Practical guidebooks for the more adventurous traveller.
— The Herald
Sample route guide: Tokyo to Nagoya by shinkansen
TOKYO TO NAGOYA BY SHINKANSEN [Table 3, p505]
Note: The sample text below is only part of the shinkansen route between Tokyo and Nagoya.
Distances from Tokyo. Fastest journey time (on a Hikari shinkansen): 104 mins.
Tokyo (Station) to Kakegawa [Map 1]
Tokyo 東京 [see pp103-33]
Shinagawa 品川(7km) All the shinkansen services call here. If you are transferring to/from the JR Yamanote Line (see pp104-16), or the Narita Express (N’EX, see box pp126-7) it makes sense to change here as the station is much smaller and easier to navigate your way round than Tokyo Station. If you need sustenance before your journey go to the area called ‘ecute’, on the platform concourse.
The shinkansen tracks are on the Konan 港南口 (East) Exit side of the station. Also on this side are several places to eat, a branch of Starbucks with a good view over the shinkansen concourse, and on the 3rd floor in Queens Isetan, a supermarket (daily 10am-8pm). Shinagawa is also a very convenient place to stay (see pp130-1) as it is on so many railway lines so provides easy access to lots of places.
A passageway connects the Konan side with the Takanawa 高輪口 (West) Exit where the main line platforms are as well as the private Keikyu Line. There are lockers (all sizes) at the back of the platform side of the main JR concourse. Most hotels are on this side of the station.
Shin-Yokohama 新横浜(29km) All the shinkansen services call here. The tourist information office (daily 10am-6pm) is by the station’s North Exit, opposite the East Exit for the shinkansen tracks. Lockers (¥300-600) are available in most parts of the station. The JR Yokohama Line and the Yokohama subway connect Shin-Yokohama with Yokohama Port and areas around there (see pp162-4).
Hotel rates in Shin-Yokohama are often a bit lower than in central Tokyo, so if you have a rail pass you might consider basing yourself here; Shinagawa/Tokyo are only 12/20 minutes away by shinkansen. Attached to the station is the JR-run Hotel Associa Shin-Yokohama ホテルアソシア新横浜 (tel 045-475 0011, www.associa.com/english/syh; from ¥17,000/S, ¥23,000/D or Tw, inc buffet breakfast; small discount for JR rail-pass holders), with smart rooms and compact but stylish bathrooms. Toyoko Inn 東横イン (www.toyoko-inn.com) has two branches, Shin-Yokohama Ekimae Honkan 新横浜駅前本館 (tel 045-474 1045) and Shin-Yokohama Ekimae Shinkan 新横浜駅前新館 (% 045-470 1045), near the North Exit of the station. Both charge from ¥5724/S, ¥7344/D or Tw inc breakfast.
On the North Exit side of the station, Cubic Plaza キュービックプラザ(www.cubicplaza.com) has various restaurants including Katsukura 名代とんかつかつくら(daily 11am-10pm) on the 9th floor, which serves delicious tonkatsu, especially hirekatsu (80g for ¥1280).
The main tourist sight near the shinkansen station is the unusual Ramen Museum ラーメン博物館 (www.raumen.co.jp/ramen; Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat, Sun & hols 10.30am-10pm; ¥310), five minutes on foot north-east from the North Exit (get a route map from the website or the tourist office). Exhibits on the 1st/ground floor tell the story of how noodles rose from humble beginnings to embrace the global market. But the big attraction is the re-created (1950s) ramen village in the basement, featuring traditional ramen shops from around Japan. Each one has its own machine and you need to order your ramen (¥800-1100) and any drinks and side dishes before going in. Since it may be hard to choose as there are so many options consider ordering a half-size portion so you can try more than one. Note that it can get very crowded so it is worth getting here late afternoon or early evening.
After you’ve eaten, be sure to walk around the back streets in the museum and look at the very educational shop area.
