Foodie hotspots: Matsuzaka, Ise city, Tsu, Toba, Yokkaichi, the Ise-Shima coastline, Yunoyama Onsen.
Foodies Look Out For: Matsuzaka beef; Ise udon noodles; Ise-ebi lobster; hamaguri Venus clam cuisine; awabi abalone; bonito fish sushi; Souhei-nabe hotpot.
The Basics: Mie prefecture is officially a part of the Kansai and Tokai regions. It is increasingly featuring on international tourist itineraries, not least amongst formula one fans heading to the Japan grand prix at Suzuka, and those wishing to visit to the famed Ise Jingu Shrine at Ise-Shima.
Foodies Go Mie: Mie has historically supplied fine seafood to the Imperial court and fine restaurants of Kyoto, and now produces some of the country's finest, and most expensive, beef. Kobe beef has achieved global fame, yet within Japan Mie's Matsuzaka-gyu (Matsuzaka beef) is just as highly acclaimed. It is sourced from pedigree Kuro wagyu Japanese black beef cattle, and is renowned for its shimofuri marbling, rich flavor, and tenderness. It is generally served as shabu-shabu or sukiyaki, or in Western-style dishes accented with Japanese condiments and accompaniments.
Located in Ise-Shima, Ise Jingu (Ise Shrine) is one of Japan's most important Shinto religious sites, dating back 2000 years, housing the spirit of the great sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, the most important deity in the whole Shinto pantheon. With close ties to the Emperor and the Imperial household, the shrine attracts tens of thousands of domestic and overseas visitors each year.
A whole industry has sprung up in to feed hungry pilgrims, based primarily on the local specialty, Ise udon. These white noodles differ from regular udon by being long and fat, and served in a dark broth of tamari soy sauce. The dish dates back to the Edo period, but in fact only really boomed in popularity in the mid 1960s. Today there are around twenty-eight formally recognized 'real Ise Udon' outlets in Ise-Shima. Okadaya and Mameya are the most popular restaurants.
Mie's fresh fish and seafood specialties are outstanding. Look out forthe delicious Ise-ebi spiny lobsters from Ise-Shima. They thrive in the plankton-rich warm current that flows up from the South along the Ise coastline, and are valued for their firm flesh and rich taste. Find them grilled, simmered in nabe hotpots, or as sashimi.
Other marine delicacies include Matoyakaki giant oysters from Mato Bay; hamaguri-ryori venus clam cuisine, especially those from the Kuwana district grilled as yaki hamaguri, and the late Spring delicacy awabi abalone. Tekone-zushi is a local dish, katsuo bonito served on sushi rice.
Souhei-nabe (literally, the Soldier Monk hotpot) is a tonkotsu pork broth containing daikon radish, carrot, lotus root, burdock root, venison and wild boar, flavored with miso. Originally it was a traditional dish of the Tendai sect monks belonging to Sangakuji temple, and is now a specialty in the hot-spring resort of Yunoyama onsen.
The Mie Budget Gourmet
Tsu gyoza dumplings; the Toba-ga (Toba burger) which is billed, I kid you not, as 'fast slow food' and Matsuzaka Tori Yakiniku are some of the dubious local budget opitions.
FGL Favorite Tipple: Try the idiosyncratic, almost nutty taste of Wakaebisu Maho, easily recognized by the corrugated cardboard wrapping paper and hemp ribbon!
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