From Mie Guidebook
Matsusaka (松阪市 : Matsusaka-shi) is conveniently located in central Mie Prefecture. The city was founded in 1933 although its history dates back over 400 years. The population size is approximately 125,000.
The "city" of Matsusaka covers a very large area due to a variety of town/village mergers. It stretches all the way from Ise Bay near downtown to tall mountains out near the border of Nara Prefecture.
"Matsusaka" is a fairly easy name meaning "Pine Hill", and is in a battle with Kameyama over the simplest name in Mie. 「松」 means "pine" (specifically the Japanese variety often seen at shrines and temples) and 「阪」 means "hill".
One snag is that the kanji used for "hill", 「阪」, was literally invented in Osaka. In the old days, Osaka used the actual kanji for "hill", 「坂」, however Osakans grew to feel that having that character in the city's name was "unlucky" and so decided to alter the kanji slightly (from 「坂」 to 「阪」) but left the pronunciation of the new kanji the same. Because they invented the kanji, that character is generally used only in conjunction with Osaka and its meaning could be said to be "Osaka", and not "hill". However, for some odd reason, Matsusaka chose to adopt it as well.
When used with the original "hill" kanji, 「松坂」 is usually romanized as "Matsuzaka" (a not uncommon Japanese family name), whereas the city is traditionally romanized as "Matsusaka" though you will find it with a "z" as well sometimes. Locals, on the other hand, say neither of these things, and slur the city's name into a pronunciation along the lines of "Massaka".
The weather here is like that of most places in Pacific-side Japan, varying from one extreme to another throughout the year. The summers get hot and extremely humid, the winters aren't too bad but it's always cold indoors, and then of course there's rainy season from mid-June until mid-July. But enough about that... now onto things you might actually find useful.
So you've just been dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Now what?! Good news ? you can get almost everywhere you need to go in Matsusaka by bike or by hoofin' it. The following sections should help shed some light on your predicament. Although this guide does not include every supermarket, alleyway and rice field, be assured you'll find those (and much more) all in due time.
There are four main train stations in Matsusaka:
- Matsusaka (松阪) Station
- This is the main station. All Kintetsu and JR trains stop here and there's a bus terminal out of the JR exit. Tracks 1-4 are for the JR line and tracks 6-8 are for the Kintetsu line.
- Higashi-Matsusaka (東松阪) Station
- Local Kintetsu stop (one away from main station). It is within walking distance of Matsu-kō (Matsusaka High School).
- Tokuwa (徳和) Station
- Local JR stop (one away from main station). Get off here for Mie-kō, Matsu-kō, Matsu-shō (Matsusaka Commercial High School). Very close to Hunky Dory, a popular bar for large JET parties.
- Matsugasaki (松ヶ崎) Station
Lots of Sanco buses leave from the JR side of Matsusaka Station.
The bus to Matsusaka port leaves from the Kintetsu side, to co-incide with ferry departures.
Places to See
- Bell Farm
- Near the interchange, allows hands-on learning about the different processes of floral growth and Matsusaka beef.
- Matsusaka Castle Site (松阪城跡 Matsusaka-jō ato)
- There's a nice view overlooking the city and a cage full of monkeys but, ironically, no castle. Nearby you can tour the row of homes where the shogun used to live or visit the Museum of Motouri Norinaga (a famous literary scholar of the Edo period).
- Cultural Center (文化会館 bunka kaikan)
- Make haniwa pottery here! This is where most of the concerts are held. The famous taiko group Kodo has played here.
- Momen Factory
- Learn about this famous blue cotton and how it's made. It's also a good place to get omiyage.
- Learn all about what goes on after dark in the biggest red light district in the prefecture.
Events and Festivals
- Matsusaka City Hospital (松阪市民病院)
- Near the castle. Where you will probably go for your annual health check and in case of an emergency. It's a pretty decent hospital.
- Doctor Hayashi
- Dentist who graduated from Harvard Dental School. Runs a dental clinic in Ureshino (near Ise-Nakagawa Station).
- Doctor Azuma
- Doctor who co-ordinates the Taki International Society (and weekly Japanese class) is based near Oka station, Taki.
- Advance Mall - Tamura-chō; off Rt. 166
- Large shopping centre with a supermarket, a general household goods/DIY store - the name of which escapes me, KFC, Sega World,Mr Donut, onsen, electrical store, a couple of clothing stores, some restaurants etc.
- Supermarkets are located at Advanced Mall (above), on Mie-ko-dori (about 4km east) near Hunky Dory's, and on Route 42 (near Atagomachi).
- One is on the corner of Mie-ko-dori and Route 42, and the other is on Rt 166 close to its junction with Route 42.
- 100 shop chain (where you can find almost everything you need)
- 100 Grocery Shop
- On Kintetsu dori
- Marm Jusco / Apita - Tsukamoto-chō; off Rt. 23
- Department stores
- Komeri - there is one next to Okuwa on Mie-ko-dori
- Houseware / DIY store.
- A 100 shop (off Rt. 166)
- Power Center - in Kawaimachi
- Clothing store where you can buy clothes that fit you (off Rt. 23 on the Kintetsu side of the station)
Food and Drink
Eki-mae Dōri / Atagomachi
(near the station / the red-light district)
- A cafe outside the stn. (across from SANCO) where they always have a movie playing but can be smoky - English menu
- Fujiya (by Mimatsu)
- best ramen in Matsusaka, try the osara udon or the chukka soba Isshobin: a popular yakiniku chain, the original honten is near the main post office - English menu
- A bar on the station street - English menu
- An izakaya frequented by foreigners, great for gatherings (you pretty much always need to reserve if there's a group of you)
- Magical Mystery Tour
- Little wooden place in a gravel lot on the Kintetsu side of the station; service is slow because they cook it on this little yellow bus outside.
