Tsu (津市, Tsu-shi) is a medium-sized city in central Mie that is home to about 280,000 people. It recently merged with some towns and villages that are rather far away from the city center so the "city" of Tsu covers quite a large area. Tsu is the capital city of Mie, and many JET meetings are held here. You are likely to visit the city at least a few times during your stay, for both meetings and social events.
"Tsu", unlike most city names, isn't simply a name but is actually a noun in the Japanese language meaning "a place where ships stop", or, simply put, "port". The "tsu" of tsunami uses the same kanji. Additionally, the popular Chinese dish tenshinhan uses the "tsu" kanji, albeit pronounced "shin".
Tsu prides itself on having the "shortest name in the world", which is dependent on the definition one uses for "short". The Japanese language, unlike many of the world's languages, is constructed of moras, which are discreet units often formed from a consonant sound and a vowel sound, similar to a syllable but far more constricted. Tsu's name is a single mora, a claim no other cities in Japan can make, thus making it the shortest city name in Japan by Japanese phonetic reckoning. Additionally, spoken Japanese occasionally drops the final "u" or "i" vowel sound of moras beginning with "t", "ch", "s", and "k". Said by a Japanese person, Tsu sounds like "ts", a single voiceless alveolar affricate, making it likely the shortest city name, as said aloud, in the world.
However, rendered into Roman characters, Tsu is spelt either "Tu" or "Tsu". The former qualifies Tsu as among the shortest city name in the world, but certainly not the shortest, wheras the latter removes it from the running entirely. Additionally, using the Roman alphabet, other Japanese cities could qualify, such as 大江, which, despite being three moras within the Japanese language, is rendered Ōe in Roman characters.
Additionally, if written phonetically in Japanese, it is merely one stroke of the brush. Certainly there are no city names as easy to write as that.
Tsu absorbed far more cities/towns/villages than anywhere else in Mie during the municipal mergers that occurred across Japan in the 2000's, and for it has become the largest city by area in Mie. Towns merged into Tsu include:
- Hisai (久居市), in the southern section. West of Hisai station is a commercially-built-up area that includes a Jusco, a SEGA arcade, a Starbucks, and other strip-mall-esque stores.
- Anō (安農町), a very bucolic farming area well west and some north of Tsu Shinmachi Station.
- Kawage (河芸町), near the border of Tsu and Suzuka, and containing the impressively-named Mega Price Cut store.
- Geinō (芸濃町), another farming area located west and north of Tsu core.
- Misato (美里村)
- Ichishi (一志町), a small town located between Hisai and Hakusan along the Kumozu river. A number of the giant stone lanterns at the Tokaido waypoints can be discovered here.
- Hakusan (白山町), another very distant town, home to Louvre Statue Garden.
- Karasu (香良洲町), located at the bifurcation of the Igawa river.
- Misugi (美杉村), one of the towns most distant from the core of Tsu but having beautiful cherry blossoms during the sakura season.
Kintetsu is the railway you will likely find yourself riding most of the time. There are generally about four of each service type running through every hour (until trains stop just after midnight). There are five main stations in Tsu. In order, from north to south, they are: Edobashi, Tsu, Tsu Shinmachi, Minamigaoka, and Hisai.
- Edobashi (江戸橋) Station is for local and express trains and is found one stop north of Tsu Station. It is the closest rail station to Mie University and the Mie University Hospital.
- Tsu (津) Station has all train types stopping here. It is a dual station, with both a Kintetsu and a JR side. This is also the main bus terminal for Tsu.
- Tsu Shimmachi (津新町) Station is a Kintetsu station for local and express trains, one stop south of Tsu station. Nearby is the the main post office, Tsu City Hall, and some of the buses for small nearby towns. This station is also the nearest to the residences of many of the Tsu City Board of Education ALTs.
- Minamigaoka (南が丘) Station is a local stop only, one stop south of Shinmachi. Get off here to access the license center.
- Hisai (久居) Station, located in eastern Hisai, caters to local, express, and limited express trains.
The JR companies comprise the main railway in Japan. Unfortunately, their service in Mie do not compare favorably with Kintetsu. However, JR is your only choice if you are headed to inland southwestern Mie, the far south of Mie, and further south to Wakayama. Be sure to check a timetable before riding.
- Tsu (津) Station is the only JR station in Tsu at which to catch the Mie-go express and the wideview limited express.