Side trip to Yokohama 横浜
The most interesting parts of Yokohama to visit are Sakuragicho, for a taste of the 21st century, and Ishikawa-cho for a bit of history. From Shin-Yokohama take the JR Yokohama Line to Yokohama and Sakuragicho (4-6/hr; 12-16 mins; ¥170); for Ishikawa-cho it is necessary to change at Yokohama or Higashi-Kanagawa and transfer to the JR Keihin-Tohoku/Negishi Line (2-10/hr; about 23 mins in all; ¥220).
There are tourist information centres (www.welcome.city.yokohama.jp; daily 9am-7pm) on the east–west walkway at Yokohama station and in front of the South Gate at Sakuragicho station (daily 9am-6pm). Both have maps and general information in English.
• Sakuragicho 桜木町 Home to Minato Mirai 21 みなとみらい21 (MM21), a city within a city featuring hotels, restaurants and shopping complexes, this area all looks very different to how it must have been in 1872, when it opened as a terminus for Japan’s first rail line between Shinagawa/ Shimbashi and Yokohama.
The Sakuragicho/Ishikawa-cho area is pretty compact so walking is easy but if you prefer to take a bus the Akai Kutsu あかいくつ(Red Bus; daily 10am-6pm, weekends to 7/8pm, Chinatown Motomachi route 3-4/hr, Minatomirai route 1-2/hr; ¥100/journey) operates round the main sights from in front of Sakuragicho station. If you plan to travel a lot in the area consider getting the Minato Burari ticket ミナトブラリチケット (1/day pass ¥500) as it permits unlimited travel in the designated area on the blue subway line and various buses including the Akai Kutsu.
From Sakuragicho station an escalator and then moving walkway will take you to Landmark Plaza, a shopping complex inside Landmark Tower ランドマークタワー; in 40 seconds a lift/elevator (daily 10am-9pm, to 10pm on Sat and in Jul-Aug; ¥1000) will whisk you from the 2nd floor lobby to the Sky Garden スカイガーデン, an observatory deck on the 69th floor (273m). Yokohama Royal Park Hotel 横浜ロイヤルパークホテル(tel 045-221 1111, www.yrph.com; from ¥23,760/S, ¥34,700/Tw or D inc breakfast), on the 52nd to the 67th floor, is the highest hotel in Japan. Don’t leave Landmark Plaza without having a ride up and/or down the curved escalators.
Also in the Minato Mirai 21area is an amusement park, Yokohama Cosmo World よこはまコスモワールド(cosmoworld.jp; Mar-Nov Fri-Wed 11am-9pm, Dec-Feb weekends only 11am-9pm), with Cosmo Clock 21 (¥800), a 107.5m-high ferris wheel (112.5m on its base). The advantage of this park is that entry is free, you just pay for whatever rides you do (generally ¥300-600 each). At the Cup Noodles Museum カップヌードルミュージアム (aka Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum インスタントラーメン発明記念館, www.cupnoodles-museum.jp; daily 10am-6pm; ¥500) visitors can make their own cup noodles (additional charge) and learn about Momofuku Ando (see box p155); they may also of course try many of the varieties in the food court. It is aimed at children so expect lots of school groups.
• Ishikawa-cho 石川町 This is the best stop for Yokohama’s Chinatown 中華街; turn left out of the station and follow the signs, which effectively means following the road around, over a bridge and then going straight on. Once in Chinatown proper the street is pedestrianised. Follow the signs to Yamashita Park 山下公園 (Yamashita-koen); this is also basically straight on and a 15- to 20-minute walk – you’ll know you’re there when you see the sea.
On Yamashita-koen-dori, the road running alongside the park, you’ll see Hotel New Grand ホテルニューグランド (www.hotel-newgrand.co.jp; from ¥33,264/S, ¥39,204/D or Tw), which is the only original hotel building left in Yokohama and whose facade is virtually unchanged since it was built in 1927, though a modern tower has now been added.
