When people think of Japan they automatically think of sushi, Geisha, samurai, and anime. If asked to name a famous landmark in Japan most people would say Mt. Fuji right off the bat. What most people don’t know about Mt. Fuji is that it’s located in Shizuoka Prefecture. Those who venture to Mt. Fuji either view it from it’s 5th station, or climb it. After that, many people leave Shizuoka to head back to Tokyo, thinking that Fuji was the only thing there. I’m here to tell you that there are many more sights to see.
Places to visit in Shizuoka:
- Sunpu Castle Ruins
- Numazu Uogashi Zushi (Sushi Restaurant)
A short 10 minute walk from Shizuoka station will bring you to the Sunpu Castle Ruins. My goal, while I live in Japan, is to visit every castle. Usually I do not include castle ruins on this list. As Sunpu castle still has a ‘Yagura’ (tower/turret) I decided to pay it a visit. I’m so glad I did. The grounds have been turned into a giant park. The park itself is free to enter, but if you pay a￥35o ($4) fee, you can get entrance to the gardens, the museum, and the turret.
The museum is small, and all of the information is written in Japanese. They seemed to have headsets that you can borrow to tell you about everything in English. Before I could do this, an elderly man who was a volunteer there, jumped at the opportunity to give us a tour in English. He said that he loved to talk to foreigners, but hardly anyone every ventured out to Shizuoka because of it’s distance from Tokyo. What would have been a half an hour walk through turned into an hour and a half tour. He even sang the castle song for us on our way out. Even if he is not there to give you a tour, I still recommend paying the fee as the museum holds some interesting things, and the tour of the turret teaches you about Japanese architecture.
If you have time after walking through the three ticketed spots, there is a tea house located all the way in the back of the park. Shizuoka is known for it’s green tea, so it would be a shame not to stop and try some. The tea house is small and offers three tea sets. Each set comes with a different type of green tea (ranging from bitter to not so bitter), and it’s own traditional Japanese dessert. The sets are priced at about $5 each. Wanting to try each type of tea I purchased one of each. All three were delicious. What I liked about this tea house (besides from the food and drink) was that they had tables and benches. Sitting ‘Seiza’ (Japanese-style) on the floor can get tiring for your legs, especially if you’re not used to it. I found this relaxing.
For dinner, Shizuoka is famous for it’s fresh fish. In Shizuoka station there is a restaurant called Numazu Uogashi Zushi in Asty mall. It’s number 9 on the top ten restaurants in Shizuoka. They’re cheap, give you a lot of food, and it’s tasty.
- Kakegawa Castle
- Kakegawa Bird Park
Kakegawa is about 70 minutes away from Shizuoka by local train. Here they have Kakegawa Castle. Kakegawa’s keep was destroyed in an Earthquake, but when they rebuilt it, they did so using the traditional Japanese methods. This was one of the first castles to do so. The castle itself isn’t all that impressive (it’s only three stories, so not one of the bigger ones), but there is a lot to do here. Inside the castle is a museum with some weapons and armor. Next to the castle is the original one floor palace where Lord Ieyasu would greet his visitors. If you are interested in art, the art museum is located behind the castle, along with another tea house. Kakegawa Castle is about a 15 minute walk from the station. Along the way you pass a touristy area containing a few food stores. Here you can try Japanese Green Tea ice cream (Shizuoka flavor of course), along with specialty drinks like Shizuoka Green Tea Soda (better then it sounds).
If you came here with your family, and are not afraid of birds, I recommend visiting Kakegawa Bird Park. Here you can watch a Birds of Prey show, and hold birds such as Tucans, and Penquins. This park is perfect for families with young children and even those without. After all who doesn’t want to be able to say they held a penquin?
Both are a short walk from the station. Kakegawa castle is about 15 minutes while the Bird Park is 15 or 20.
- Atami Beach Town
- Kimedai (famous Izu fish)
If castles aren’t your thing you could always relax at the beach or an onsen (Japanese hot bath). The Izu Peninsula is the closest part of Izu to Tokyo. Here you can visit the beautiful beaches in Atami. Atami is a popular spot during the summer months because of this, so if you are expecting to get a hotel here, I would book early. On your walk from the station to the beach, are many restaurants and shops. If you are hungry I recommend stopping to eat Kimeidai. Kimedai is a red snapper known for it’s golden yellow eyes. It’s a fish specifically caught in Atami. Be warned though, if you are squeamish it is not a dish to be ordered. It’s served to you whole or as the head. You then must pick the meat out of the head or body yourself with chopsticks. If you are fine with this, splurge and try it. It’s definitely worth it, and it’s now my favorite fish!
You can find onsens anywhere in Izu, and it’s a perfect way to relax after the beach. You will be shy at first, but once you get over the strangeness of being nude in front of others, you’ll want to come back every day. Most onsens do not allow tattoos. Some places are becoming more lax because of the 2020 Olympics but I would either check beforehand, or stop in a Pharmacy and buy some bandages to covers your tattoos up with.
How to get to Shizuoka
As you can see Shizuoka is a wonderful get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. These are just some of the many things to do there. To get to Shizuoka from Tokyo you can catch a bullet train, or a limited express. If you want to save money, you can get to Atami in about 90 minutes from Tokyo Station, or 170 minutes to Shizuoka Station. It’s a bit far, but doable for a day trip. If you can afford to spend the weekend there, then that’s even better.