- Akogi (阿漕) Station is a ancient unmanned station near Tsu Shinmachi, one stop south of Tsu. More interesting for its relic status than its usefulness. Only the "one-man" locals stop here.
- Takachaya (高茶屋) Station is the next local stop after Akogi, and the station closest to the Sun Valley Jusco and nearby stores.
Sanco provides local service in Tsu. The main terminals are located at Tsu Station; Mie Kaikan (三重会館), which is located on the corner of Route 23 and Phoenix Street, across from the Tsu Central post office; and Tsu Shinmachi Station. Sanco runs frequently, but can be unreliable during busy times and be rather expensive.
- Tsu City Hall (津市役所, Tsu shiyakusho)
- Located near Tsu Shimmachi Station, Route 23, and downtown Tsu, you'll go here to take care of alien registration. Additionally, you can also pick up foreign language guides on living in Tsu here, including the various trash pickup schedules.
- Tsu Region Plaza
- Adjacent to City Hall, the Tsu International Exchange Association sponsors an ethnic cooking class every last Sunday of the month, conducted in Japanese. As well, free volunteer Japanese language classes are held here every Sunday evening.
- Tsu Central Post Office
- Across the street from the Center Palace on Route 23, undelivered packages can be picked up here if you bring your alien registration card and the non-delivery slip to the postal counter. The postal counter here is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Post office baking services are open until 4 PM and special mailing services until 8 PM.
- Mie University Library
- Although the library is small, it has a decent selection of academic Western literature in many languages, as well as free Internet access. Bring your alien registration card and fill out the brief application form for a library card. Some of the staff speak a little English and are quite willing to assist you.
- MIEF: Mie International Exchange Foundation (三重県国際交流財団 Mie-ken kokusai kōryū zaidan)
- A publicly-funded private company involved with international exchange events and assisting the resident foreign population. In addition to sponsoring some events, the MIEF also publishes quarterly newsletters in Japanese, English and Portuguese. They have a small library with literature, country-related information and travel guides. You can check these materials out for up to two weeks. They also have free Internet with about 5 PCs. You will need to sign a small form first. There is an English bulletin board with language exchange notices, and you can even reserve meeting rooms for free. The foundation is located on the 3rd floor of the the UST building beside Tsu Station. They're open from 9 AM to 10 PM everyday. This is also where some of the Tsu CIRs work.
- Mie Prefectural Hospital (三重病院 Mie byōin)
- A national-level hospital located between Tsu core and Geinō, this is a good place to get immunisations before travelling overseas. Access is difficult, but you can take a bus from either Tsu Shimmachi Station or Tsu Station to arrive here.
- Japanese Classes
- Third Floor of Center Palace, Sunday 6 PM to 8 PM, no charge
- These are free one-on-one sessions with volunteers. For more information contact Yukio Suzuki at (059)229-3102.
- MIEF, Friday 10 AM to 12 PM, ¥500 per month.
- Located on the 3rd floor of the UST building at Tsu Station, these are one on one sessions. For more information, please contact the PAs.
- Kita Rissei Elementary School, Saturday 7 PM to 9 PM, ¥100 enrollment fee and ¥500 textbook fee
- Hidden back from Route 23, across the street from Mie University Hospital and Yoshinoya. These classes are one-on-one for language study and cultural exchange. For more information contact Nishioka-san at 059-231-2895.
- Third Floor of Center Palace, Sunday 6 PM to 8 PM, no charge
Places to See
- Kairaku Park (偕楽公園, Kairaku kōen)
- Has a long history dating back to the 1630s and is known for its cherry trees (sakura) and azaleas in the spring. Masses of locals gather here for hanami (花見, "flower viewing") under the cherry blossoms at the festival in early April. Go out the west exit of Tsu Station, and at the first stoplight you will see a corner of the park across the street and to the left. The bigger portion is up on the hill, behind the smaller park on the corner.
- Mie Prefectural Art Museum (三重県立美術館, Mie kenritsu bijutsukan)
- The best general art gallery in Mie with examples of both Western and Japanese contemporary art, including Rodin sculptures. It's adjacent to the Kyōiku Center (教育センター), which is where the late-November ALT meeting is held. Exit Tsu Station going west and walk straight up the hill: the museum is on the left. Official website (English).
