Everyone has seen majestic images of Mount Fuji looming over its surroundings. Sometimes on clear days, you can even see Mount Fuji from Tokyo. In order to get the best views of Mount Fuji however, you will want to travel to Shizuoka. Home of Mount Fuji.
Shizuoka at a Glance
There are so many things to do and see in Shizuoka. Tokyo has fashion, technology, shopping, as well as being the center of economic and political influence of Japan. Kyoto has the history, culture and sights that bring Japan to life for visitors. These two locations must be on every traveler’s list of places they must experience when visiting Japan. However, there are other locations in Japan that often don’t get the attention they deserve. Shizuoka is one of those locations and is one of my favorite prefectures in Japan.
Shizuoka holds many records in Japan. It has the highest point in Japan, Mount Fuji, and the deepest bay in Japan, Suruga Bay. It produces the most green tea and is home to 7% of all ryokan, Japanese-style inns. There are many things Shizuoka has to experience, so lets explore a little of what Shizuoka has to offer.
First of all, Mount Fuji will probably be at the top of your list for things to experience in Shizuoka. This dormant volcano is not always easy to get a clear picture. Most of the time it’s peaks are hidden in the clouds, so you are fortunate if you visiting on a clear day.
For the adventurous traveler, you may want to consider hiking to the top of Mount Fuji. Depending on your goals and experience level, there are many different places for you to start your hike. You can drive half way up the mountain, park were the road ends and hike the rest of the way on foot. Or, you could start from one of the more traditional locations and follow the same trail many have used for hundreds of years. Weaving through the trees, you can take in the complete experience of your surroundings.
However, just because Mount Fuji gets all the attention, don’t forget about Suruga Bay on Shizuoka’s coast. This is the deepest bay in Japan at 2,500 meters deep. That’s 1,000 meters deeper than the next deepest bay in Japan. The bay is home to a thriving fishing industry so be sure to stop at one of the many local restaurants and grab a bite to eat.
On of the highlights of Shizuoka is the Izu Peninsula. The western side of the peninsula offers beaches and hot springs. The eastern side of the peninsula offers more rocky terrain and some amazing view of Mount Fuji.
It is well documented how Commodore Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay and demanded for Japan to open it’s borders to trade. After a trade treaty was signed between the US and Japan, Commodore Perry arrived in Shimoda, on the Izu Peninsula, with his infamous Black Ships. This was a major event for Shimoda, it was just one of two ports selected to have open trade. In Shimoda, you can experience various attractions and tours that commemorate this historic event.
An onsen is a traditional Japanese hot spring. These hot springs are located all over Japan, and Shizuoka has many options when it comes to taking in a nice relaxing soak. Atami is a coastal town known for their hot springs. Another great choice to enjoy a hot spring is in Itō, on the Izu Peninsula. Itō is just south of Atami and you can arrive here by JR train.
Shizuoka accounts for 40% of all tea grown in Japan. When you think about how popular tea is in Japan, you realize how huge this number really is. You don’t have to try too hard to see tea plantations, they are often found sprawling across hilltops.
You can even try picking and rubbing tea leaves which can be quite the experience. In order to enjoy this experience it is advised to have someone with you that speaks Japanese.
Be sure to review all the amazing teas Japan has to offer. I’m sure you will find a special tea that resonates with you.
If traveling by train you can take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen to arrive in Shizuoka. There are two trains that make the trip, the Hikari and Kodama trains, but be mindful of your destination when purchasing tickets. They both stop at different stations. Because of this, you may need to transition to another train line to get to the stops that the Shinkansen trains do not service.
Where to Stay
When it comes to lodging, you have choices. Shizuoka is home to 7% of all the ryokans in Japan, traditional Japanese Inns, where you can experience authentic Japanese hospitality. If at all possible, I recommend everyone should stay in a ryokan at least once during their trip to Japan.
There are also resort hotels within the cities, some may even have hot springs in their resort. This can be a very nice addition especially on the Izu Peninsula where this option is commonly available.
Business hotels may be an option as well, but keep in mind these hotel rooms can be quite a bit smaller.
As you can see, Shizuoka has a lot to offer travelers. Some of the most amazing experiences will be had off the beaten path so don’t be afraid to explore some of the remote parts of the prefecture.
Also, your experiences will change depending on the season you’re visiting. Spring is full of color with the blossoming of cherry trees and fall is equally amazing with the transition into autumn colors. Local fireworks and festivals during the summer will offer new experiences, that will linger with you long after you return home.
What was your favorite experience in Shizuoka? Or, what are you most excited to experience?