Ise Honkaido 9: From Yamakasu – Okitsu

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. 

trail for the Ise Honkaido near the Yamagasu-Higashi bus stop
The trail starts right next to this bathroom!
Walking the Kuratori Pass on the Ise Honkaido
Walking the Kuratori 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!

Mitsue Village
Mitsue Village!
 one of the very few hotels on Ise Honkaido in Mitsu Village in Nara
I guess this is one of the very few hotels on Ise Honkaido
Beautiful countryside in Mitsue Village

Finding the entrance to the Sakura Pass was not easy, but eventually, we did find the trail– right next to a little cow farm. 

Entrance of the Sakura Pass on the Ise Honkaido
Start of the Sakura Pass. It’s pretty overgrown…
That’s a really odd-looking school!

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. 

Shisha Shrine a traditional stop for pilgrims on the Ise Honkaido
Shisha Shrine: a traditional stop for pilgrims on the Ise Honkaido
The beautiful countryside in Mitsue along the Ise Honkaido
The beautiful countryside in Mitsue
Ushi Pass

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
Mt. Miune: one of the most popular snowy mountains in Kansai. it is 1,235m high!

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). 

field of blooming Asian lizard tails in Maruyama Park near the Ise Honkaido.
Just, wow!

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! 

Sata Pass
Mt. Obora along the Ise Honkaido
Mt. Obora
Mitsue Road Station. Taking a break here, phew!
Nara Prefetucre is almost over!

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! 

The rock is supposed to resemble a woman lying down?
This pass is particularly dark and hard to walk

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. 

entering Mie Prefectur via the Ise Honkaido
At last! We’re in Mie Prefecture!
Lantern marker for Ise Jingu on the Ise Honkaido
In Mie prefecture, the lantern for Ise often says 太一, which refers to Amaterasu in Ise Jingu

Ishinabara is the first post town along the Ise Honkaido in Mie Prefecture. Only 30 minutes away till Okitsu Station now!

Ishinabara on the Ise Honkaido


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.   

There are many old buildings in Okitsu
Nushiya: this used to be a big hotel on Ise Honkaido

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.  

Miesho Line at Okitsu Station

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.

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