The Silk Museum シルク博物館 (www.silkmuseum.or.jp; Tue-Sun 9am-4.30pm; ¥500) is in English House No 1, the former Jardine Matheson and Company building. The silk production process is explained in a very clear way here and you also see kimonos and other garments made from silk. From here turn back and walk into the park itself.
Yamashita Park is a pleasant place for a rest and to watch the boats and cruise ships coming and going. Hikawu Maru 氷川丸 (www.nyk.com/rekishi; Tue-Sun 10am-5pm; ¥300) – a former NYK Line passenger liner on the Yokohama to Seattle and Vancouver route – is moored permanently at the other end of the park to commemorate the centenary of the port. A combined ticket with the NYK Maritime Museum日本郵船歴史博物館 (same hours; ¥400) costs ¥500. Not far away is the Marine Tower マリンタワー(daily 10am-10pm; ¥750) which has a 106m-high observatory floor.
Soon after the Marine Tower you pass Yokohama Doll Museum 横浜人形の家前 (www.doll-museum.jp; Tue-Sun 9.30am-5pm; ¥400), which houses thousands of dolls from around the world. From here follow signs to Minato no Mieru Oka Koen 港の見える丘公園 (Harbour View Park), which is on the other side of Hori-kawa (Hori River). Climb up the steps into the park, walk straight ahead but towards the right side until you see an exit to a road. Walk along that road, away from the park, and you will soon reach Yokohama Foreigners Cemetery 横浜外国人墓地 (www.yfgc-japan.com; Mar-Dec weekends and national holidays only, noon-4pm; donation of ¥200 or more requested). Over 4000 people from about 40 countries are buried here and in return for your donation you will be given a suggested route which shows where notable graves are: Edmund Morel who was the chief architect of the first railroad line in Japan (Shimbashi to Sakuragicho) in 1871 is buried here having died just before the opening ceremony. Even if it is not open it is worth going to look at the inscriptions on the graves you can see from the main entrance (Yamate Gate). From here it is an easy walk down through Motomachi and back to JR Ishikawa-cho station – just follow the signs.
A fireworks display (Hanabi Taikai) is held in Yamashita-koen in late July. Shunsetsu (Chinese New Year) is celebrated in February.
Odawara 小田原 (84km) Some Hikari and all Kodama stop here. Once an important castle town, Odawara is now a major junction on both the shinkansen and Tokaido main lines, as well as a terminus for the private Odakyu Line from Shinjuku. It’s also the main gateway to Hakone (see opposite).
The shinkansen tracks are on the west side of the station; go up the escalators/steps to the main concourse for the Odakyu tracks. The JR main line ticket gates are on the east side of the station. There are lockers (¥300-400) on the main east–west concourse including at the top of the escalators from the shinkansen platforms heading to the East Exit.
At Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center (daily 8.30am-6pm), on the main concourse, you can get all you need for a trip to Hakone. Odawara Station Tourist Information Center (daily 9am-5pm) is also on the concourse; staff here can give you a map and information about Odawara.
There are surprisingly few places to stay around the station and if going to Hakone it is recommended that you continue to Hakone-Yumoto (see opposite). One option on the East Exit side of Odawara station that doesn’t really live up to its name, is Hotel Posh ホテルポシユ (tel 0465-22 2155, www.hotel-posh.com; from ¥8000/S, ¥11,000/Tw); the rate includes a basic breakfast, which is left in your room. There are lots of restaurants and cafés nearby and along Higashi-dori, the main road to the left of the station, as well as in the station itself, so it won’t be hard to find somewhere to eat. For a yakiniku meal (from ¥1850) try Kai 快 on Higashi-dori.
Odawara Castle 小田原城 (daily 9am-4.30pm; ¥400), a 1960s reconstruction of the 15th-century original, is one of the best in the Tokyo area and has wonderful grounds with cherry blossom in spring, an excellent museum (if you like armoury), and a great view from the top. It is a 10- to 15-minute walk from the station. Recent renovations have included work to make the castle earthquake proof so it should be around for many more years.
