Tsu Guide, Mie Prefecture 津市
Tsu is one of the smallest prefectural capitals in Japan with a population of around 283,000 inhabitants. Tsu was an important castle town in the Edo Period and a transit point for pilgrims visiting Ise Jingu farther south along the coast.
The city is spread out along the coast, and though not a tourist magnet, does have a few interesting places to visit. Tsu makes for a pleasant and interesting day trip from nearby Nagoya.
Tsu Castle (Tsu-jo) was built by Nobukane, the younger brother of local warlord Oda Nobunaga in the late 16th century. Nobukane's castle originally had a five story keep and was an impressive sight. Following Nobunaga's death, Japan's next warlord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi transferred the castle to Tomita Nobuhiro in 1595.
In 1608, the castle went from the Tomita clan to Todo Takatora, a famous builder of Japanese castles, who renovated it. Todo Takatora is associated with the construction of Imabari Castle and Uwajima Castle in Shikoku. The keep was destroyed by fire in 1662 and not rebuilt.
At the beginning of the Meiji Period of Japanese history, what remained of the castle was demolished except for the stone walls, moats and two gates. The grounds of Tsu Castle became a public park, and a replica yagura (turret) was rebuilt in 1958.
The grounds of Tsu Castle (Google map) became a public park and a replica yagura or turret was rebuilt in 1958. The castle park is near Tsu City Hall, and is a lovely spot to relax in or stroll around, and is known for its pine trees and cherry blossoms. An equestrian statue of Todo Takatora stands in the castle grounds.
The Mie Prefectural Art Museum is a 10-15 minute walk from Tsu Station and its permanent collection includes works by William Blake, paintings by French impressionists such as Monet and Renoir, as well as a number of pieces of famous Chinese calligraphy. Other pieces on display include works by Murayama Kaita, Soga Shohaku, Marc Chagall, Francisco de Goya, Salvador Dalí, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Antoni Tàpies.
A separate gallery, which opened in 2003, displays bronze sculptures, plaster casts and drawings by Yanagihara Yoshikatsu (1910-2004).
MieMu, the new Mie Prefectural Museum, opened in April 2014 and replaces the old Mie Prefectural Museum, which was located in Kairaku Park, near Tsu Station. MieMu is part of a new cultural center which also includes the Mie Center for Arts and the Mie Prefectural Library.
The main exhibit aims to showcase Mie's natural history, flora, fauna and culture. There are impressive interactive video displays, lots of stuffed animals and fish. Areas of Mie covered include the farming villages of the Iga Basin, the fishing villages in the Shima and Higashi-Kishu regions, Ise Bay, the Osugi Valley and Mt. Odaigahara and the Suzuka Mountains, home of the reclusive Japanese Serow. There is also an aquarium for the Japanese Giant Salamander, and various fossils including the skeleton of the "Mie Elephant" - a Stegodon miensis - the largest species to be discovered in Japan to date.
MieMu includes a workshop room, a learning space, a reference room and lecture room as well as a shop and an eating and rest area.
Tsu Park (Kairakuen) is the site of the former villa of the feudal lord Takatora Todo and is a short walk from Tsu station across the road from Gokoku Shrine.
Shitennoji Temple near Tosei Bridge is worth a visit for its tranquil garden and impressive wooden gates. Shitennoji Temple was founded by Prince Shotoku (574-622) and was rebuilt in 1615.
Not far from Tsu Castle and the prefectural buildings is Kannonji Temple, which has a five-story pagoda. Other notable temples and shrines in Tsu are Senju-ji Temple (Tel: 059 236 5701), also known as Takada Honzan, (take a bus 20 minutes from the station to Honzon-mae bus stop) and Yuki Shrine, which is dedicated to Munehiro Yuki (died 1338) a general of the Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) and famous for its plum blossoms in spring.
Tsu Festival, which dates back to the 17th century features period costume parades and a unique "Toujin Dance" (唐人おどり). The elaborate costumes and masks supposedly mimic a delegation of Korean diplomats, who visited Japan at that time, no doubt causing wonderment among the native Japanese.
Tsu's beaches, notably Niezaki and Akogigaura, draw avid wind-surfers throughout the year and swimmers and sun-bathers in summer.
Hotels in Tsu
Hotels in Tsu are grouped close to Tsu Station and include the The Grand Court Tsu Nishi Hotel, the Dormy Inn Tsu, the Hotel Sunroute Tsu and the Hotel Econo Tsu Ekimae. Nearer to Tsu Castle is the 4-star Tsu Miyako Hotel.
Access To Tsu - how to get to Tsu
Tsu Station is about 50 minutes by Limited Express from Nagoya Kintetsu Station and about 55 minutes by JR on the Kisei Line from Nagoya Station. Tsu can be reached in about 80 minutes from Osaka Namba Station. Tsu Station is also on the Ise Railway.
High speed boats run from Nagashi Machi near Tsu to Chubu International Airport (Centrair), south of Nagoya. The area where the boats dock has become known for the beauty of its sunrises and sunsets.
There are 15 boats a day beginning at 6am from Tsu with the last boat at 9pm. The fare is 2,470 yen and the journey takes 45 minutes. There are also 5 boats a day from Matsusaka to Centrair with the first boat at 6.20am and the last boat at 7.30pm. The fare is 2,780 yen and the journey takes 75 minutes.