- Korean-style yakiniku with Matsusaka beef (north side near station)
- Famous for their tempura dishes, or get a Matsusaka beef set for 5000. Lunch sets are from 1000円-1500円.
- Tiny western-style bar near the station - pricey but they give you some strong drinks.
- Bar that has great live jazz every other Thur. night but beware the gaijin table charge if going in a crowd.
- The most famous, posh beef restaurant in Matsusaka; usually catering to large parties; costs about 10,000 to sample some of that famous Matsusaka beef.
- A tonkatsu restaurant (across from main post office)
- Across the street from the shrine, cool little kappou place [Japanese cuisine]
Chūō-chō / Kamada-chō
- Capitano - Tabelog listing
- Famous for its brick oven pizza, a bit pricey but great Italian cuisine
- Em. Cafe
- An Asian fusion restaurant, small and trendy
- A kappou place where you specify a price and they give you a dinner set based on the price; near Frex hotel
- Jan-ken-pon Okonomiyaki
- Do-it-yourself okonomiyaki, takoyaki and yakisoba.
- Same chain as the one in Kubo-cho but no all you can eat option
- The food here is arguably even better than that at nearby Capitano's. Run by a lovely old couple who spent several years living in Sicily, Salute offers high quality, delicious food at reasonable prices. The "bruschetta" at Capitano's is far superior to the "garlic toast" served at Salute, the pizzas are on par, whilst the pastas are amazing!! Salute is on Mie-ko-dori, on the right side if heading west. It's in a small, bright orange building.
- The sister restaurant of the one in Nabari, this place offers fantastic Chinese food at great prices. The staff have some understanding of "vegetarian"/"vegan" and are able to modify some dishes to cater for those with different dietary needs. Their eggplant dish is scrumptious, as is their tofu/veggie dish. The goma dango is great, but the coconut dango is incredible. The place serves a wide range of ramen dishes too. It's on Mie-ko-dori.
- This small cafe serves great coffee, delicious home-made scones and great food all-round (pita bread sandwiches, bean salads [with chickpeas!], banana curry, pizza etc.). They also play an eclectic range of music from Syd Barrett to Kate Bush to Mika. Open daily (except Wednesday and the 1st Thursday of the month) from 9 -7. Beehive is located on Mie-ko-dori, almost opposite Sumaro.
- Abu cafe
- An Asian fusion restaurant, famous for their parfaits, of which there is a great variety. There is quite a large selection of food and drinks on offer, though it's hardly worth visiting for the savoury dishes.
- 2 hours all you can eat/drink! Guys 3000 / Girls 2000 (might need to RSVP)
- Club above Takaya, plays hip-hop night every 2nd Saturday of the month
- Chinese restaurant, a lot of seating, big selection. It's a family restaurant with cheap dishes.
- Yume Tsubo - Tabelog info
- Indo decor, assort. of dishes ranging from pasta to sashimi; try the teishoku [meal set]. This place has a nice atmosphere and is a relatively inexpensive option. It's a little hard to find. It's located in the streets behind the (now defunct) post office on Mie Ko Dori - the one closest to Top Hat tyre shop.
- Hunky Dory
- A decent bar/restaurant near Tokuwa station. This venue has been used for several JET events. Food is decent but overpriced.
- Small, but quaint restaurant that has great Italian sets for a reasonable price. Lunch sets are the cheapest. You may have to make a reservation or take your chances and arrive just before noon to get a seat. It's between the Anderson Konditrei and Hunky Dory on Mie kō Dori, next to a massage place. Great food! 0598-29-4091
- Anderson Konditrei
- Part of a chain that you will see throughout Mie. They sell single servings of cake, pies, etc. as well as whole cakes.
- cafe/restaurant (ask for Yuu-kun) This cafe is near Matsusaka Commercial High School. If you don't mind smoke, it's okay, but definitely not the best in the area.
- Baskin Robbins
- The one and only ice cream shop (in Advance Mall)
- Little Jazz cafe (off Rt. 42)
- Gyoza King
- Good/cheap Chinese place (near Sun Park)
- Best udon in Matsusaka (by the Interchange)
- Big servings, spacious, great for large gatherings (in Kawaimachi)
- Indian restaurant (in Tamura-cho). The food is ok.
- Merry England
- Below the English school, nice place but out of the way (off Rt. 166)
- Tori Yuu
- Cook-it-yourself chicken joint
- Expensive but has very good tempura/sashimi sets; lunch 2,000 ( in Yamamuro-chō)
- Organic restaurant famous for tororo dishes (by the castle)
- Le Premier Amour
- Cafe/bakery (in Kawaimachi)
Recreation and Entertainment
- Bandai World
- Batting cages (off Rt. 37)
- Chubudai Park
- The biggest patch of green you'll see in Matsusaka (aside from the rice fields); indoor rock climbing, running trails, tennis courts, basketball court, playground obstacle course (off Rt. 166)
- Joy Plaza
- Bowling Alley, Pool tables, darts, ping pong tables, arcade(video games), etc. Off of Old Ise Highway (Main road running in front of the Kintetsu side of the station), on the left, heading toward Tsu)
- Frex Hotel
- Posh fitness center (off Rt. 42)
- Karaoke (off Rt. 42)
- Cote d'Azure
- Karaoke (off Rt. 37)
- Sun Park
- Not a park but has a bowling alley and fitness center (off Rt. 42)
- Suzu no yu
- A nice public bathhouse (it's like a cheap onsen) (off Rt. 166)
- Woody Park
- Outside of Matsusaka, on the way to Iinan; lots of trails, great place to view sakura in spring (off Rt. 166)
- Matsusaka Yu
- Public bathhouse, cheaper than Suzu no yu but not as nice (off Rt. 37)
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