Side trip to Hakone 箱根
The best way to get to Hakone from Odawara is with Odakyu Railway’s (www.odakyu.jp) Hakone Free Pass 箱根フリーパス (HF Pass; 2/3 days ¥4000/4500), a package ticket which offers incredible value. It includes return rail travel from Odawara (or Shinjuku, see p110) to Hakone-Yumoto and is valid for unlimited travel on: Hakone Tozan Railway, a switchback (mountain) railway; Hakone Tozan Cable Car (funicular); Hakone Ropeway (cable car); Hakone Sighteeing boat trips on Lake Ashi; and also on Hakone Tozan Bus’s services within the designated ‘Free’ area and Numazu Tozan Tokai buses between Mishima and Moto-Hakone. On top of all that it also offers discounts at a number of places of interest and restaurants in the area. At Odawara station, buy the pass from Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center (see opposite). If planning to visit the Kawaguchi-ko area as well consider getting the Fuji-Hakone Pass (see p141); it costs ¥5650 from Odawara.
If starting the journey in Odawara the first stage is to take an Odakyu train to Hakone-Yumoto 箱根湯本(daily 4/hr; 15 mins; ¥310 plus ¥200 to go in the Romance Car).
• Hakone-Yumoto 箱根湯本 Hakone-Yumoto station has lockers and an information office but it is better to go to the tourist information centre (TIC; daily 9am-5.45pm) across the road from the station; turn left out of the ticket gates, follow signs for the East Exit, walk across the pedestrian bridge and go down the steps. Staff are happy to book accommodation and have a range of leaflets about the many options in the area. Also on this side are the bus stops for Hakone and the ryokan shuttle bus service. A useful website with information about the whole area is www.hakonenavi.jp and for information about accommodation look at www.hakone-ryokan.or.jp.
If you are staying the night in the Hakone area and would like to sightsee without being laden go to Hakone Baggage Delivery Service 箱根キャリーサービス (daily 8.30am-7pm; ¥800-1100 per bag), behind the stairs on the 1st/ground floor in Hakone-Yumoto station. Luggage must be deposited at their office by 12.30pm and will be delivered to wherever you are staying. On your return luggage can be collected between 1pm and 7pm.
There are though several good options here. Hakone Suimeisou 箱根水明荘 (tel 0460-85-5381, www.suimeisou.com) is three minutes on foot from the station’s West Exit. There is a choice of Japanese accommodation with en suite rooms (from ¥15,120pp half board and based on two sharing), or Western-style single rooms (from ¥7450pp; no meals). There is an onsen, a rotemburo (¥150 bath tax per day; rotemburo hours rotate between men/women) and a private onsen (¥2000/50 mins, reservation required). Alternatively, on the far side of the bridge across the river by the TIC, Yumoto Fujiya Hotel 湯本富士屋ホテル (tel 0460-85-6111, www.yumotofujiya.jp; from ¥8640pp inc breakfast, ¥15,120pp inc half board) is a large hotel which also has both Japanese- and Western-style rooms, onsen and rotemburo as well as Japanese, Chinese and French restaurants. For those on a budget Kappa Tengoku かっぱ天国 (tel 0460-85-6121, www.kappa1059.co.jp; from ¥5600pp), a short but steep walk up behind the station, offers simple accommodation and also open-air single-sex baths (daily 10am-10pm; residents free, non-residents ¥800, plus ¥150 for towel rental).
For a delicious ramen lunch try Miharuso 見晴荘 (daily 11am-2pm; ¥1100); it is on the same road as the information centre but on the other side of the pedestrian bridge.
• Hakone Yumoto to Gora This stretch of the journey is on the Hakone Tozan Railway 箱根登山鉄道線, the only full-scale mountain railway (daily 2-4/hr; 40 mins; ¥400, free with HF Pass) in Japan. The train changes direction three times at switchbacks – so expect a slight delay as the driver and conductor change ends – but in general for the best views sit on the left. The line goes up 550m over 15km of track; some of the sections of track on this railway are the steepest in Japan.
