A modern city of tradition, festivals and beef
Matsusaka is the perfect choice for travelers wanting to experience traditional architecture, crafts, food, and festivals, without venturing into the more remote countryside. Located north of Ise, Matsusaka offers all the comfort and convenience of urban Japan.
- Lively local festivals
- History dating back to the days of the shoguns
- Renowned Matsusaka beef
How to Get There
Matsusaka has convenient connections via the JR and Kintetsu rail lines.
You can reach Matsusaka from Nagoya in just over an hour. Namba Station in Osaka is only an hour and a half away, and the trip from Kyoto Station is nearly two hours.
A city with a proud mercantile history
In feudal times when the shogun ruled Japan, Matsusaka was a castle town. Production of cotton fabric used in kimono (called "Matsusaka Momen") thrived in the city, and brought great wealth to local businesses who sold their wares in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (modern-day Tokyo).
Matsusaka Castle area
The ruins of Matsusaka Castle still remain today. While the keep was leveled by a storm in 1644, and a fire destroyed the palace of the second bailey in 1877, many of the stone ramparts are intact and open for visitors to explore. The castle site's elevated position offers views of the town below.
If you're interested in Japanese history, be sure to check out the Motoori Norinaga Memorial Museum on the castle grounds. Its exhibits feature the literature and maps of Motoori Norinaga, a preeminent Japanese scholar. His diligent commentary on everything from literary classics to his personal life provides insight into the Japanese character.
For a peek into Old Matsusaka, head to the Matsusaka City Museum of History and Folklore. Occupying a converted library originally constructed in 1911, you can see artifacts from Matsusaka's mercantile past.
Don't forget to visit the residences the castle guards once called home. Their direct descendants still live in these houses, and the one at the northern end is open for visitors.
Located along the river, some of Matsusaka's traditional merchant houses are still standing. Built around 1700, the Former Ozu Residence (Matsusaka Merchant Museum) is a well-preserved home that gives a feel for what life was like for a successful businessman several hundred years ago.
Near the museum is the original home of the Mitsui family, who went on to create what is now the Mitsui Group. Note that this residence is not open to the public.
If you want a deep dive into the business that made Matsusaka rich in its heyday, be sure to visit the Matsusaka Cotton Center. There, you can experience how kimono and other fabrics were made, and weave your own fabric on an authentic antique loom.
Many consider Matsusaka beef to be the best in Japan. Although not as well-known internationally as Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef is domestically known as a rival wagyu. The cattle are raised, and treated to full-body massages and beer that reportedly help give the meat its soft texture and rich marbling.
The area around Matsusaka Station has many popular beef restaurants, serving Matsusaka beef in a variety of fashions. Be sure to stop by and experience the rich flavor of Matsusaka beef for yourself.
Matsusaka has several festivals throughout the year. The Matsusaka Gion Festival in mid-July is the local version of Kyoto's similarly-named extravaganza. Absorb the energy of the parade of floats and revelers carrying portable shrines.
In November, the locals don samurai costumes and parade through town during the Ujisato Festival. The event is held to honor Gamo Ujisato, the feudal lord who established the foundation for Matsusaka City.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.