Located at the northeastern end of the Shima-hanto Peninsula, Toba overlooks the island-dotted Toba Bay. It’s famed for its pearling industry, which is showcased on Mikimoto Pearl Island, as well as being home to one of Japan’s most impressive aquariums.
Things to do in Toba
Get up close to dugongs at the Toba Aquarium, the only aquarium in Japan where these endangered animals are reared. See playful sea lions in the Marine Mammal Kingdom and local species in the Sea of Ise-Shima exhibit, then admire the weird and wonderful creatures of the deep in the Strange Creatures Laboratory.
See where the Japanese pearling industry was first developed on Mikimoto Pearl Island, where Kokichi Mikimoto successfully cultivated pearls in 1893. Admire the statue of this pearling pioneer and see “ama” (female pearl divers) in action in their iconic white attire.
Mikimoto Pearl Island is also home to the Pearl Museum, which traces the history of pearl cultivation and its cultural significance. See ancient pearls and antique jewellery on display, then visit the Kokichi Mikimoto Memorial Hall to learn about the famous pearler’s life and work.
Make a day trip to the unspoiled island of Kami-shima that lies at the mouth of Ise Bay. Follow the walking trails that lead to its Shinto shrine, Yatsushiro Jinja, and the Kamishima Lighthouse while keeping an eye out for rare grey-faced buzzards and chestnut tiger butterflies.
Getting around Toba
Toba is a three-hour train ride from Osaka International Airport and just over two hours’ drive from Kyoto. Toba’s waterfront sights and Mikimoto Pearl Island are easy to explore on foot and there are regular boat transfers to Kami-shima.