Miyanoshita 宮ノ下 is the closest station to the atmospheric Fujiya Hotel 富士屋ホテル (tel 0460-82 2211, www.fujiyahotel.jp; from ¥9528pp based on two sharing), which opened in 1878. The hotel has spacious Western-style rooms in five different buildings set in a spacious garden. Each room has natural hot spring water and the hotel is a Registered Cultural Asset of Japan. The many photos of past guests add to the charm of the place. Chaplin’s Room (from ¥14,688pp based on two people sharing), where Charlie Chaplin stayed, is only available to foreign guests. Facilities include a swimming pool, hot spring baths and several restaurants. Eating here is not cheap but there are few other options.
Chokoku-no-Mori 彫刻の森, the last stop before Gora, is the closest station to Hakone Open-Air Museum 箱根彫刻の森美術館(Hakone Chokoku-no-Mori Bijutsukan; www.hakone-oam.or.jp; daily 9am-5pm; ¥1600, ¥1500 if booked online, discount with HF Pass). The museum is spread over 70,000 sq metres and it features works by a range of artists including Henry Moore, 26 of whose works are on show at any one time; there are also over 300 works by Picasso in the Picasso Pavilion and a separate area where the art works are geared to children. It is a glorious place to walk round, especially if the weather is good; if your feet get tired head for the hot spring foot-bath. The museum is only a few minutes’ walk from the station and you can see some of the sculptures from the train if you look out on the right-hand side.
At Gora 強羅 there is an information office (daily 10am-4.45pm) but the leaflets are mostly in Japanese and the staff don’t speak English or book accommodation. There are, however, lots of tourist shops here and some places to eat.
•l Gora to Sounzan Hakone Tozan Cable Car 箱根登山ケーブルカー (funicular; 1-4/hr; 10 mins; ¥420, free with HF Pass) operates to Sounzan 早雲山. Most people go straight there but right by Koenshimo 公園下 station, the first stop, there is a great place for a special meal. (Alternatively from Gora station walk up parallel to the track; the restaurant is at the end on the left).
Itoh Dining by Nobu イトウ ダイニング バイ ノブ (itoh-dining.co.jp; daily 11.30am-2.20pm & 5-8.30pm; lunch set menu from ¥3000, Kobe beef menu from ¥8000, evening set menus from ¥7000) is a teppanyaki restaurant opened in collaboration with revered chef Nobu (Nobuyuki Matsuhisa). ‘The lunch menu gives reasonable value for money and the Kobe beef dish is to die for.’ (Ben Storey & Alex Chambers).
• Sounzan to Togendai The Hakone Ropeway 箱根ロープウェイ (cable car; www.hakoneropeway.co.jp; Mar-Jul & Sep-Nov 8.45am-5.15pm, Aug to 5.30pm, Dec-Feb 9.15am-4.15pm) service operates continuously but even so, expect long queues at peak periods. The journey to Togendai takes approximately 24 minutes (¥1370 one-way, ¥2410 return, free with HF Pass). However, at the time of research the ropeway was closed between Sounzan and Togendai due to some (invisible) volcanic gas in the Owakudani crater area; a replacement bus service is operating instead. Also it is not possible to walk around Owakudani; check the website for updates.
If the weather is good though, just before arriving at the Ropeway’s first stop, Owakudani, look out to the right for views of Mt Fuji. Owakudani 大涌谷 (Hell Valley; www.owakudani.com) is an explosion crater that was created about 3000 years ago. It is so called because of the horrible smell coming from the fumarolic gas with poisonous hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide which emerges from gaps (vents) in the ground. Don’t let the smell put you off getting out and exploring, though some of the nature trails may be closed because of concerns about erosion and landslides. If you can, it is worth walking up the main trail (350 metres; approx 10 mins) to Tamago-chaya (8.30am-5pm) for a kuro tamago黒卵 (¥500 for five); eggs are cooked in the hot spring ponds and after about an hour the shells turn black due to the reaction of the hydrogen sulphide and the iron in the water. You may like to know that eating the eggs is meant to extend your life by seven years. Whilst here look out for the dedicated ropeway which brings the eggs up to be cooked. If you have some spare time pop in to Hakone GeoMuseum 箱根ジオミュージアム (daily 9am-4.30pm; ¥300, ¥250 with HF Pass); it has some videos with subtitles in English and exhibits about geo-activity in the area.
