The Ise Honkaido is the ancient road that connects Osaka to the sacred Ise Grand Shrine in Mie. This time, our journey brought us deep into the mountains of Yamakasu in Nara, before we finally crossed the border and entered Mie Prefecture. Once again we found ourselves secluded in the beautiful countryside. Hands down this definitely one of the best hiking trails in the Kansai region!
Ise Honkaido Part 9: From Yamagasu-Okitsu
After we took an Oku-uda Wakuwaku Bus for an hour from the Haibara Station, we arrived at the Yamagasu-Higashi bus stop. While there were several people on the bus, we were the only ones who got off at this stop. Truly, the middle of nowhere! Just a few minutes from the bus stop is the Kuratori Pass. For many years, people considered this pass one of the scariest passes on the Ise Honkaido. Since it goes through many mountains, there were once plenty of thieves and outlaws in these mountains. Now, this is no longer the case, of course, but it is still a pretty secluded and dark mountain pass.
Mitsue Village – Mitsue Shrine
The Kuratori Pass wasn’t all that long and soon we were in Mitsue Village, which sits on the easternmost area of Nara Prefecture. Surrounded by tall mountains, Mitsue village is a really beautiful place!
Finding the entrance to the Sakura Pass was not easy, but eventually, we did find the trail– right next to a little cow farm.
After going through the Sakura Pass, we reached, what we could only assume to be the center of Mitsue Village, Sugano. Here was actually a post office and a village office with about a hundred houses nearby. From here we went to the Ushi Pass, which unlike most of the other passes on the Ise Honkaido, did not go through the mountains! Instead, the Ushi Pass just looks like a quiet paved road.
Kozue is the last post town in Nara along the Ise Honakido. At the center of this small community is Mizue Shrine. Mythology says that while Princess Yamato was searching for the best place to enshrine Amaterasu, stopped in this village, where she left we walking stick. In fact, this is supposed to be the origin of the village’s name Kozue, which literally means walking stick.
Mitsue Shrine – Maruyama Park
Near Mitsue Shrine, we found a small park full of blooming hangesho (Asian lizard tail). Since it was close to Ise Honkaido, we dropped by there. It was so pretty! It is called hangesho in Japanese because it blooms during “hangesho” (around early January).
Just after the park, the Ise Honkaido goes through the idyllic countryside. Around here we found a roadside station called “Ise Honakido Mitsue”. It has a restaurant and supermarket where you can take a little break (this find was pretty surprising to be honest). Also, from there you can take a bus to Nabari Station.
Just another 10km to Okitsu Station, our goal for today!
Maruyama Park is the last place in Nara Prefecture. The trail goes through this park and crosses the Iwasaka Pass. After the Iwasaka Pass is Misugi Town in Mie Prefecture. Finally, Mie Prefecture!
Misugi – Okitsu
Finally, we are in Misugi Town in Mie Prefecture. Maps will say this is Tsu City, but that is because Misugi Village and Tsu recently merged. Finally, we are in Mie Prefecture!! Despite finally entering Mie, it’s still another 50km to Ise Jingu. However, we only have another hour till Okitsu Station.
Ishinabara is the first post town along the Ise Honkaido in Mie Prefecture. Only 30 minutes away till Okitsu Station now!
After 7 hours of walking from Yamagasu, we finally arrived at Okitsu. Okitsu is a big post town along Ise Honkaido. Many of the Ise Honkaido’s post towns are gone, but Okitsu still has a touch of the atmosphere of the old town.
The JR Ise Okitsu Station was really surprising. The train, only one car long, comes once every 2 hours, and it takes an hour and a half to Matsusaka Station. Few people use this line, but it goes through the beautiful mountainside to Matsusaka. The last train here is 7 o’clock. Miss that and you will be staying the night in Okitsu.
At last heading home with heavy feet for today. Now that we’ve cleared the border into Mie, the journey to Ise Jingu will soon be at a close.