- Mie Center for the Arts (三重県総合文化センター, Mie-ken sōgō bunka sentā)
- A complex of buildings which include a concert hall, rehearsal areas, Mie Prefectural Library, an art gallery, the Women's Center, and related services. The JET ALT Mid-Year Seminar is held here in January. The library has a large range of English and other foreign language books, magazines and newspapers. The library is open from 9 AM and closes at 7 PM on Tuesday through Friday, 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday. They're closed on Monday, the last day of the month, days following public holidays, and other periods as posted. To get to the center, exit west from Tsu station, continuing up the hill for about twenty to twenty-five minutes.
- Senjū Temple (専修寺, Senjū-ji)
- The largest Buddhist temple in Mie and main temple of the Takada sect. The main worship hall has a 725-tatami mat floor. The Oshichiya (御七夜, "seven nights") Festival is from January 9th to 16th. Jinai-cho neighborhood surrounds the Senjuji temple. This area is still encompassed by a moat and is home to some older houses, which give this part of town a flavor very distinct from that of most of Tsu. Some of the homes are even designated historical properties. The temple is a straight walk east of Kintetsu's Takadahonzan (高田本山) Station or a short walk east of JR' Isshinden (一身田) Station. The temple complex is recognizable instantly for its very tall, traditional-style roof.
- Unyu-en Garden
- Next door to the Senjūji, this garden is home to the Anraku-an Tea House, built in the Edo Period.
- Yūki Shrine (結城神社, Yūki-jinja)
- Awash with weeping ume in late February and early March, this shrine is probably the best place in Mie to see plum blossoms. While ume aren't necessarily as colourful or showy as sakura, they have a very distinctive and sweet smell. The shrine collects an entrance fee of ¥500.
- Kannon (観音寺, Kannon-ji)
- A big temple at the north end of Daimon. It's a fairly nondescript temple running toward the garish side, appropriate to its location. Recent construction makes it one of the tallest in Mie at five stories, because the first three stories sunk in an earthquake in 1498. There's a fire-walking rite done there in the summer, and if you are a Tsu City Board of Education ALT you might get taken down there to try it out.
- Shitenno Temple (四天王寺, Shitennō-ji)
- Located across the street from the prefectural government Office, directly south of Tsu Station, and a few streets back from Route 23. It was almost completely destroyed in World War II, and the Sanmon Gate is the only original building on the site.
- Torii Tomb (鳥居古墳, Torii kofun)
- An ancient tomb found behind the Mie History Museum in Kairaku Park. It dates from the 6th century AD.
- Tsu Castle Ruins (津城跡, Tsujō-ato)
- The ruins can be found on the east side of City Hall, just west of Route 23. Built in 1580 and later inhabited by the Todo Clan, it was destroyed in a fire and never rebuilt. Only the inner moat, gate and a modern Japanese-style garden remain. The park here is especially nice in the fall when the leaves change color.
- Akogi Beach (阿漕浦海水浴場, Akogi ura kaisuiyokujō)
- A stretch of beach extending south from Tsu Yacht Harbor to the boat racing facility, in the past, fishing along this beach was banned and punishable by death. In modern times, this is a popular stretch of beach for clamming in the late spring and swimming in the summer. On the southern end, past the beach-side restaurants, are public volleyball nets.
- Sakakibara Onsen (榊原温泉)
- Located on the outskirts of Tsu, Sakakibara is a town with natural hot springs in the area. From the Kintetsu stop Sakakibara Onsen-guchi, you can catch a free bus provided by the hotel/resort to the onsen. Most buses leave once an hour from the station and a return bus leaves once an hour from the onsen back to the train station.
Events and Festivals
- Tsu Festival (津祭 Tsu matsuri)
- This festival dates back to 1632 and started on an annual basis in 1635. You can see dancing and jagouma (demons riding on horseback with gunpowder blasts). In previous years, gaijin parades were organized. The matsuri takes place in front of Daimon around the 10th of October.
- Hanabi (花火, "firework") takes place on August 1st of every year at the Tsu Yacht Harbor and generally start around 7:30 PM, going until about 8:45 PM. Buses run specifically for this event. Expect crowded conditions and blocked streets. Take a blanket and walk a little south of the crowds for an excellent spot on the beach. Check the local stations for a special newspaper ad for the event around this time.