Few get out at the next stop, Ubako 姥子, but the observation point, a 5- to 10-minute walk away, is an excellent place for a picnic with views of Lake Ashi though sadly Fuji-san is obscured here. It also provides a chance to have a break from the almost inevitable crowds. Take the exit on the right and follow the path. At Togendai 桃源台, the final stop, you could rent a swan pedalo, but most people join one of the kitsch but fun sightseeing cruise boats; apart from the scenery this is one of the highlights of the trip.
• Togendai to Hakone-machi / Moto-Hakone Hakone Sightseeing Ships 箱根観光船 operates replica 17th-/18th-century ships (www.hakone-kankosen.co.jp; mid Mar-Nov 10am-5pm, Dec to mid Mar 10am-4pm; 1-2/hr; ¥1000/1840 one-way/return, first class additional ¥500/770) around Lake Ashi, a crater lake, providing a scenic, but somewhat incongruous, experience. Note that the HF Pass is only valid on Hakone Sightseeing’s boats, not those operated by IzuHakone.
The full circuit takes about 100 minutes but most people get off at either Hakone-machi 箱根町, the first stop, or Moto-Hakone. From Hakone-machi you can walk along the ancient cedar avenue (see p170) to Moto-Hakone 元箱根. Moto-Hakone Guest House 元箱根ゲストハウス (tel 0460-83-788, motohakone.com; ¥5250pp) is a friendly place. It is a fairly steep 12- to 15-minute walk along the main road heading inland, or you can take a Hakone Tozan bus heading to Gora/Odawara and get off at Oshiba 大芝 stop (2/hr; ¥170; free with HF Pass). Meals are not available but the proprietor can give you a map showing a pleasant way to walk back to Moto-Hakone. Since most restaurants close early another option is to buy your own provisions from the 7-Eleven convenience store (at the Moto-Hakone end of the main road) before going to the guesthouse.
If you have a HF Pass you could take a bus from here to Mishima (see opposite) rather than retracing your steps.
Atami 熱海 (105km) Kodama and a few Hikari stop here. Atami is a famous onsen town but, due to its proximity to Tokyo, it often gets unpleasantly crowded. Apart from the onsen, the main tourist draw is MOA Museum of Art (see below) but it is also the access point for a side trip to Ito and Shimoda (see below) both of which are of historical interest, particularly to British and Americans. The tourist information centre (TIC; daily 9am-5/5.30pm) has maps and information about the local area. There are lots of lockers (¥300-400 inside the station, ¥300-500 outside).
Hot springs abound, with a choice of seven spas; you can pick up a map at the TIC and stroll around the town visiting them all. There is also a free foot hot spring (ashi-yu) just outside the station.
MOA Museum of Art MOA美術館 (MOA Bijutsukan; www.moaart.or.jp; Fri-Wed 9.30am-4.30pm; ¥1600), on a hillside overlooking Atami, contains a large collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings and ceramics as well as gold and silver lacquerware. Pick up a discount voucher (¥200 per group) from the TIC then either take an IzuTokai bus from Platform 8, or YuYu Loop Bus (13/day; ¥250, ¥800/1-day pass) from the platform designated Platform 0. Another YuYu route covers attractions in central Atami.
