Monday, August 4, 2008

Tea, pinetrees by the sea and a great Volcano

Located on the fertile Pacific coast of Japan, just midway between Tokyo and Nagoya, Shizuoka (静岡) is the nineteenth stage of the old Tokaido (東海道) road linking Edo (江戸, now Tokyo東京) to Kyoto(京都). Recent excavations have found a village with rice paddies on Toro (登呂) site, a sign that humans settled the site in early antiquity. More recently, the young Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) was held as an hostage in Sunpu Castle (駿府城). He was to unify Japan later in his life, and retired in Sunpu after his abdication. Today, Shizuoka is a lively city worth visiting for its outstanding scenery and food.
With 700.000 people calling it home, Shizuoka ranks amongst the 20 first Japanese cities and is well served by modern transport. The shinkansen express service stops in the station every hour. The lively downtown area is just by the station, where department stores, offices and restaurant cluster. Sunpu castle ruins, now converted into a garden, are nearby. The regular Tokaido service stops in the trendy suburb of Kusanagi and in the port of Shimizu in addition to the main station. A small local train (Shizutetsu 静鉄) also links downtown (Shin-Shizuoka station 新静岡) to Shimizu (Shin-Shimizu station 新清水). The locals will tell you proudly that it is not the smallest train in Japan, as it is a genuine double track all along the 11 kilometers of the line, and there is a frequent service of up to one train every five minutes. The most famous industry in the city is toy manufacturing, with a tradition of wooden toy going back centuries ago. The town is home to Tamiya, the famous plastic model manufacturer.
Shizuoka is an interesting stop on the way from Kyoto to Tokyo. The city is built in an outstanding location, and the climate is said to be the warmer of mainland Japan. The town is bordered on the west side by the Abe-Kawa river (安倍川), and on the north side by the foothills of the southern Alps (南アルプス). Shizuoka was build around the Sunpu castle, just north of the station, unfortunately destroyed at the end of Meiji era. It is worth a walk to enjoy the beautiful traditional garden, and the fantastic view from the top of the Prefecture building (free access). One aisle and the main door of the castle were rebuilt in the traditional way, and the moats are well preserved. Shizuoka center ends on Nihon-Daira (日本平) foothills.
Nihon-Daira is classified amongst the hundred beautiful views of Japan (観光地百選). It is an undulating hill covered by forests with beautiful views of Mount-Fuji (富士山) and Shimizu port in the foreground. The famous volcano is only 20 kilometers away, which makes Shizuoka one of the best places to watch the mountain.
From the top of Nihon-Daira, a cable car goes to Kunozan Toshogu (久能山東照宮) shrine, just uphill from the shoreline. It was built just after the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu, in a colorful style close to the one of Nikko that blends well with the tropical vegetation. The shoreline road is a pleasant way to go to Shimizu. The natural port lays in the bay sheltered by the Miho peninsula (三保半島). The peninsula is famous for the superb pine-tree plantations by the beach at Miho-Matsubara (三保松原). It also offers beautiful views of Mount-Fuji. Shimizu harbor was pleasantly renovated around the “Dream Plaza”, a modern shopping center. From the port, ferries leave to Toi, a small port on the Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島).
Shizuoka area has one of the mildest climates in Japan and rich soil, so it can grow some of the best tea of Japan. Numerous hillside fields are located near the Abe-kawa banks and the Nihon-Zaka (日本坂) hill west of the city. Shimizu port has the most important tuna fishing fleet of Japan, and Yaizu (焼津) port, just west of the Abe-kawa is also an important fishing hub. Sushi restaurants in the city have no issue finding excellent supplies. There is even a sushi museum in the Shimizu “Dream Plaza”. The town is also producing tuna preserved in Miso. Suruga Bay ((駿河湾) is famous for its Sakura-Ebi (桜海老), tasty small shrimps that are often fried, but can also be made into crackers (sembe). They can be harvested in April and Novembeer. Shirasu, young shrimps with a strong taste, are also excellent. In early spring, from February to April, « Ichigo-gari » (苺狩り) can be enjoyed in the strawberry fields near the road between Nihon-Daira and the sea. This is an « all you can eat » formula where you pick the fruits directly on the tree in the field.
Ideally located, Shizuoka is an excellent location for a pleasant stop-over between the Hakone / Izu region and Nagoya. The arrival from Toi by ferry well be unforgettable by fine weather.
Practical Information

Access to Shizuoka by Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari service from Tokyo (1h03, Yen 6.380, 40 Euros), or Shin-Osaka (1h50, Yen 10.780, 67 Euros), 1 train every hour; by car : Tomei motorway, Exit at Shizuoka IC or Shimizu IC.

Access to Shimizu: by Tokaido line from Shizuoka station : 10 minutes, Yen 230 (1.40 Euros), by Shizutetsu line from Shin-Shizuoaka : 20 minutes, Yen 290 (1.80 Euros).

Access to Miho: Bus line 57/58 (Miho Yamanote Line, from Shizutetsu company) from Shimizu station or « Dream-Plaza », exit at « Miho-Matsubara Iriguchi (三保松原入り口) bus stop, one bus every 10 minutes.

Access to Nihon-Daira: line 42 (Nihondaira Line, from Shizutetsu company) from Shizuoka station (platform number 13), one bus every hour on week-end, 4 buses a day on week-days, exit on the last stop.

Access to Toro: line 10 (Ishida Kaigan line) from Shizuoka station (platform 4), exit at ToroIsekiIriguchi (登呂遺跡入口).

Nihondaira cable car (access to Kunosan-Toshogu shrine): one car every 15 minutes and 10 minutes on peak hour, return ticket Yen 900 (5.60 Euros), one-way for Yen 500 (3.10 Euros).

It is much more convenient, and often cheaper, to visit the region with a car.

Useful Links

Toshogu Shrine (
Nihon-Daira Cablecar (
Shizutetsu bus company timetable (

An outstanding sushi restaurant in Shimizu: Suehiro Sushi (末廣鮨): lunch from Y2000 (13 Euros), dinner From Y8400 (53 Euros), telephone : +81.54-366-6083 (〒424-0815 静岡市清水区江尻東2-5-28), 5 minutes walk from Shimizu station, open from 11 :30 à 22 :00, closed on Wednesday.

1 comment:

Kunouzan Toshougu Shrine said...

I enjoyed my trip to Kunouzan Toshougu Shrine. I also learned that as you walk on the stairs, it was said that you are being cleanse of your spirit or kami.. Hope to get back there again..