- Sun Valley (イオン津南ショッピングセンターサンバレー)
- This complex in southern Tsu has just about everything, including Jusco (a discount store), a grocery store, an electronics store, a golf supplies store, a sporting goods store, numerous restaurants and clothing stores, and an arcade. Located on the street that runs directly behind Sun Valley, parallel to Route 23, are Geo (new and used media and video games), BookOff and its sister chair HardOff (used media, video games, electronics, and musical instruments), and, further north, a 2nd Street (secondhand everything, from furniture and clothes to electronics).
- SATY (サティ)
- A large shopping center with a movie theater near Tsu Station, SATY is open from 10 AM to 11 PM and has a range of shops, including a grocery store with a better-than-average selection of foreign foods. Directly north of SATY, across Route 114, is K's Electronics store, a ¥100 shop, a used goods store, and other shops in a strip mall. South of SATY along Route 114 is Eiden, Uniqlo, and Cosmos, which sell electronics, American Apparel-esque Western clothes, and higher-end groceries, respectively.
- Arte (ヤマナカアルテ)
- A shopping complex along Tsu Shinmachi Street, near Tsu Sports. It holds a large, reasonably-priced supermarket (Yamanaka), a large hardware store (Kahma), a discount clothing store, a ¥100 store (Seria), and a food court with McDonald's, Sugakiya ramen, and a Japanese food shop. Occasionally a yakitori vendor sets up his truck in front of the store. Yamanaka is open until 10 PM, but the rest of the complex closes at 8:30 PM.
- Watasei (わたせい)
- A store that sells textiles at very cheap prices, with numerous branches around Tsu. Seems to have large sizes of most items.
- Matsubishi (松菱)
- One of the only upscale department stores in Mie, with numerous floors of expensive clothing. It also has a foreign food store, Sapore, in the basement, with high prices but delicacies such as real cheese, good coffee, and an impressive chocolate range. They also sometimes have bagels in the first floor bakery, as well as a Moku Moku Farms outlet secreted in the back. Located on the northeast corner of Tsu Shimmachi Street and Route 23.
- Located on Route 114 on the east side of the street, roughly halfway between the Ano and Iwada rivers, this store has lots of electronic goods, furniture, antiques, and records.
- Book Kingdom (本の王国)
- This store, located on Route 10 just north of the Mie Cultural Center, carries CDs, videos, and games. Located across from Max Value, next to McDonald's, it has a great selection of English movies and some English CDs to rent and buy. New movies rent for ¥400 a night and older movies ¥300 for a week. One weekend a month, all older videos and CDs are just ¥100 and new releases ¥200. They will post signs for this special about two weeks beforehand. You need to sign up for a membership, and though it is about ¥200, this includes coupons for ¥100 off normal rentals.
- Bessho Shoten (別所書店)
- Well stocked book store chain. Convenient locations near the prison in Shinmachi and in Saty. This is the location to buy applications for the JLPT or pick up ones for the Kanji Kentei. They carry a moderate number of English books and can order many items which are not in stock.
Food and Drink
- See Food and Drink in Tsu - 39 listings
Recreation and Entertainment
- Round 1
- Bowling, karaoke, pool, arcade, and a few more things. Near Sun Valley.
- Grand Bowl
- Way south down on Route 23 near Gusto. Look for the huge bowling pin outside.
- One of the cheapest Karaoke joints near Shimmachi. Take a left out of Shimmachi station and follow the road until you reach the AM/PM convenience store (6th light). Then take a left and follow that road for about 5 min. It will be on your left next to a golfing range. The Tsu Sports center is across the street.map
- Japan Rent-a-car
- Cheap karaoke with good song selection, is open 24 hours and allows alcohol carry-ins. Generally costs about 1500 yen per room per hour, or an all night pack for about 7000. Located on 23 bypass near intesection with 23. Lawson is just across the street.map
- Movie theater
- Located next door to the SATY on Route 114, general admission for this cinema is ¥2000. However, half-priced tickets are avaliable the first of every month, every Wednesday for females, and every Monday for pairs.
- This is a 24 hour manga cafe on Route 23, north of Edobashi. The cafe has a one-time ¥100 membership fee and an hourly fee of ¥400, including all you can drink juice and soda. Three hour, five hour, and all-night deals also exist. The first floor is a manga and Internet cafe, with half-court baskeball outside. The second floor has billiards, air hockey, darts, ping pong, karaoke, and mahjong.