Side trip by train to Ito and Shimoda
Atami is the starting point for the JR Ito Line south to Ito and Shimoda. Both the Odoriko/Super View Odoriko LEX (6/day; about 20/73 mins to Ito/Izukyu-Shimoda from Atami) and local trains (1-2/hr; about 22/66 mins) operate on this line. Japan Rail passes are valid only to Ito. Beyond Ito the line continues to Izukyu-Shimoda, but this section is operated by the private Izukyu Railway 伊豆急行線 (www.izukyu.jp; ¥1620, ¥2130 inc reserved seat); so JR pass-holders will have to pay at the ticket barrier if not before. Note that the station’s name is Izukyu-Shimoda, but the town is Shimoda.
• Ito 伊東 Ito is where William Adams, the first Englishman to set foot in Japan, spent much of his life after a shipwreck off the coast of Kyushu in 1600. He became known as Anjin-san and his arrival is celebrated during the Anjin Matsuri in August. The William Adams Festival is held here on August 8th-10th; the festival celebrates his success building a Western-style sailing ship, the first such ship in Japan.
• Shimoda 下田 Shimoda is the southernmost town on the Izu Peninsula and is where Commodore Perry’s ‘Black Ships’ (see p56) landed in 1854. The Japanese referred to them as ‘black ships’ because of the black smoke coming from them. Virtually everywhere you walk in Shimoda now has something of historical interest and it would be very easy to fill a day here, let alone enjoying the fact that the town is a fishing port, and also has a canal, several old buildings and some wonderful beaches.
Pick up a walking map from the tourist information centre (www.shimodacity.info; daily 10am-5pm) at Izukyu-Shimoda 伊豆急下田 station and discover: the monument marking where Commodore Perry landed ペリー艦隊来航記念碑; Perry Rd ペリーロード where he walked to sign the Treaty of Shimoda at Ryosen-ji; Gyokusen-ji 玉泉寺, home first for Commodore Perry and his delegation and later for Townsend Harris and also where Harris opened the first US consulate in 1856. (He lived here until the consulate moved to Edo, now Tokyo, in 1859). Gyokusen-ji’s other claim to fame (though it is probably not something it is really proud of) is that this is where the first cow for human consumption was slaughtered in Japan. Also look out for Hofuku-ji 宝福寺 where Harris’s maid, Okichi, is remembered; sadly she was persecuted for working for a foreigner and eventually she took her own life. Choraku-ji 長楽寺 is where Admiral Putyatin of the Imperial Russian Navy signed a treaty in 1855 opening up relations between Japan and Russia.
Mishima 三島(121km) Kodama and a few Hikari stop here. The shinkansen tracks are on the north side of the station and there are lockers of all sizes as well as some cafés outside the North Exit. You need to cross to the South Exit for the bus centre and services to the Hakone region (see below) and Kawaguchi-ko (see pp138-41), the latter via an express bus service (daily 6/day; approx 100 mins; ¥2260/one-way, ¥4110/return). Mishima is also an access point for Gotemba if wanting to climb Mt Fuji (see box pp170-1) and for the lovely onsen town of Shuzenji (see pp170-1).
Before moving on from Mishima visit Rakujuen 楽寿園 (daily Apr-Oct 9am-5pm, Nov-Mar to 4pm; ¥300), a lovely large stroll garden, across the road from the tourist information centre. Amongst the delights here is a pond which should be filled with water from the sides of Fuji-san but sadly for some years it hasn’t been; the locals are always hopeful that will change. The only way you can see Rakujukan, a tea ceremony house, is on a tour (hourly 10.30am-3.30pm; free) that is in Japanese only, but it is worth it to see the beautiful screens and also for good views of the garden.
Mishima Natsu Matsuri (15th-17th August) is the main festival in Mishima and it includes a procession with floats; yabusame is among the events on the last day.
Dormy Inn Mishima ドーミーイン三島 (tel 055-991 5489, www.hote spa.net/hotels/mishima; from ¥8090/S, ¥11,190/D or Tw) is a five-minute walk from the South Exit of the station – turn left and you are likely to see it easily as it stands on its own. Like all branches of this highly recommended chain it has onsen baths (single sex), but from these you may be able to see Mt Fuji.
