Recently I had an opportunity to visit Kawage in Mie Prefecture with a friend (be sure to check out the other post on Kawage). As someone who loves to travel but lately neglected to make time, it was the perfect excuse to catch up on some much-needed R&R!
Located in Tsu City of Mie, Kawage looks out over the Ise Bay. It conveniently lies on the Kintetsu-Osaka Train line connecting Osaka and Nagoya (about an hour out from each). This makes it a great for a one-day trip or an excellent “meet you halfway” destination if you live in one city and have friends in the other.
| Equestrian by the Sea
First up on our list: horse riding! Even though I love animals, I’d never had the opportunity to ride horses before, so I was keen to try. We visited the El Caballo horse riding club, where we geared up with a vest and helmet. We then were introduced to Poseidon and Poco. After climbing onto Poseidon’s back (and several failed attempts to swing my legs over), we were ready to go.
In sunnier weather you can horse-ride on the beach, running along the sand while skirting the edges of the tide. Unfortunately luck was not on our side and the rain came to town just in time for our arrival. So, Poseidon and I did some laps of the undercover grounds. Between the rhythmic swaying and my struggle to stay balanced, something that caught me by surprise me was the effect of the simple shift in height; it reminded me of climbing a ledge or wall as a small child and seeing the world from a completely different perspective, which brought an embarrassingly childish grin to my face.
We toured the stables and spent time petting the horses and feeding them carrots while we chatted with the carers. While we didn’t notice when riding, the horses have naturally long hair that is trimmed regularly, and the carers leave patches of longer hair shaped like hearts and other shapes on their rears. Maybe something to keep an eye out for when you visit?
| Sails and Sunrises – Kawage Marina
A central hub of the area, the Kawage Marina was completely packed with boats when we arrived. Our itinerary included a short sail out into Ise Bay. While the weather wasn’t cooperating this was definitely a highlight of the trip.
The water was crystal clear and surprisingly calm despite the rain. The blurred horizon created a sense of mystery and exploration as we sailed into the immeasurable expanse before us. The captain, a veteran with decades of boating experience, explained how pockets of the area are used to farm seaweed. Even in the pouring rain one could make out the small coloured buoys marking the farms that dotted the bay.
| Next Day
While the weather hadn’t been the best that day, we were blessed with clear skies the next morning to watch one of Kawage’s famed sunrises from the marina.
Now anyone who knows me can attest that I’m not even remotely a morning person; I set 5 alarms to get myself out of bed and even then it’s a 50/50 chance whether it works. Sunrises however are my exception; I’ll be up bright and early for the promise of a good sunrise, and we were not disappointed. As we stood waiting in the cold pre-dawn, we watched the fishing boats make their way across the waters as day broke over the bay, washing everything in colour as the skies shifted from purple to orange to blue.
We returned later that day for a seaside barbeque. We feasted on grilled meat and seafood out by the water while enjoying views of the marina in perfect weather. The portions were more than generous, more than enough for the both of us with plenty of variety. Between the delicious food, the sun and the sea, it was a little slice of luxury to top off our time by the bay.
| Food for the Contemplative Soul
Like many places in Japan, Kawage is dotted with buildings and locations rich in history. We visited several shrines and temples while wandering the quiet streets, built along old winding roads leading to where Ueno Castle once stood.
Enko-ji is a small temple built within the castle grounds itself. Recently popularised through the Japanese drama Gō, the temple is attributed to Benzaiten, one of Japan’s Seven Gods of Fortune. The head priest took us to a small statue of the Goddess, where one rubs the statue where their body is ailing; purportedly thanks to frequent visits from elderly locals, the statue’s knees have been polished to a mirror shine!
The temple is particularly popular two times during the year; in June, many tourists visit to see the flowers of the sara-souju (sal tree), a plant well known in Japanese Buddhist scripture. The flowers bloom in the morning and fall in the evening, so don’t worry that you’ve missed your chance if you turn up and see the ground littered with flowers! In Autumn, the temple takes on a different look as the momiji (Japanese maple) leaves change colour. The leaves of the momiji here don’t change together but colour haphazardly, creating splashes of colour ranging from green to gold to red to brown. Add to that the backdrop of the green bamboo forest and the temple becomes a great spot for anyone looking to take the perfect Autumnal snap.
| Heading further into the city
Takada-Honzan Senju-ji by contrast is anything but small; the main halls and temple grounds are absolutely massive. We ended up visiting here on both days, and even then we weren’t able to explore the whole place!
If you happen to own a goshuinchō or temple seal book, Senju-ji has a special 2-page seal to commemorate its recent designation as a national treasure. While the grounds were completely empty during our first rainy visit, clear skies brought many visitors the next day. Many of them were there to spend the day drawing the famed halls.
Leaving the temple, one can’t help but notice the style and architecture of the surrounding area. Much of the look of the suburb has been maintained with strict guidelines. As we wandered the streets we entered Takeya, a small wagashi (traditional sweets) store, minutes away from Senju-ji, to try some of the local sweets.
The counter is lined with delectable treats; Red bean manju buns (you can ask to get them warmed), soy milk sponge cakes filled with yuzu and black sesame fillings, and even single-serve packets of red bean soup. They are complete with edible containers that melt away as you pour the hot water. We tried the manju in-store. They were filled with silky smooth red bean paste and delicious in the cold weather. Being the sweet-tooth I am I couldn’t help but get some cakes to go. The local streets contain no less than 8 such sweets stores. I sorely regretted not having time to visit them all.
Next time you’re in need of a break from the city or a unique place to travel, check out Kawage. A seaside escape with a taste of the good life might be just the place you’re looking for.
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