By Ben Beechey
Just a short walk from Shimoda’s train station, the Shimoda Ropeway (also referred to as the Nesugatayama Ropeway) is the best place to go to capture the true panoramic beauty of the town and harbor. The summit also features a beautiful nature park immaculately manicured with seasonal flowers, a rotunda style Buddhist pavilion that doubles as a power spot, and several 19th century cannon with their sights still aimed at the bay where Perry’s ships once anchored. It makes for an wonderful way to start or end a day in Shimoda, and the forceful seaside winds at the top can help cool you down after a hot summer stroll through town.
The ropeway's entrance is marked with a colorful gate, and is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. An adult round trip ticket costs 1000 Yen and leaves every fifteen minutes. The views along the climb are well worth it, and the the power of the harbor winds are made evident by the sudden swaying of the gondola as powerful gusts crash against it. But the ride is brisk, taking under five minutes to reach the top.
Be sure to hold on to your hats and any other loose articles upon exiting Nesugatayama Station at the summit, as the winds can be a bit overwhelming, especially on the viewing platform and walkways nearby. There are a series of paths leading from the station that weave you through several wonderful flower gardens and towards a brightly painted Buddhist rotunda. Called Aizen-Do, this pavilion claims to be a Power Spot for those searching for love and children. If you take one of several ascending paths even further up the mountain, you’ll encounter several cannon pointed towards the harbors, a rather serious reminder of tension that once was focused on Shimoda's waters.
None of the trails are long or difficult so people of all ages should have no problem navigating the park. The nature park offers some of the most vibrant and well maintained flower beds found anywhere in Shizouka, especially in spring and early summer. Nesugatayama Station also has an excellent gift shop and small cafe with excellent views, a perfect place to stock up on your kurofune (black ship) souvenirs.
-Be sure to check the ropeway's website for detailed information, maps, and changes to the schedule due to high winds and winter weather.
-Part Three of this Shimoda series will conclude with the historic Gokusenji Temple and beautiful Tsumekizaki peninsula.
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I've lived in Japan for almost three years and have been constantly on the search for places that showcase the best of Japanese design and traditional culture. Fortunately, I haven't had to look hard as there are great places to visit often only a few train connections away. With careful planning, some linguistic effort, and an openness to new experiences, everyone can find special places that will leave lasting memories.I also have a great deal of help from my wife and her family, allowing me to travel to locations that I certainly wouldn't venture to solo. I'm excited to share those experiences and hope everyone can get on a new path of travel within Japan.