Toba Japan: Cultured Pearls, Harbors, and Women divers

Toba Japan Guide

History of Toba Japan

What is special about the small city of Toba is the fact that it has been inhabited since the Jomon period or pre-historic period of Japan. The ancient inhabitants of the island are seafarers and sea dwellers whose society’s backbone relied on the richness of the sea. There are museums in the area that feature the lives and civilization of these seafarers – their technologies, their beliefs, their rituals, and more.

It was discovered that centuries after the Jomon period, it came under the control of pirates. A powerful pirate named Kuki Yoshitaka built a castle at the center of Toba. However, during the Feudal age of Japan, the castle was turned over to the powerful clans of Toba and the castle became the centremost power of the city. After the Tokugawa period, Toba became a flourishing port that allows entry and exit of goods and merchant deals going to Osaka and Nagoya.

There was also a time when the city became a center for pearl diving before it became even more popular through the Mikimoto pearls. It was only in the 1950s when the size of Toba increased to its current size today by the merger of five villages from the Shima district.

Toba Japan Map

This place is a city located in Mie Prefecture and is located on the Southeastern side of Japan. It is located in a place known as the Shima Peninsula in the eastern side of the Mie Prefecture. It faces the Toba Bay, Ise Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.

Toba City consists of a few islands which include Makishima, Kozukumi island, Toshijima, Saketejima, Mitsujima, Sugashima, and Ozukumijima. This place can be reached through the Ise-wan ferry or via the JR Central-Sangu line of the JR lines.

This place has a total area of 107 square kilometers with a population of about 19,000. It is a popular summer destination for both local and foreign tourists. Toba city is most famous for its pearls and oysters as it is the home of the famous Mikimoto Kokichi, the man who invented the cultured pearl. Aside from that, this place has gained popularity for its delicious fishes, shellfish, lobsters, kelp and more.

Toba Japan Weather

The climate in Toba is quite warm and temperate. It still snows in some areas which are why swimming in the islands is not that common during the fall and winter months. There is a significant amount of rainfall every year which averages at 1720 mm.

The city is enjoyable during the spring and summer season when the climate is warm. The lowest temperature will be experienced every January which ranges between 1 degree Celsius to 8 degree Celsius. The hottest temperature will be experienced every July and August where it ranges between 24 degrees Celsius and 31 degrees. The rainiest month is also during the summer season of July and August.

Getting around Toba Japan

Toba Japan Airport

There is no airport in the city itself but the nearest airport would be Chubu Centrair International Airport. This is approximately 40 kilometers away from the city center of Toba. There are buses that can take individuals from the airport to Toba City. There are also other airports which is located in the region which can be accessed through Toba city like Nagoya airport which is about 86 kilometers away.

Toba Japan Ferry

Also known as the Ise-wan ferry, the Ise Bay ferry runs from Port of Toba to Port of Irago in Aichi in a 55-minute ferry ride. A lot of people enjoy this ferry ride because it passes through most of Toba’s famous tourist destinations. It offers scenic views of the islands and an enjoyable ride on the waves.

Inside the ferry station, there are stall and shops that sell food and souvenir items for the tourists going for the long ride. Tickets can be bought at the station itself but reservations are encouraged to ensure a seat in the ferry. This ride costs about 1,550 yen for adults and 780 yen for children. It can be accessed via a 15-minute walk from Kintetsu Toba Station.

The Pride and Glory of Toba

Toba Japan Pearls

The Mikimoto pearl, or the Toba Japan Pearl, is considered as the main tourist attraction of the city of Toba. Up until today, the tourism of Toba City revolves around the pearl farm which was established by a man named Mikimoto. There are cruises, island hopping, and tours that rely completely on the popularity of the Mikimoto pearl.

What makes the Mikimoto pearl special is the fact that it was a phenomenon during the time it was first made. Natural pearls are rare and difficult to find, making it quite expensive and unique. However, the production of cultured pearls provides a slightly cheaper alternative which could be produced at a much faster rate.

These are equally gorgeous and are not to be considered synthetic. They are still real pearls but the process of its production has been controlled to ensure that a pearl will be produced by an oyster. Nowadays, the Mikimoto Pearl has made its name in history and had become quite expensive due to its popularity.


This is one of the most special inhabited islands in all of Toba and has been known in history as the base of the pirates that took over the lands in the Sengoku period. It is most popular for its ports: Port of Momotori, Port of Wagu and Port of Toshi.

Miketsukuni Seafood

What is special about the Miketsukuni is the fact that it was a set of food and ingredients which was sent from Toba city to the Imperial family for their consumption. These are a set of special food items which are caught fresh off the Toba and Iwa bay. This is so that the Imperial family and court need not travel to Toba to enjoy the seafood.

