For centuries weary travelers on their journey along the ancient Tokaido Road connecting Tokyo with Kyoto have stopped in Shizuoka.
Today that tradition continues, but rather than just stopping along the way visitors are starting to Explore Shizuoka.
Shizuoka Prefecture is a land of mountains, valleys, rugged coastline, long stretches of beach, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, it is the home of Mt Fuji and is famous for seafood, wasabi and green tea.
Shizuoka – Land of Mountains, Rivers & Ocean
Shizuoka prefecture is located between Tokyo to the Northeast and Kyoto to the Southwest. Shizuoka is blessed with long stretches of Pacific ocean coastline, stunning and dramatic coastal areas around Izu Peninsula and an incredibly deep and sheltered, Suruga Bay, which at a depth to 2500m, is Japan’s deepest inland Bay.
The Northern part of the Shizuoka is home to some of the biggest mountains in the Japanese Southern Alps range including the impressive Mt Akaishi, Mt Warusawa and Mt Shiomi which are all over 3,000 meters above sea level.
Shizuoka – Famous for Seafood, Wasabi, Sake & Green Tea
The Southern Alps mountain range provides stable year round weather and, in Spring when the snow melts, there is an abundant supply of fresh water for rice, green tea and wasabi fields, sake, whisky and beer breweries The temperate weather provides ideal conditions for strawberry farming, flower gardens and vegetable growing.
The nutrient-rich water that flows down through the rivers and waterways into the ocean attracts all types of fish and has been sustaining fishing villages all along the coast for centuries – ensuring that Shizuoka can produce some of the freshest produce and seafood in all of Japan – and makes the prefecture Famous for Food.
Shizuoka – Home of the Majestic Mt Fuji
However, this impressive mountain range is quite often overlooked due to a particularly famous and world-renowned mountain in the neighborhood.
Mt Fuji is by far Japan’s most famous and iconic mountain and for good reason – this impressive volcano is the centerpiece of Shizuoka and its magnetic presence has been attracting scholars, artisans, poets and pilgrims to the area for longer than anyone can remember.
Today monuments, shrines and temples (old and new) built in worship of this sacred mountain still remain and every year thousands of people from around the World make the pilgrimage to the top to pay their respects.
The Ancient Tokaido Road has for centuries been a vital link between Tokyo to Kyoto – used for travel and trade between the capital and spiritual home of Japan. Today, the Tokaido Bullet train is the modern evolution of this historical highway, carrying over 400,000 passengers a day along a very similar path.
Shizuoka and the History of the Tokaido Road
When the Shogun (Imperial Ruler) Tokugawa Ieyasu rose to power at the start of the 17th century he established the “5 Routes of the Edo Period” connecting all parts of Japan to the newly established seat of power in Edo (which became Japan’s capital city and changed its name to Tokyo “Eastern Capital” in 1868).
Of these 5 routes the Tokaido (Eastern Sea) Road became the most important travel & trade route in Japan as it was the key artery between the imperial residence in the capital of Kyoto (“Western Capital”) with the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo.
The Ancient Tokaido Road is close to 500 kms long and 53 post stations were set up along the way. Small towns began to grow around each of these stops to tend to the needs of weary travelers making the journey to pay their respects to the new leader in Tokyo.
Of the 53 post stations 22 were set up in Shizuoka and these quickly became thriving towns each with their own personality. Each stage of the journey along the road had its own special characteristics and challenges
The Modern equivalent of the Ancient Tokaido Road that exists today is very different from centuries ago (things are faster, more efficient and way more convenient) but the basic concept is still the same. Like many famous roads in the World – such as the Lincoln Highway, the Khyber Pass and the Silk Road – its primary use is trade but also set up so many can enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
The Modern Tokaido Line is represented by the JR Tokaido Bullet train which still follows a very similar path to the Ancient Route but can get you from Tokyo to Kyoto in just over 3 hours and instead of 22 stops along the way there are now 6 stations stops in Shizuoka.
Like the Ancient Tokaido Road of years gone by around each of these train stops along the way thriving towns and communities have grown with accommodation, restaurants, bars, shops and other services easily accessible. Each of these 6 stations along the Tokaido Line have their own unique characteristics and there is something for everyone at each stop.
ATAMI STATION – Just 40 mins from Tokyo Atami Station is the Gateway to Izu Peninsula and a perfect starting point for Explorers, Adventurers, Foodies, Hot Spring Enthusiasts, Sun Lovers and anyone who hears the ocean calling.
MISHIMA STATION – Mishima Station has something for everyone – easily accessible from the station. For Active, Sporty types who like to get out and moving AND Escapists, Families and those who just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life or want to get their Mt Fuji fix.
SHIN-FUJI STATION – As the name suggests Shin-Fuji is all about Mt Fuji – hikers, nature lovers, photographers and anyone interested in authentic local Japanese experiences at the foothills of this majestic mountain should consider stopping here.
SHIZUOKA STATION – Shizuoka Station is the perfect stop for lovers of fresh seafood, green tea enthusiasts and samurai period history buffs.
KAKEGAWA STATION – Kakegawa Station is the perfect stop for anyone who loves green tea. It is for people who are looking for something a little more personal, a little more intimate and for those who believe the journey is more important than the destination.
HAMAMATSU STATION – Hamamatsu is for Artisans, musicians, craftsman, tinkerers and people who like to dig a little deeper to discover the hidden jems – and for anyone who likes gyoza.