Owase

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Owase (尾鷲市 : Owase-shi) is the last outpost in fine southern Mie before Kumano, and home to 3 Deep South JETs. It is known throughout Japan for its beaches, mountains that Lonely Planet dubs "spectacular," and a relaxed country atmosphere - so don't come here planning on doing any shopping, because there is nothing!

Owase is called a "city" (population 20,000 and decreasing!) but really it has more of a town feel. It is in a flat area surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains, and the ocean. A trip through the mountain and around to the next bay will place you in old Miyama-chō (now Kihoku. It is a superb place for hiking, swimming in rivers, and relaxing on the beach. It's also a great starting point for exploring eastern Nara-ken or elsewhere in southern Mie, hiking on the fabled Kumano Kodo, and trips down to Wakayama-ken for scuba diving, onsens and hot springs, and seeing Nachi-Katsuura Falls (Honshu's highest waterfall).

Owase is a welcome affirmation that Japan has not yet been completely covered in concrete and still has plenty of natural wonders to enjoy.

Due to a natural phenomenon with the mountains, the city has the 2nd highest rainfall in Japan - just because it's not raining elsewhere in Mie doesn't mean it's not raining in Owase!

Name

Owase in Japanese

No official word seems to exist, but perhaps "Eagle Tail" could be offered as a reasonable translation.

Getting Around

Train

Owase is on the JR Kisei Main Line, a line with rather infrequent service. The main station in town is Owase (尾鷲) Station.

While the destination is worth it, the train only runs approximately every hour and a half, so plan ahead. The local between Matsusaka and Owase costs ¥1450 and takes about 3 hours. The Ltd Express costs ¥2600 (non-reserved) and takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

To get there, take a southbound train for Shingu or Kii-Katsuura, but make sure it's not going to Ise (a different line). The first train from Matsusaka to Owase is 5:20am, and the last is 8:50pm. If you're leaving, get a northbound train for Kameyama, Taki, or Nagoya. From Owase to Matsusaka the first train is 5:39am and the last is 6:15pm (or 7:01pm for Taki).

Bus

A Sanco bus runs from the JR side of Matsusaka Station to Owase every 1-2 hours, costs ¥2300 and takes around 2 hours. Buses from Owase to Nagoya run about 3 times a day and depart from Ototo (The shop in front of Central Shufu no Mise/Komeri) in Owase or from Circle K in Miyama. It takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes making limited stops and costs ¥3320 one-way, ¥5000 round-trip. This is cheaper than the Ltd Express train, but not quite as fast. If you want to go from Owase to Tokyo there's an overnight Sanco bus to and from Ikebukuro Station, which also stops in Matsusaka. It leaves Owase at 9pm and arrives in Tokyo at 6am.

Car

Take Route 42 south from Matsusaka, which leads directly into central Owase. While the road is windy and often slow, the scenery is amazing and you'll easily be able to get to the beaches etc.

If you want to drive via the expressway (There is a toll, from Tsu about ¥1300, but it cuts the winding roads and speeds up your journey significantly), you can take it as far as Kii-Nagashima. There is also a toll free section between Mihama and Owase. The expressway is going to be extended from Kii-Nagashima to Kumano, rumoured to be completed in October 2013.

Local Attractions

Scenic Spots

See Recreation below

Events and Festivals

  • Ya-Ya Matsuri (やや祭り)
    Bring your camera to this festival! The men of Owase get into neighborhood groups, stumble about the city carrying lanterns and drinking sake by the barrel. At specially designated areas, they brawl on bamboo-barricaded streets while yelling samurai chants. When everyone is absolutely wasted, everyone goes down to the harbour, and a few selected representatives strip naked and jump into the ocean. They swim out and perform a little ritual in the freezing cold sea water. It is a little difficult to get a good position to take pictures, because all the old women are pushing so they can see the naked men. However after they jump into the Owase harbour in the middle of winter there really is nothing to see anyway... Its an incredibly spirited, traditional and stirring matsuri. This festival happens across 4 or 5 days in the first week in February. The main brawling event is on 2nd to last night, and you can even participate if you're so inclined. The following day there is a traditional parade to Owase's shrine. On the last night, near the shrine grounds, you can see Japanese Archery and the procession of the chief priest of the shrine with a fake lion head on his head.
  • Obon Matsuri
    During this festival, hundreds of people dress up in traditional clothing and parade down the main street doing the "Owase Bushi" dance. Following this, there is a big fireworks display over the harbour. It is a great time to take pictures, because a lot of people dress in summer yukata. This festival happens the first Saturday in August, and nicely precedes Kumano's must-see immense fireworks festival held August 17th every year.

Services

Shopping

  • Aeon
    On route 42 towards the northern end of town. Groceries downstairs and household goods upstairs.

Supermarkets

  • Aeon
    On route 42 towards the northern end of town.
  • Shufu no Mise
    There are three locations. Sunburst is close to the station, Central is next to Owase High School and Segiyama is close to the harbour just down from the Owase High School JET's apartment. It is also the closest supermarket for the municipal JETs.

Restaurants and Bars

Owase is famous for its fresh fish and there are lots of great seafood restaurants in the town. There are good options for both Japanese and more western style restaurants.

