A shrine town where you feel Japanese tradition and history – OHARAI MACHI, MIE Prefecture

Let’s go to OHARAI MACHI after the worship of ISE JINGU.

 

OHARAI MACHI is located along ISUZUGAWA River from UJIBASHI Bridge and it has prospered as the shrine town of ISE JINGU. OHARAI in Japanese means Shinto purification ritual. In the past people called ONSHI who belonged to shrine and engaged to gather pilgrims from all over Japan built a lot of accommodations for pilgrims, and treated them with Shinto purification ritual and Shinto music. The name of this town OHARAI MACHI is coming from this.

 

AKAFUKU flagship store – The place you must visit at OHARAI MACHI.

 

 

 

AKAFUKU flagship store is the place where whoever visits OHARAI MACHI visits in the first place. AKAFUKU MOCHI which is their signature menu is a well known Japanese traditional sweets which is made of MOCHI (rice cake) and ANKO (sweet bean paste), and this flagship store is located near SHINBASHI Bridge crossing ISUZUGAWA River. It was established in 1707 and has over 300 years history since Edo period. The current building of this flagship store was renovated in 1877 during Meiji period. In addition to this signature AKAFUKU MOCHI, AKAFUKU KORI (shaved ice with AKAFUKU) which is a limited menu in summer and AKAFUKU ZENZAI (AKAFUKU served in a bowl) in winter are also popular menu. There’s a TATAMI room inside the store which also has Japanese traditional veranda ENGAWA right in front of beautiful ISUZUGAWA River, and you can take a rest peacefully just as people long long time ago had done here.

 

 

There’s some Japanese traditional vermilion cooking stoves inside the store. These unique-shaped stoves are called SANPO KOJIN. SANPO KOJIN in Japanese originally means “Three-person saddle” of horse which many female pilgrims having weak legs loved to use in the past. The design of these old cooking stoves here were inspired from this saddle. SANPO KOJIN in Japanese has another meaning as well which is “guardian deity of the three jewels” who have been worshiped as God of fire and God of cooking stove. Japanese tea served with AKAFUKU MOCHI in this store uses the hot water boiled at this stove, and it’s definitely worth tasting.

 

 

Just for your information, AKAFUKU flagship store opens at 5:00 am in accordance with ISE JINGU also opens at 5:00 am.

 

NAIKU (the inner shrine) of ISE JINGU has history of 2000 years. When there were no bus nor train, pilgrims came over here from all over Japan only on foot and it’s totally unimaginable how many days that long journey took and how tough it was. A lot of post station towns with tea houses and accommodations have been established along the pilgrimage way. Most of these tea houses and accommodations had served MOCHI because it’s nutritious, filling, and easy to carry. Therefore, a lot of pilgrims loved MOCHI and MOCHI sweets. Not only AKAFUKU, there are HENBA MOCHI and many other famous MOCHI / MOCHI sweets stores lined up around ISE JINGU.

 

 

 

Another “Must-go” place is the shop of Japanese SAKE “HAKUTAKA”.

 

There’s one and only Japanese SAKE shop selling HAKUTAKA. HAKUTAKA is a brand of Japanese SAKE and it’s one of SHINSEN (food and alcohol offerings to Shinto Gods) at ISE JINGU, thus said to be the sacred SAKE. The building itself looks very historic and a lot of barrels of SAKE are placed in front of the shop, which is quite photogenic.

 

HAKUTAKA is brewed at NADA in NISHINOMIYA City, HYOGO Prefecture, and it has been offered to ISE JINGU since 1924. KAKU UCHI is a popular style of drinking while standing, and there are many visitors drinking HAKUTAKA here on the way to ISE JINGU. The recommended way is to eat YAKI TAMAGO (baked egg) with HAKUTAKA. It’s actually just a boiled egg but what’s unique here is they bake boiled egg without peeling its shell. This baked boiled egg matches SAKE very well. For those who cannot drink SAKE, AMAZAKE (sweet SAKE / non-alcoholic rice drink) which you can ask them to add the topping of ginger is also highly recommended. Why don’t you experience the taste of sacred SAKE offered to Shinto God?

 

OKAGE YOKOCHO – located inside OHARAI MACHI

 

 

There’s a side street called OKAGE YOKOCHO inside OHARAI MACHI. YOKOCHO is a general Japanese word meaning side street, and OKAGE in Japanese means “thankfulness”. It was opened in 1993 by the president of AKAFUKU for expressing his gratitude that they have kept operating successfully for 300 years thanks to ISE JINGU.

 

Traditional buildings along ISE Pilgrimage Route through Edo and Meiji periods are well relocated and renovated here, and it’s one of the most popular sightseeing spots of ISE where you can experience various things like traditional signature foods, local specialties, history, and humanity which this ISE is proud of. Walking around this OKAGE YOKOCHO, you will feel as if you time traveled to Edo Period, surrounded by a lot of Japanese old traditional buildings, shops, and restaurants.

 

BUTASUTE – a recommended place to visit at OKAGE YOKOCHO.

 

BUTASUTE is a butcher and restaurant which sells ISE Beef and some other branded WAGYU beefs, and it has long history of more than 100 years since 1909. A man whose name is SUTE KICHI having a pig (BUTA means pig in Japanese) started selling beef here and people nicknamed him BUTA SUTE, and after that it has become the official name of this butcher. However, as time passed, people started to tell a different story, which is to say, a guest was surprised how the beef sold here was tasty and threw pork away, and that’s why this butcher is called BUTA SUTE. (SUTE in Japanese means to throw away)

 

This BUTASUTE is divided into two parts, the restaurant where you can eat Sukiyaki of ISE Beef, and the butcher where you can take away croquette and minced meat cutlet. Feeling really good if you take a walk at OKAGE YOKOCHO with eating freshly-fried croquette and minced meat cutlet.

 

Now, why don’t you visit this traditional Japanese shrine town OHARAI MACHI and OKAGE YOKOCHO?

 

 

 

 

Related article: THE ORIGIN OF JAPAN – ISE JINGU (ISE GRAND SHRINE), MIE PREFECTURE

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