I will confess that I had never heard of this prefecture before moving to Japan. My very first google search about Shizuoka revealed it to be the home of Mount Fuji (The mountain straddles Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefecture). With great anticipation, I wondered about what life would be like there. After living there, I now only wonder why more people are not yet visiting Shizuoka. And so I pen this in the hope that others can also discover the beauty of Shizuoka for themselves.
With love, me
Many tourists start their foray into Japan through Tokyo. Tokyo is undoubtedly a spectacular destination deserving of all accolades, but it should be stressed that there is still so much more of Japan to discover! The good news is that it is not that difficult to travel to Shizuoka prefecture from Tokyo. It is located less than two hours away by Shinkansen (High speed rail), or approximately three and a half hours by highway bus.
The thing to note, however, is that Shizuoka prefecture is large and sightseeing spots are not clustered together the way they could be in the city. You need to allocate a good amount of time to visit the prefecture, especially to reach the more remote natural sites. Shizuoka prefecture comprises 23 cities, the two largest cities being Shizuoka city and Hamamatsu city. It runs along the east coast of Japan and extends out to the Izu Peninsula, hugging the Suruga Bay in between.
For wild natural beauty, get out there to the Izu peninsula. You will find the rugged coasts of Jogasaki where Japan meets the vast Pacific Ocean. Hear the mighty roar of the waves and admire the jagged cliff edges fashioned by the raw energy of the waves. There is a beautiful hiking trail by the cliff which presents spectacular scenery.
From Shimizu city, visit Miho No Matsubara, part of the Mount Fuji UNESCO World Heritage site. It is believed to be the site where a celestial fairy descended. Take a stroll on the boardwalk through pine trees to reach a black sand beach and beautiful Mount Fuji in the distance on a clear day. Who knows, if you look hard enough, you might just spot a fairy dancing through the pine grove that lines the coast!
Deep in the mountains, you’ll discover the Sumatakyo gorge in Kawane with its mesmerising lakes, relaxing hiking trails, hot springs, and suspension bridge walks. The most famous of these would be the Yume no Tsuribashi Bridge, literally translated as the bridge of dreams. If you visit when the weather is clear, and it did not rain the night before, the water is a stunning turquoise blue, a wondrous sight to behold.
Because Shizuoka covers a large area, you’ll find that even between cities, they each have their own local specialities. However, without a doubt, Shizuoka has some of the country’s finest wasabi and green tea, two cornerstones of Japanese culinary heritage.
For the uninitiated, wasabi is a plant whose root is made into a green paste and used as a spice. Wasabi is prized in Japanese cooking, and especially in the preparation of sushi. Wasabi is difficult to grow, requiring clear and fresh running water. For this reason, most restaurants around the world use substitutes such as horseradish and mustard. Real wasabi tastes smoother, fresher, and does not burn your mouth or overpower the delicate flavours of Japanese cuisine. In Shizuoka, you can enjoy some of the best wasabi, some restaurants even sending out a grater with the root of the wasabi so you know that it really is fresh!
Shizuoka also produces fine green tea, not to be confused with Matcha. Green tea has many well-documented health properties and Shizuoka has perfect growing conditions for growing tea, making it one of the main producers of tea in the country. You can visit green tea farms around the Kakegawa area. During harvest seasons you can even participate in tea picking, a unique Japanese farm experience!
Shizuoka has amazingly fresh seafood, and also some specialities found only in this part of Japan. One of these would be Sakura ebi, translated as Cherry Blossom Shrimp. These tiny little shrimps are found almost exclusively in the Surugu Bay, and caught in Yui and Yaizu ports. The Sakura ebi is eaten whole, dried or fried in batter. It can only be eaten raw when very fresh, so you’ll need to visit Shizuoka to try this. Popular for its natural sweetness and juiciness, it is also rich in nutrients. Little wonder that visitors from other parts of Japan flock here in season to enjoy this local delicacy.
There are many things to experience in Shizuoka Prefecture, but to fully enjoy your time here, it is best to get into the frame of mind to enjoy the process of discovery, rather than focusing on checking off the boxes of must-see attractions. Part of the charm of Shizuoka is also the laid back vibe of the region and the warm hospitality from the local people. In contrast to glamorous, popular Tokyo, Shizuoka is the shy cousin with a girl-next-door type of beauty, increasingly evident the more you get to know her. Well, it was more than enough for me to fall in love, and I am sure you will too.
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