- Bass1 (map)
- A live music club located in the basement of a building on the east side of Daimon. It hosts different varieties of music, but tends to loud/punk-type rock. Usually has one or two shows each weekend, with cover ranging from ¥1000 to ¥3000.
- Tsu Boat Racing (津競艇 Tsu kyōtei)
- Hosts hydroplane boat races for about 2-3 weeks a month, generally running from 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is ¥100 and minimum bet is ¥100. The races and procedure are conducted in Japanese, but if you've been to any kind of races before it should be easy enough to figure out. Free shuttles run half-hourly from both Shinmachi and Tsu Stations.
- Tsu Baseball Stadium (津野球場 Tsu yakyū-jō)
- Between Rt. 23 and the Bypass. When traveling south on 23, turn left just after the Iwada River. Go a little ways and make a right just before the Home Run Pachinko. It is right there behind the Tsu Gym and by Denny's. High School playoffs are held here every summer.
Sports and Gyms
- Tsu Swimming Club
- Across the street from the Route 114 SATY, this club has two pools, aerobics classes, and a small gym. The membership is around ¥8000 with a minimum one year contract.
- Asahi Swimming Club
- A smaller pool, but less expensive than the Tsu Swimming Club. It has one pool and a small gym. The monthly membership is around ¥4000. To get there head west on Phoenix street and pass under the Kintetsu railroad bridge. At the second light (look for the stork sign) take a left. It is a 5 minute walk from there. You will see in on your left.
- A modern health club, one next to Denny's and another next to the Prefectural Culture Center. The membership is quite expensive but it has the latest workout machines, an indoor pool and tennis courts.
- Shakai Hoken Center Gym
- Located near Tsu Station. The gym appears a little ancient, but has a nautilus, running machines, Stairmasters, and showers. A three month membership costs ¥15000 or you can pay each time for ¥710. From Tsu Station, go out of the West Exit and head straight. Take a left at the first traffic light and walk about ten minutes. It will be on your right at the third traffic light.
- Tsu City Gym
- Mostly good for the weight room. The have free weights, several lifting machines, two treadmills, two rowing machines, and a fat shaking belt. Entrance is ¥300, and there are monthly ticket packs available at a discount. The gym itself is on a rotating schedule for sports such as basketball, ping pong, badminton, etc. Get a copy of the montly schedule just inside the entrance. Take the road towards the Yacht Harbor across from the Hyakugo Bank on Route 23.
- Tsu Sports Center (map)
- Has batting cages, tennis courts, ping-pong tables, soccer courts, golf, and amusement games. Go west out of Shinmachi station past the Lawson, and continue down the small road, looking south until you see the familiar billowing nets of a driving range. Turn as if to go toward the driving range and take the left turn across from the car wash behind the driving range. The Sports Center will be located on your left. Batting costs ¥300 a round, using cards bought from the machine at the entrance to the batting area.
- Tsu Aikido Kai - 059-228-3244
- Training: Tuesday, Friday & Sunday 20:00 - 23:00
- Kyokushin Karate (Mie Branch) - 059-424-9080
- Training (Tsu Dojo): Wednesday & Saturday 19:00-20:30
- Kyokushin Karate (Jike Dojo) - 059-234-1265. Head teacher speaks English
- Training (Tsu Dojo): Monday, Wednesday & Saturday 18:00-21:00
- Gishinjuku Karate - 059-524-4172
- Training (Tsu Dojo): Wednesday & Saturday 19:45-21:00
- Shorinji Kempo: Tsu Higashi Douin - 059-233-0004. Head teacher speaks English
- Training: Wednesday 20:00-21:30. Saturday 19:30-21:30
- Masaru Boxing Gym - 090-2268-3157 (speaks English)
- Training: Monday to Saturday from 3:00 PM and Sunday from 2:00 PM.
- Tsu eats more unagi-don (うなぎ丼, "eel rice bowl"), a type of donburi with grilled eel as a topping, than anywhere else in Japan.
- Tsu is one of many Japanese cities that claim to be the origin of ichigo-daifuku (イチゴ大福), a type of sweet composed of mochi with a strawberry and sweet bean paste within. However, it is the undisputed origin of tenmusu (天むす）, rice balls made with shrimp tempura. The originating shop, Senju (千寿) is still open in the Daimon district of Tsu.
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