By Elle Harris
Just a one-hour Shinkansen (high speed bullet train) ride from Tokyo, Shizuoka is a beautiful city known for its view of Mount Fuji. However, there is more to do than just view the mountain. Through a specially designed tour, I had the opportunity to see the city, including a night's stay at Hotel Century, a ride on Nihondaira Ropeway, a visit to Kuno-San Toshogu Shrine, and a lunch at Nippondaira Hotel.
My tour began with a stay at Hotel Century, a popular western style hotel with 206 rooms, conveniently located next to Shizuoka Station. With a variety of room styles and sizes, Hotel Century offers inviting accommodations for solo travelers, families, and large groups. All of the rooms are designed in modern style and feature views of the city; some rooms, such as the Fuji View Comfort Twin room and the Panoramic Deluxe room, offer fabulous views of Mount Fuji and the cityscape. The hotel also offers a high class concierge service, restaurants, a bar, internet access points, and nearby shopping. I was greeted with the exceptional Japanese hospitality and had a wonderful night's stay. The following morning, I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hotel’s restaurant, The Table. The restaurant features both western and Japanese style breakfast opinions. This included local foods that were in season, such as sakura shrimp, a small bright pink shrimp used as a topping on various dishes, that Shizuoka is famous for.
The Hotel Century Shizuoka is a minute's walk from Shizuoka Station South Exit. The hotel is open all year round and offers a variety of modern rooms and dining experiences. Check-in time is from 2:00pm and check out is until 11:00am.
Our tour started early that morning, as the morning hours are the best time to see Mount Fuji. We could see panoramic views of Mount Fuji, Suruga Bay and the Izu Peninsula on our way to Nihondaira Ropeway. Nihondaira Ropeway is a suspended trolley car on a ropeway connecting Nihondaira with Kuno-zan Toshogu Shrine. Visitors ride Japanese stylized trolley cars on the 1065m ropeway, overlooking the breathtaking panoramic landscape of Mount Kuno, or Kuno-zan. It is the best and most beautiful way to go to the shrine.
After the 5 minute ropeway ride, we arrived at Kuno-zan Toshogu Shrine, the "Holy Land" of Shizuoka. It is the oldest of the Toshogu shrines in Japan and the burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was the first Shogun (military dictator) of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the last feudal Japanese military government. Upon arriving, we were given an audio guide consisting of a light pen and a sheet with photographs. Scan the photo with the pen, and it gives you a guided audio tour of the structure or area that you are visiting. I found it to be extremely useful, and could listen to the tour in my own language, at my own pace.
The thirteen structures of the shrine were decorated in reds, golds, greens, and blues. The colors, designs, and details on the wood carvings portrayed classic Japanese legends, and represented classic Japanese styles. There is also a museum on site, which includes national Japanese treasures such as Tachi (Japanese swords), suits of armor, household clothing and items, handwritten documents, art scrolls, and even and a famous gold clock owned by Tokugawa Ieyasu.
You can access Kuno-Zan Toshogu Shrine by Nihondaira Ropeway, or by foot from the base of Kuno-zan. Nihondaira Ropeway is about 40 minutes from Shizuoka Station, by bus or car. Both the ropeway and shrine are open all year round (the ropeway closed only on extremely windy days). Open from 9:10 - 17:15 from April 1st-October 15th, and 9:10-16:15 from October 16th - March 31st.
Using Nihondaira Ropeway once again to return, we were able to take a short walk to the third part of our tour, lunch at Nippondaira Hotel. This is an exquisite resort hotel featuring designer rooms and elegant restaurants, with stunning views of Mount Fuji and the bay. Our reservation was at The Terrace, a restaurant with large, open windows looking out onto the gardens.
We were greeted with the traditional Japanese hospitality and offered a menu of Japanese and western fusion dishes. On the day we visited, beef or salmon were the recommended lunch specials, and lunch included a buffet of fruit, vegetables, pasta, desserts, soft drinks, and the green tea for which Shizuoka is famous. Each part of the lunch was well done, from the food itself, to the presentation, and the overall atmosphere of the restaurant. It was the perfect ending to the tour.
Nippondaira Hotel is about ten minutes' walk from Niphondaira Ropeway, or 35 minutes by local bus from JR Shizuoka Station. A free shuttle bus is also available from Shizuoka and Higashi-Shizuoka Stations. The hotel has 80 spacious guest rooms, most providing spectacular views of Mount Fuji, ensuring a relaxed and a delightful stay.
This tour specializes in small groups, however, larger groups can be accommodated. I highly recommend this day tour whether you are new to Japan, a seasoned traveler, or an expat. Shizuoka offers visitors the chance to see part of Japan’s rich and beautiful culture. Shizuoka: come for the view, stay for the town.
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