Okage Yokocho | Mochi, Gyudon, and more...
The ancient street leading up towards the Ise Grand Shrine is called the Okage Yokocho Ancient Street. This ancient street is the perfect combination of traditional and modernity, where the buildings’ architecture is all preserved as well as the food and crafts, however, the interior are decorated and renovated to fit the modern needs.
Located in front of Ise Jingu, the town recreates several prominent buildings on the Ise-ji Route that dates back to the Edo and Meiji period (1603 - 1912). It was built in 1993 by the founder to express their gratitude to the Ise Jingu, hence the name "Okage" which means thankfulness in English. The buildings have been faithfully reproduced; some of these include the Tsumairi-style buildings, as well as the Kizami kakoi, which are buildings with an outer wall to protect them against the strong rain and wind in Ise.
You could find everything you would want on a trip here in the street. There are small vendors that sell high-quality souvenirs, hundred-year-old food stalls that sell the local specialties, and museums that document the local history. If you’re visiting the Ise Grand Shrine, don’t ever skip the ancient street that precedes it.
Food specialty in Okage Tokocho, Akafuku Mochi（赤福）:
Perhaps one of the most representative foods of Ise, the Akafuku Mochi is a pounded rice cake confection topped with sweet bean paste. The shape of the mochi symbolizes the Isuzu River which flows through this region. It was invented in the Akafuku tea house, which is established about 300 years ago in 1707 to welcome those making the pilgrimage to the Ise Grand Shrine.
Visit the Akafuku tea house on the ancient street, which sells only the Akafuku Mochi (one day each month, on the day of worship, they would sell a special sweet called 朔日餅 to celebrate. The sales start at 4 AM, it is a different variation every month so it sells out super fast, be there early if you want to have a bite). Taste some there (they would also serve you with a side of hot tea) and bring some home as a souvenir, but beware of the expiration dates because they don’t have preservatives. (If you want to bring back a souvenir, it is also sold at the Centrair airport)
Across from the Akafuku tea house, you could try some seasonal dishes made from the Akafuku Mochi. In summer, there is an Akafuku Mochi shaved ice, and in winter there is a hot red bean mochi soup.
For the special sweet each month this is the list for each month:
Feburary：立春大吉餅 (Soybean and black soybean Mochi)
March：艾草糕 (Caozaiguo, khui with Jersey cudweed)
June：麦手餅 (Brown sugar “mochi” made with wheat)
July：竹筒水羊羹 (Bamboo shoot Mizu-yokan)
August：八朔栗餅 (Brown sugar mochi made with Foxtail millet and Glutinous rice)
October：栗餅 (Mochi with sweet chestnut)
November：ゑびす餅 (Sorry, I can’t really figure out what this is)
December：雪餅 (“Snow Mochi”)
P.S. There is also special porridges served on this day of worship, same as the sweets, it’s different every month and is served at 壽司久.
Akafuku tea house (赤福)
Address：三重県伊勢市宇治中之切町26番地（伊勢神宮內宮前おかげ横丁）/ 26 Ujinakanokiricho, Ise, Mie 516-0025, Japan
朔日餅 selling time：4:45 AM
Address：三重県伊勢市宇治中之切町20（伊勢神宮內宮前おかげ横丁）/ 20 Ujinakanokiricho, Ise, Mie 516-0025, Japan
朔日粥 selling time：4:45 AM
Butasute (Okage Tokocho) （豚捨）:
This is a restaurant specializing in Gyudon made using the infamous Matsuzaka Beef bred in the Ise region. The Matsuzaka beef is one of the three major Wagyu cattle breeds, often regarded as an art of beef. It has a rich, high-quality aroma. This restaurants’ menu is incredibly simple, with only several dishes including Gyudon, Yakiniku sets, Sukiyaki, and Croquette. The beef here is so incredible that the name of the restaurant means, “throw away the pork”, derived from a famous legend: "The store's beef was so good, customers started saying, "let's throw out the pork!". The Gyudon set includes a Gyudon(grilled beef and onion), miso soup, a side dish and a raw egg(additional cost) that could be cracked onto the Gyudon. Their croquette is also very famous and delicious. (Gyudon: 1000yen, Croquette: 150yen)
The Gyudon is rich with flavor and drenched in the Matsuzaka beef’s aromatic fat and juices, mixed together with the high-quality raw egg the gyudon becomes silky and smooth, wonderfully harmonizing the beef with the sauce, egg, and Japanese rice. The meals here are extremely simple yet effectively showcases the high-quality ingredients they’ve used, it is one of the best meals you could get here in Mie. I recommend adding the raw egg, as it is what I personally think that brings the whole dish together.
This restaurant could also be found in other areas in Mie, if you are traveling to Mie you need to try their Gyudon, it’s out of the world!
Butasute (Okage Tokocho) （豚捨）
Service hours: Mon-Wed: 09:30-17:30 Fri-Sun: - 09:30-17:30
Snoopy Tea House (Snoopy Cha-Ya):
If you love the character Snoopy, I’ve found your place in Okage Tokocho: The Snoopy Tea House!! This tea house and toy shop specialize in Peanuts-themed goods and dishes. The cafe has many dishes inspired by Snoopy and offers popular Japanese treats, such as Shiratama Zenzai and omelets. Although this may not be the best food you’ve ever tasted, it would be the cutest food you’ve ever seen.
Everything inside is printed with snoopy, from the tissue to the coasters. They have tea with marshmallows shaped like snoopy at the top, they have cakes shaped as snoopy, they even have curry rice shaped like snoopy.
There is also a shop attached to the side of the restaurant/cafe, where snoopy themed souvenirs are sold and are often crowded, so get here either before lunch hours or after during the afternoon tea period.
Snoopy Tea House
Address: 64 Ujiimazaike-cho
Service hours: 09:00-17:00
This brewery brews a special type of alcohol which is often served to the gods in Shinto, it is one of the most well-known brands in Ise. Many tourists come here to buy some of the well know rice wine back home. You could test the rice wines here, they would also offer you salt to pair with it. It is of historical importance, be sure to stop by if you pass by.
Address: 29 Ujiimazaikecho, Ise, Mie 516-0024, Japan
Phone: +81 596-22-4506
Service Hours: 10 AM - 5 PM
Okage Yokocho (おかげ横丁)
Address: 52 Ujinakanokiricho, Ise, Mie 516-8558, Japan
For more on the Ise Grand Shrine see: https://www.sgdym-dw.com/post/a-exclusive-shinto-shrine-the-ise-grand-shrine