World heritage city Hoi An, Vietnam, is famous for Cao Lau noodles. They are so famous that there probably isn’t a restaurant in Hoi An which doesn’t serve this local cuisine! They are made from rice flour and accompanied with pork, rice crackers, lettuce, bean sprouts, and herbs, etc. All of these ingredients lie on top of a delicious sweet soy sauce. Did you know that Cao Lau is said to have been derived from Ise Udon? Ise Udon is a noodle dish from Ise, Mie Prefecture, Japan. Tender udon noodles are made from wheat flour and added to a soy sauce based dashi (stock) before consumption. Not only does it look similar to that of Vietnamese Cao Lau, but it also is eaten in a very similar way. ▲ Ise Udon by “Nakamura” in Ise City, Mie Prefecture Ise Udon is said to have been passed down to Hoi An during the start of the 17th century Hoi An was once a thriving port town with trade ships visiting from countries like Japan, China, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Lots of Japanese people gathered to reside around Hoi An during the beginning of the 17th century, with around 1,000 Japanese people living there during its peak. One of these people was Kadoya Shichirobe, a trader from Ise. Theory suggests that it was Kadoya Shichirobe who introduced Ise Udon to Hoi An. ▲ Lai Viễn Kiều, a sightseeing spot in Hoi An, is also commonly known as the “Japanese Covered Bridge”. It is believed that Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese people worked together in the construction of this bridge during the beginning of the 17th century. What is the home of Ise Udon and the so-called birthplace of Cao Lau like? Allow this article to introduce Ise, the birthplace of Ise Udon. Ise is located in south-eastern Mie Prefecture, Japan. It is a tourist city surrounded by sea and mountains. ▲ Ujiyamada Station in Ise City is 2-hours 10-minutes from Kyoto Station via the Kintetsu line. Alternatively, it is 1-hour 50-minutes from Osaka Uehommachi Station via the Kintetsu line. Why not make a visit here during your trip to Osaka or Kyoto? Ise Jingu is probably the most famous jinja (Shinto shrine) in Ise, and also one of the most famous jinja in the whole of Japan. Lots of kami (Shinto deity) are enshrined at Ise Jingu, including the supreme deity, Amaterasu-omikami (the Sun deity, female). Lots of people from all over Japan have travelled to Ise Jingu to worship. With no means of transportation such as cars or trains during the Edo era (1603-1868), this pilgrimage was a once in a lifetime trip filled with danger. The one thing which comforted the aching bodies of these tired travellers the most was said to be the soft and chewy noodles of Ise. ▲ Geku of Ise Jingu. Toyo’uke-no-omikami, the deity of cloth, food, and shelter, as well as of agriculture and industry, is enshrined here. Ise Jingu is made up of 125 jinja, including the main sanctuaries of Geku and Naiku, 14 affiliated jinja (betsugu), 43 auxiliary jinja (sessha), 24 subsidiary jinja (massha), and the other 42 minor jinja (shokansha). ▲ Naiku enshrines Amaterasu-omikami (the Sun deity) ▲ A beautiful morning with the sunlight filtering through the trees along the main approach to the main sanctuary. This scene fills you with a fresh, relaxing atmosphere. Mornings are highly recommended as relatively few people come to worship that early. Details about Ise Jingu here Enjoy walking around the charming old streetscapes of Oharaimachi while visiting Ise Jingu! This article will now introduce yet another fantastic sightseeing spot of Ise. After worshipping at Ise Jingu, don’t miss out on visiting Oharaimachi opposite the inner shrine. Long-established souvenir and confectionary stores, as well as other historical buildings, are all lined up along this cobbled street between Ujibashi Bridge and Isuzugawa River (approx. 