  • Karashi Tei and Sun
    These are our favourite yakiniku places and are great places to go. Karashi Tei (above video store on Route 42) has delicious and reasonably priced Korean cuisine as well as yakiniku, while Sun (as in sun) has a very friendly owner who has had a number of sons disappear to Australia in the past. And he is happy to instruct you in the correct cooking technique, sauce to dip in, and other useful yakiniku skills!
  • Boo
    This not-so-scary coffee shop is located not far from Owase Hospital, just off of Route 42. The food in general is fantastic, but what keeps every ALT coming back for more, is its amazing Omrice. It is guaranteed to be the best that you have EVER eaten. Don't believe it?... then come and try it! The atmosphere is another great feature of this place ? the owner is extremely multi-skilled: apart from the world's best Omrice, he also makes/repairs golf clubs and is a great painter.
  • O-Kame
    A great 4-story bar/restaurant that offers a 4th-floor restaurant, with nice views of the ocean and surrounding mountains. Walk straight down from the station and look on your left for a tall building with lots of coloured party lights. Most notable for its okonomiyaki, the all-you-can-eat yakiniku and drink deals are quite an attraction, as is the 3rd-floor bar with MTV and billiards.
  • Yōrō no Taki and Dai Kichi
    These izakaya are located across the street from the park near the station. They have cheap beer and cocktails, and a good selection of yakitori. However, they often fill up in the evenings, so you'll have to poke your head in first to check for empty tables. Yoro no Taki has recently reopened with a fabulous atmosphere - a great place to hang out with your friends, and the menu has pictures! If Dai Kichi's full, head down to the main street and check out the yellow yakiniku place in front of the park, Tsungu.
  • Cozy Cafe
    This bar is a bright yellow house on Route 42 that you can't possibly miss! It's got an MTV-type channel on TV and an atmosphere that's been as close as you could come in this area to a real Western-style bar. Great drinks and Coronas are at about 700 yen, delicious coffee and tea, snacks and friendly owner and clientele.
  • Santa Papas, Collector, and Xenon
    These bars are among our favourites...fairly quiet but surprisingly sophisticated (until karaoke starts!). They are located in the area of bars to the right of the train station.

Recreation and Entertainment

Owase is a great place for outdoors activities and to get away from the hustle and bustle.

  • Hiking
    For hiking, the new UNESCO World Heritage Kumano Kodō (Ancient Road) winds through Miyama and Owase peaking at Tengura-san and Yaki-yama, two of our best and most accessible hikes. The Kodo is supposedly 1,000 or so years old and once stretched from Ise to Wakayama to Kyoto. Even today you could trek from Ise all the way down to Wakayama Ken. The path is dotted with shrines, ancient foliage, and stone trails to make you feel at least a little like an old Japanese pilgrim. Magose-Toge Pass trails from Miyama to Owase via Tengura-san ? it is about 6.5km and 2 ? hrs from station to station. This is an easy hike along the most beautiful moss covered stone paths of the Kodo and you can also head off to the top of Tengura for a fabulous view of Owase, Miyama and the Pacific Ocean. Way back when, Yaki-yama route was the most perilous mountain in western Japan due to the steep trail and ample precipitation, along with bandits and wolves that plagued the pilgrims. These days it is much better ? a 10km, 4 hr trail from Mukai bus stop to Mikisato station, with a open grass viewing spot with another panoramic view. Even better, the trail concludes near Mikisato beach where you can refresh yourself with a dip in the ocean (see Beaches).
  • River Swimming
    Often these mountain paths and roads will take you to a gorgeous mountain river with swimming holes deep enough to allow a jump off the nearest bridge or rock, or even a swing. The best places for swimming are at several locations along Choshigawa in Miyama and one location in the more humble Nakagawa of Owase. The rivers also offer sunny boulders on which to have a barbecue or take a nice nap, a frequent afternoon pastime of Owase and Miyama JETs. This is by far the most beautiful, relaxing and fun part of Owase!
  • Beaches
    Our best beaches are at Mikisato and Atashika, which are 15 and 30 minutes south of Owase respectively. They offer long white sandy beaches, clear blue water, and a surrounding backdrop of verdant mountains. These places are simply idyllic in the summer when the food stalls go up; you can sit in the shade, have lunch and a beer, and relax. They do draw some crowds during the "official" Japanese summer but it sure as hell isn't Tokyo Disneyland. A day at Atashika or Mikisato is always a day well spent. To get to these places, just take the local train south and get off after three or six stops after Owase. Be warned the trains in this area are VERY infrequent! There are also numerous rock and sandy beaches in Miyama. Some, like Yaguchi are better suited to BBQs and beach-side activities like soccer, Frisbee, or cricket than swimming. Yaguchi is also very close to awesome tennis facilities. A small gorgeous beach with brand new facilities has opened called Wagu Beach. This is currently our favourite beach! There's also a place near the river mouth of Choshigawa that is a popular local spot for surfing, especially before and after a typhoon. These places are more easily accessed by car, but also make for a great bike ride.
  • Onsens
    While Owase has the usual selection of slightly suspect sentos (public baths), the onsens (natural hot springs) are much nicer. There are excellent ones in Atashika (just 5 minutes from the beach!), Shimo-Kitayama Onsen in Nara Ken (an hour's drive into the mountains), and two in Kii-Nagashima, slightly north of Owase.
  • Observatory
    The Owase Municipal Astronomical Observatory is located in the tree-covered mountain slopes in the centre of Owase. This public observatory offers panoramic views of the city and bay below. The Observatory is very well equipped with a massive 80 cm reflecting telescope as the primary instrument. This telescope would be the envy of many public observatories around the world, but is fairly typical of such facilities in Japan. It's open for stargazing Friday and Saturday nights 7.00 - 9.30pm.
  • Karaoke
    As in most places in Japan, there are more karaoke places than we could ever visit. Lucky for us, we have found a few places that we really love and we don't have to look any further. Probably the best place is in Miyama: In appearance it has nothing to boast about, but when the price is great and the foreign song collection is expansive, it doesn't matter if you are singing in an old freezer unit/ship container box. As for Owase, Crystal Palace along Route 42 has the most modern facilities and variety of karaoke systems, and Star tucked away near the river is a cheap and fun alternative.


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