Mihama (御浜町 : mihama-chō) is a small, rural town located in the Deep South of Mie Prefecture. As of 2003, the town has an estimated population of 9,963. There were rumors of Mihama merging with the slightly larger "city" of Kumano, but a new town office, and a lot of pride, apparently prevented this from happening.
Mihama is famous for mikan (mandarin oranges). Most likely because of its sub-tropical location, it has become known as “the town where you can pick mikan all year long" (年中みかんのとれる町). This phrase is everywhere in town, it's even written on the manhole covers, accompanied by a picture of a smiling orange.
Located to the north is Kumano, which is a bit bigger than Mihama, and located to the south (across the prefectural border) is Shingū, which is bigger than Kumano. Kiho is on the way to Shingu and is a place to stop and see some cute sea turtles!
The name "Mihama" could be roughly translated as "The Beach" - emphasis on "The". 「御」, the first kanji in the name, doesn't really have any meanings by itself, it just is supposed to convey honor. 「浜」 means beach.
There are other coastal towns in Japan called "Mihama" but most of them use 「美」 (beauty) for the first kanji instead, a character that is also read "mi" in names. It's not unreasonable to then conjecture that "Mihama" means "beautiful beach", and that the Mihama in Mie for some reason chose an alternate character when it came time to assign kanji to the name.
The name was without a doubt inspired by the pebble beach that runs along the town's coast.
Getting a car is highly recommended if living in Mihama. It makes travel a lot easier, and you won’t have to depend on the absurdly slow and unreliable local trains.
There is no main "Mihama" station, but rather several small local stations including Atawa (阿田和) Station and Koshiyama (神志山）Station. It is located on the ridiculously inconvenient JR Kisei line – roughly 1 train every couple of hours, and they don't run very late. So checking train times before you want to travel is vital. If you transfer or get a ride to Kumanoshi station in the north, you can ride an express train to Nagoya from there. Limited expresses to Osaka leave from Shingu station in the south.
Things to See
- Shichiri Mihama (七里御浜)
- The town is also located along a stretch of beach, its name literally meaning the "7-ri beach", a ri being a unit of distance used in olden Japan. It is one of the longest pebble beaches in Japan. Unfortunately, a sharp drop off and a wicked current make swimming extremely dangerous.
- 起請の水 (Kishou no mizu?)
- There is a neat little area across from the town hall (often closed, but easy to get over the gate and have a look-see) with a bunch of ancient looking rocks surrounding a small pond and some Buddha statues. I believe it is a prayer spot associated with the Kumano Kodo.
- 600 year old juniper tree
- There exists a 600 year old juniper tree which has its own plaque designating it as a natural monument of Mie. Located right behind Ichigi preschool, not far from Ichigi station. Don't get your hopes too far up though, it's just a tree. If you like trees, however. Photo: http://www.mikumano.net/meguri/itiginoibuki.html
- Momotaro Rock
- A giant rock split in half, named so because it's thought to look like the peach Momotaro was born from in the famous Japanese fairy tale. Part of a hiking trail out past Oroshi and no way accessible by train. Link: http://www.mikumano.net/meguri/momotaroiwa.html Note: After the big 2011 typhoon there seems to be some fallen trees blocking the path, dunno when/if that will be cleaned up :(
- Mihama Town Office (御浜町役場 mihama chō yakuba)
- Located right off of Route 42, this is where the municpal ALT will be based. It is also where you need to go to get most paperwork done. This includes alien registration, inkan (name seal) registration, and, I’m sure, many other types of registration related red-tape.
- Post Office (郵便局 yūbin kyoku)
- For Atawa, it is at the intersection just south of Pine. For Koshiyama, continue along the road that has Mihama junior high school, until you're driving along the rice fields, past the lights and you'll see a sign for it on your left. It's hidden on a side road. The Koshiyama post office is smaller than the Atawa one though, so they get a bit more flustered than Atawa does when sending overseas mail. They're super helpful in both places though and usually figure things out! Mail services are open until 5, other services (like sending money) are only open until 4:30 so you'll have to go during lunch for that kind of thing.