800m). If you have come this far, don’t miss out on the delicious local cuisine, too! There are an abundance of stores selling delicious take-away cuisine on both sides of the street here – such as nikuman (steamed buns) filled with the Mie speciality of Matsusaka Beef, deep fried Uramura Toba Oysters, etc. Enjoy walking around the area while eating delicious local cuisine! Details about Oharaimachi here Visit the beckoning cat of Okage Yokocho Okage Yokocho is located inside Oharaimachi. Around 50 souvenir stores and restaurants are lined up here, all reproduced to recreate the atmosphere of the Meiji era (1868-1912). Lots of people love taking photographs of the large stone beckoning cat statue located near the entrance of the street. Beckoning cats are regarded as guardians for a prosperous business in Japan. They are dotted everywhere around Okage Yokocho – can you find them all? Eat “Akafuku Shaved Ice” – worth the wait! Ise is renowned for Akafuku, a sweet confectionery consisting of mochi (pounded rice cakes) topped with strained red bean paste. Akafuku posters and products can be seen all around Ise. A special summer edition of Akafuku, “Akafuku Shaved Ice”, can even be enjoyed during the summer season (until late September). Akafuku Shaved Ice consists of mochi and red bean paste surrounded by delicious matcha shaved ice. These two combinations go amazingly well together! Don’t miss out on trying this delicious local confectionery when you come to Ise, even if it means waiting in line – it’s worth the wait! Details about Okage-Yokocho here Why not start your trip with some Ise Udon? Enjoy walking around and eating delicious local cuisine around Oharaimachi and Okage Yokocho after worshipping at Ise Jingu and – most importantly, recovered from your long journey through eating some Ise Udon. Just the thought of starting your adventures with Ise Udon is really appealing! There’s even more to see around Ise! Why not travel to Matsusaka, a place which also has deep connections with Vietnam? Matsusaka, approx. 10-minutes by Kintetsu limited express train from Ise Station (the closest station to Ise Jingu), also has deep connections with Vietnam. Matsusaka once flourished as a commercial town during the Edo era, with lots of streetscapes containing the likes of castle ruins, and samurai residences still open to the public today. It is an ideal place to visit during your trip to Ise! ▲ Cobbled streets surround the samurai residences of “Gojoban Yashiki”. These historic residences were once occupied by the samurai bodyguards of Matsusaka Castle and their families. ▲ It is well worth going to see the magnificent stone wall of Matsusaka Castle Ruins. Although lots of buildings such as the castle tower have since been lost due to typhoons and accidental fires, Matsusaka Castle Ruins still has a highly historic atmosphere. The influence of Vietnam can even be felt through the work the traders of Matsusaka did! Do you remember Kadoya Shichirobe – the trader who is said to have introduced Ise Udon to Vietnam? It is said that he also introduced Matsusaka to the traditional striped Vietnamese cloth made from cotton called “Ryujo-fu”. “Matsusaka Cotton”, a by-product of the striped Vietnamese cloth was very popular in Matsusaka during the Edo era! Ryujo-fu was renamed “Matsusaka-shima” and sold as “Matsusaka Cotton”. It was an extremely popular cloth in this Edo town due to the fact that it appeared like it didn’t have any pattern at all from afar – ideal in an era when luxury items were forbidden by Japanese law. ▲ Lots of accessories and fabrics are available from “Matsusaka Momen Teori Center”. A perfect place to visit if you are looking for souvenirs! Don’t miss out on trying delicious Matsusaka Wagyu Beef while you are visiting! Eating local cuisine is probably one of the main enjoyments of travelling. Matsusaka Beef is produced locally in Matsusaka City, and is so deliciously marbled that it is even called a work of art! This tender meat can be characterised by its very flavorsome taste and aroma. It is melt-in-your-mouth delicious! ▲ This is the “Matsusaka Beef Amiyaki Lunch” at “Noel”, a beef restaurant directly managed by a butcher store. Why not enjoy some reasonably-priced but great quality Matsusaka Beef at this popular restaurant? Besides Matsusaka Beef steak restaurants, Matsusaka also has an array of delicious grilled offal restaurants and sukiyaki restaurants (Matsusaka Beef cooked alongside vegetables). Matsusaka Beef can be enjoyed in multiple ways! Don’t miss out on trying it here in its hometown of Matsusaka! This article introduced Ise City and Matsusaka City, both located in Mie Prefecture, Japan. Why not travel around these two cities which both have unexpected connections with Vietnam?