dessert. In addition to all these delicacies, we were also served a delicious plate of fried shrimps with tomato sauce, a treat from the chef!
Never had I been so satisfied with Chinese food before!! It might be a bit hard to get there, but it’s definitely a restaurant you can’t miss out if you happen to be in the area!
Not only is the food amazing, but the location is also pretty cool with a very modern and stylish design, and details very carefully selected to blend in with the overall atmosphere.
Back on the road!
After filling our stomachs with this delicious lunch, we were back on the road again. It takes about 2 hours to reach Ise from Nagoya and since we had to be back in time for our train to Tokyo, unfortunately, we couldn’t spend too much time chilling at Restaurant Cultivate.
Driving to Ise is a long ride, but if you’re in good company, time will fly between one laugh and another. In our case, we had this crazy idea of sending a text to a local Dj, who was at that very moment broadcasting his show on the radio.
What song would you expect 3 Japanese and an Italian to request? Definitely not “O’ Sole Mio”, a very traditional but I would say unusual song. Well, in short, he consented to our request but unfortunately, we missed the show because we arrived at Ise Jingu long before the Dj decided to broadcast our song! Too bad!
Once we got to Ise, we first paid a visit to the shrine.
Ise Jingu is probably the most important shrine in the whole country. It’s considered the “Soul of Japan” and it’s the place of worship of the sun goddess Amaterasu. According to the Japanese mythology, the imperial line is said to descend directly from Amaterasu. It is also believed that the Shrine houses the Sacred Mirror of the Emperor (one of the three imperial regalia) that was given to the first emperor by the sun goddess herself.
While Ise Shrine is most definitely a sacred spiritual place whose magnificence will truly amaze you, what I appreciated the most is actually the thousands of local shops located in Okage Yokocho street, right next to the shrine premises. Walking around the narrow streets, while having a nice conversation, inhaling the appetizing aroma of all the many shops’ specialties is very relaxing.
Okage Yokocho Street and its tasty snacks!
Despite all the food we had for lunch, seeing all those tasty snacks I couldn’t help but crave them all.
And what do you think can happen when 4 food lovers get together? They obviously start hopping from one shop to the next.
First stop, the Croquette shop, and it’s delicious potato croquettes.
Then, Yokocho yaki, a local version of Taiyaki.
We also tasted some delicious green tea.
Obviously, we couldn’t leave without trying the main sweet specialty of Ise: Akafuku Mochi.
Akafuku Mochi is made with mochi, topped with sweet bean paste. Being one of the most popular sweets in the area, you won’t have any trouble finding a local shop that serves this delicious snack. But be careful, it tastes very sweet! If you have a sweet tooth like me, you will love it but, if you already know you don’t like Anko (Japanese red bean paste), well then you should probably get something else. (Even though if I were you I would still try it just to see how it tastes).
When you are having fun, time seems to go by faster and faster, and in what seemed like just half an hour to me, it was actually already time to head back.
A bit sad that our trip was about to end, we found comfort with, of course, another snack that we enjoyed in the car on the way back to Nagoya.
Strawberry cream cornet, not very local but still one of my favorite!
As I expected, I had a GREAT time!
Trust your local friends!
Like I said in Part 1 of my story, having local friends that can show you around is a true blessing!
Without them, I probably wouldn’t have thought about tasting some of those tasty snacks. I probably wouldn’t have tried what seemed like a plain basic ice cream (see Part 1) or I wouldn’t have thought of eating at a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Without them, I surely wouldn’t have enjoyed my two-day trip as much as I did.
At the end of the day, MAKE friends with locals because together you will have real authentic adventures. They will recommend you tons of things you would have never thought of, including some unexpected tasty snacks! But above all, you will make GREAT MEMORIES: you will not only remember the places you’ve visited, you will remember the people you shared your experience with and their friendly smiles!