- The main hospital in the area is Kinan Hopsital (紀南病院 kinan byōin). While most of the doctors don’t speak English, there are a few exceptions. There is a doctor who works in Internal Medicine who comes to the hospital every Thursday, and her English is excellent.
- In terms of clinics, most people go to Taniguchi Clinic, located off of Route 42 heading toward Kumano. Close to the town hall.
- Just off of 42, this is the town’s main shopping center. The selection is not great, but most of your basic grocery needs can be found here. It also contains a small 100 yen store, a few clothing shops, an old arcade where all the elementary students hang out, as well as a coin-operated as a laundry mat downstairs. This is also your go-to place for all your Mihama tourist information and souvenirs! Plus the restaurant on the top floor, above the touristy stuff, has free wi-fi. Said restaurant is, however, almost never open. Luckily though they seem to keep the wi-fi on even when it's not and there are some benches on that same floor, as well as a small free mikan museum.
- Moriyama is the big pink store on route 42. You'll find medication and beauty products here that you can't get in the regular grocery stores.
Food and Drink
Supermarkets and Kombini
- Grocery store. There is one located in Atawa inside Pine. The one in Koshiyama has closed. :( Incidentally there is a 24 hour Okuwa in Kumano, located on route 42.
- Circle K
- This is the only convenience store in town. You’ll also find that Circle K has a monopoly on the southern part of Mie. You can pay most of your bills here, but be careful with purchasing tickets online and trying to pay for them at Circle K (some online vendors only accept FamilyMart or Lawson’s). There are a couple Lawsons in Shingū.
Restaurants and Cafes
- This is a good okonomiyaki restaurant located directly across from Atawa Elementary School. The servings are a good size, and the cheese & mochi okonomiyaki is a personal favorite. I’ve had them cook the okonomiyaki for me, and I’ve attempted to cook it myself. Just let them know what you prefer.
- This place has good donburi and udon. The restaurant is underneath Pine. The people that own the shop seem a little unfriendly, but since the restaurant is so convenient, just ignore them. I like the mochi udon the best.
- This is the restaurant on top of Pine. It is huge and has free wifi. However it is almost never open at all, and when it is, it closes super early. But, there are some tables you can sit at and use the wifi whether it's open or not. I've sat up there on a bench with my laptop a few times just watching the people come, realize it's closed, and leave. *shrugs*
- Café Noel (ノエル）
- This is a pleasant little café nestled between Pine and Daisan Bank. When the salarymen aren’t filling the place up with smoke, it can be a nice place to relax with a book. The drinks are a bit on the expensive side, but the fruit parfait is amaaaazing. They also always have a cheap lunch special.
- An italian restaurant located left of the Circle K and Moriyama complex on route 42 (on the way to Kiho). Very popular. Huge portions. Beware of the eastern-style natto pasta, though.
- Okagesande (おかげさんで）
- A mostly vegetarian (!) buffet. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday, only open for lunch 11-2. Located on route 42 with a wooden sign in hiragana.
- Koishitei (こいし亭)
- An udon restaurant on route 42 not far south from Koshiyama station, the one with the old woman on the sign. Their cheese curry udon is soooo cheeeesyyy...! There is another udon restaurant with drive-through a little bit north of this one which is good as well, but I like Koishitei better. Closed Wednesdays and...?
- Perhaps pronounced "Mutsu", this is a Chinese restaurant on route 42 just south of the main Atawa hub. It is a stand alone restaurant with nothing around it and is often empty, but it's not half bad. Pretty big place, too. Try the sesame broth. They also have karaage (fried chicken) ramen which I ordered out of curiosity just to discover it's two soggy pieces of fried chicken thrown in with the ramen. Probably best to just order the karaage as a side... Closed Thursdays and every 3rd Wednesday.
- Rui (ルイ)
- Or is it Louie? This restaurant is very close to Kinan high school. Japanese-style western food. Cheap lunch special.
Recreation and Entertainment
There isn’t much to do in the town of Mihama itself. The pebble beach is nice to walk along, and there are some nice trails located across the bridge from Pine.
There is however a karaoke place on frequented by some elderly residents on a sidestreet in the back of Atawa called "季明" that has provided us with some good times.
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