The most popular part of the Miketsukuni set is the Japanese spiny lobster and oysters – both of which are rare and seasonal. They are known for their rich flavors. Other special items found in the Miketsukuni set would be sea cucumbers, sea urchins, pufferfishes and the like. There are Miketsukuni sets for every season. For instance, Japanese pufferfishes are known to be sent to the Imperial family between the months of October and February. While spiny lobsters are usually abundant every autumn season.

Seaweed and kelp are both special ingredients of the Miketsukuni set which are of two kinds. The first kind is the hijiki (or dark edible seaweed) while the other is the wakame (or edible seaweed).

Meoto Iwa

Also known as Married Couple Rocks, Meoto Iwa is a pair of rocks found in Futami, Mie, Japan. They are a part of the nearby Futami Okitama Shrine and are joined by a rice straw rope used to signify bond and marriage. A lot of people enjoy the Meoto Iwa during the summer before dawn wherein certain perspectives, the sun seems to rise in the middle of the rocks.

Toba Japan tourism: Places to Visit

Mikimoto Pearl Island

This place is a small island located right next to the Toba Aquarium and is known to be the pride and glory of Toba. The Mikimoto pearl island is home to the birthplace of what is known as the cultured pearl aquaculture. It was a man named Mikimoto Kokichi who has produced the world’s first known cultured pearl in the late 1800s. Since then, he became an international sensation because of the speed and quality of the pearls cultivated in his farms.

What is interesting about this place is that most of the pearl divers are known as ama, which are women chosen to dive for pearls. The word ama literally translates to “women of the sea” and these are girls who have been specially trained to dive into cold water. In history, they are known to be nude or semi-nude while diving for pearls with only a loincloth protecting her body from the cold. Through the centuries, this kind of practice has been stopped for the protection of the divers. They now wear goggles, wetsuits, and other protective gear.

These divers are to collect oysters from the seabed. These are then injected into a pearl producing nucleus and are replaced back to the seabed. After a certain amount of time, these oysters would then be recollected to see if pearls have been cultured.

Toba Sea-Folk Museum

The Toba Sea-Folk Museum was established in the early 1970s as a means of providing appreciation and education about the history and culture of Toba. There are exhibits showing the possible lives and livelihoods of pre-historic Japanese. There are also zones in the museum which features the lives of ancient seafarers and how their technologies and ways have developed through time. It also shows something about their boats, their religion, and their festivals.

There is also a special feature showing the culture of Ama divers and their importance to the history and culture of the Toba. There is also an exhibit showing the structure and architecture of ancient wooden boats and seafaring equipment. This place can be accessed via car or bus but not through trains. Also, an admission fee of 800 yen is required for entry.

Dolphin Island

Also known as Iruka Jima, this place is located just off the coast of Toba Bay and is one of the most intriguing tourist destinations in all of Toba. It is a small island where swimming, snorkeling, and fishing are enjoyed in the crystal clear waters especially during the summer time. There is a small lake inside the island and this is where the famous dolphin shows are held. There is also a sea lion show on a schedule.

People enjoy going to this place for the fun water activities, hiking opportunities, and the food. Everyone enjoys the fresh seafood being cooked and served in the restaurants surrounding the island ranging from kelps to lobsters.

Toba Aquarium

Since Toba City of the Mie Prefecture in Japan is located on a coast, one of its main features would be the treasures from the sea. Because of this, the locals are sure to teach each other and travelers about ways to take care of these sea treasures. One way to effectively do this is through the Toba Aquarium.

The Toba Aquarium is known to be one of the artificial marine habitats in Japan with the largest collection of sea creatures. They feature fishes, crabs, jellyfishes and much more. Not only that, they also have exhibits for sea lions, seals, otters, birds, reptiles, and amphibians which live in the ecosystem surrounding the Toba Bay. What makes this place special is that it is the only marine zoo in Japan which has a dugong (or sea cow) in its care.

There are twelve zones in total each of which has a feature of its own. Tourists visiting the zoo are given maps to the twelve zones so they can visit which ones they enjoy best freely. There are also some exhibits that feature feeding sessions, tank cleaning sessions and more.

This place is found at the northernmost edge of Toba and could be accessed through the Toba station of the JR Line. The admission ticket costs a total of 2500 yen.

Toba Japan Hotels and Hotsprings

Aside from beach resorts along the coastline, Toba is also popular for its hot springs and onsen spas. There are around sixty onsens around the city and around nine of these are located along the coast. These places are enjoyed by both local and foreign tourists – offering great food, great view, and the greatest relaxation experience ever.

Most ryokans are found on top of hills which can be enjoyed after a full day of trekking and hiking. There are indoor onsens and outdoor onsens available around the city, there are even private baths inside some special hotel suites.

For those who wish to just enjoy a simple day trip to a spa, there are a number of hotels as well that offer day-trip accommodation for tourists and visitors.