[From April Issue 2013]
Located roughly in the center of Honshu, Shizuoka Prefecture is home not only to Mount Fuji – Japan’s national symbol – but also to other beautiful natural features: mountains, the sea and lakes. This prefecture can be divided into three regions: the eastern region which includes the foothills of Mount Fuji and the Izu peninsula; the central region which includes the Gulf of Suruga and the mountains leading to the Southern Japanese Alps; and the western region around Hamanako (Lake Hamana). The climate is generally mild throughout the year, but there is a distinct difference between the seasons and as a result it’s possible to enjoy different scenery depending on the season.
The Tokaido road was one of the highways developed during the Edo period (17–19 century). Inns within Shizuoka Prefecture that ran along this route prospered. Many famous places and historic sites still remain in the prefecture. Easily accessible from the capital, to take in its numerous sightseeing spots, it’s suitable for day trips or longer vacations.
To kick off a trip to Shizuoka, it’s best to go and check out Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji can be viewed from many places in the eastern to central areas of Shizuoka Prefecture. At an altitude of 3,776 meters, it is the highest mountain in Japan. Its strong and beautiful form has greatly influenced many artists. Mount Fuji has even been depicted by Edo period ukiyoe (woodblock print) artists: by KATSUSHIKA Hokusai in his “Fugaku Sanjurokkei” (Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji) and UTAGAWA Hiroshige in his series “Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi” (Fifty-three stages on the Tokaido highway). This landscape has long been treasured and is close to the hearts of the Japanese people.
Ever since ancient times Mount Fuji has been considered to be a sacred place by religious groups; the Asama sect was founded on the belief that Mount Fuji is a deity. This sect was said to have been founded in order to calm the frequent eruptions of Mount Fuji. The main temple of this Buddhist sect is the Mount Fuji Hongu Sengen Taisha in Fujinomiya City. Designated as an important cultural property, the main building stands in front of Mount Fuji. It is 13 meters in height, built in two sections and has multiple stories.
A little distance away from Mount Fuji is the Izu peninsula which is one of the main sightseeing areas in Shizuoka. The peninsula with its mountains running down it like a spine jutting up through the sea has been loved by both people in positions of power and by artists alike. Izu is also known as the setting of many literary works including “Izu no Odoriko” (The Dancing Girl of Izu) by KAWABATA Yasunari, which portrays the love between a woman of a travelling dance troupe and a lonely young man.
Named after Shuzenji temple built by Kuukai in 807 AD, the Shuzenji area also appears in this novel. Shuzenji is also the place where the Genji clan defeated the Heike clan and rose to power establishing the Kamakura era (12–14th century), before subsequently falling from power. Originally a Shingon Buddhist temple, after a fire, it was reduced to ashes during the war. It was resurrected by HOUJOU Souun as a Soutou sect temple during the Muromachi Era (14–16th centuries). These days many people visit the temple throughout the year and the area has come to be renowned as a spot for viewing the autumn leaves.
Izu has a special tourist attraction that sweethearts should visit. This is “Koibito Misaki” (Lovers’ Cape) in Izu City. Located at the end of the 700 meter Fujimi path, it’s possible to see the Suruga Gulf and Mount Fuji on the opposite bank of the cape. There you will find an adorable bell called the “Love Call Bell;” by ringing this bell and calling out the name of your lover it is said that you can make your love a reality. This place is also known for having beautiful views around sunset.
Shizuoka Prefecture is a health resort and many artists have moved here to concentrate on their work, making it a center for artistic activity. There are over 30 art galleries and museums within Shizuoka, each with its own unique characteristics.
One example is the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, located in Shizuoka City in the central part of the prefecture. This art museum is the only museum in the country that has 32 works of the sculptor, RODIN, on display, in addition to well-known works of exquisite art by both western and eastern artists including MONET, GAUGUIN, and YOKOYAMA Taikan. Since the museum concentrates its efforts on displaying modern art and putting on special exhibitions, it has a diverse collection of art works that attracts fans of modern art from all over Japan.
With its fertile environment, Shizuoka has a variety of delicious produce, but, producing more tea than any other prefecture in the country, it’s most famous for Shizuoka tea. Blessed with conditions that include a warm climate, pure water and fertile soil, high quality tea leaves are cultivated.
Delicious inexpensive “gotouchi gourmet” – local cuisine that can only be enjoyed within a particular region – is increasingly popular in Japan. “Fujinomiya yakisoba” (fried noodles), from Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka, was the catalyst for this trend. This dish is made with al dente noodles, oilcake of pressed lard, and powdered sardines.
There are so many hot springs in Shizuoka that it has been dubbed the “hot spring kingdom.” Encircled by sea and mountains, Atami onsen is one of Japan’s foremost onsen towns, garnering popularity with its female customers because its waters moisturise and promote beautiful skin. Effective in treating skin problems, the waters are recommended for people with sensitive skin.
The western part of the prefecture is the area around Hamamatsu City and Hamanako, a lake with a circumference of 141 kilometers is located there. Rich in minerals, because seawater flows into its brackish waters, it is home to a wide variety of fish and is excellent for eel farming. Around the lake, flowers bloom throughout the year and it’s possible to enjoy leisure facilities like Hamamatsu Flower Park there.
Because Yamaha, the global musical instrument manufacturer has its head office in Hamamatsu City, music has flourished in this town. Many music fans visit the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments because it is one of the largest museums in Orient. These instruments include rare musical instruments native to particular regions and even instruments that have been used by well-known composers. From its collection of over 3,000 musical instruments, approximately 1,300 pieces are on display. In the “experience room,” visitors can try playing various musical instruments.
To get to eastern Shizuoka, from JR Tokyo station it takes approximately 45 minutes by Shinkansen to JR Atami station and to JR Mishima station 53 minutes. To get to central Shizuoka, it takes approximately one hour and ten minutes to JR Shin-fuji station or one hour and 30 minutes to JR Shizuoka station. To get to western Shizuoka, it takes one hour and 45 minutes to JR Kakegawa station, or two hours to JR Hamamatsu station. It takes about three to six hours by bus departing from nearby Tokyo station.
Text: OMORI Saori