Side trip by bus to the Hakone region
Take a Numazu Tozan Tokai bus 沼津登山東海バス from bus stand 5, outside the South Exit of Mishima station, to Moto-Hakone (1-2/hr; 45-50 mins; ¥1030). From there you could take one of the sightseeing boats on Lake Ashi (see p167), or walk to Hakone-machi along a section of the Ancient Cedar Avenue (cedars were planted to provide shade for travellers on the old Tokaido Highway) passing the Hakone Checkpoint/Exhibition en route. If the weather is good you should be able to see Mt Fuji from the lakeside without taking a boat trip. Buses back to Mishima depart from bus stand 4 (by Hakone-machi pier).
Side trip by rail to Shuzenji 修善寺
Kobo Daishi (see p156) founded a Shuzen-ji temple here in 807 and is also said to have created a hot spring when he struck a rock with an iron club causing water to flow out; over the intervening years it has developed into a lovely onsen town. Shuzenji-onsen 修善寺温泉 (www.shuzenji.info) is in a beautiful setting surrounded by hills and with a river flowing through the centre of town; there is also a bamboo grove here and various temples.
Shuzenji 修善寺 station is the last stop on the private Izuhakone railway from Mishima (3-5/hr; 35 mins; ¥510). Two Odoriko LEX services a day (126 mins) also go to Shuzenji from Tokyo; JR rail-pass holders have to pay the fare between Mishima and Shuzenji. Shuzenji-onsen is about 10 minutes (2-5/hr; ¥220) by Tokai Bus from Stop No 1 outside the South Exit of Shuzenji station. Before you get on the bus pick up a map and information from Izu City Tourist Information Centre (daily 9am-5.30pm) at the station.
There are hideous smoke stacks everywhere you look as you approach Shin-Fuji, which is a shame since you expect a place with this name to afford picture-postcard views of Japan’s most famous natural wonder.
You should start looking out for views of Mt Fuji though; on the right side of the train (from Tokyo) or on the left side (to Tokyo). For information about climbing Mt Fuji see box pp170-1.
Shin-Fuji 新富士(146km) Only Kodama stop here. If the smoke stacks haven’t put you off and the weather is good do stop here as there are several places offering good views of Mt Fuji. Shin-Fuji Tourist Information Center (tel 0545-64 2430; daily 8.45am-5.30pm), almost directly opposite the shinkansen exit gate, provides information about the area and also makes it as easy as possible to get around by offering free bike rental (Apr-Sep daily 9am-5pm, Oct-Mar to 4pm) on a first come first served basis; they have 10 bikes and will accept phone reservations. They will tell you the various options for views of Mt Fuji and provide a route map. In reality if the weather is good you don’t need to go anywhere as you can see it from in front of the station. However, cycling just eight minutes to Tadehara Overpass (or walking a little bit longer) will give you a different perspective. Other options include the riverbed of Fujikawa river, Chuo Park, and also Iwamotoyama Park where you can see Mt Fuji through plum and cherry trees in the spring. But possibly the best option is cycling about 20 minutes to Tagonoura Port as then you can see the whole expanse of Fuji-san and have fishing boats at the front of your image. Also your efforts can be rewarded (if you are here between April and December) with a lovely meal of shirasu-don しらす丼 (baby whitebait/sardines on a bowl of rice; from ¥650) from Taganoura Fisheries Cooperative Restaurant 田子の浦港 漁協食堂 (daily Apr-Dec 10am-1.30pm, or until sold) at the port. Having reached the port you can also ride along the cycle coastal path! If you need to leave luggage at Shin-Fuji station there are lots of lockers (¥200-500).
A bus operates between Shin-Fuji and Fuji station (approx 2/hr; 7 mins; ¥170); from Fuji you can pick up the Wide View Fujikawa LEX (see p174).
Shizuoka 静岡(180km) Some Hikari stop here and all Kodama. A well-known tea-producing area, but another claim to fame is that the city produces more plastic models – such as cars, trains, or popular characters – than anywhere else in Japan. It is also an access point for Nihondaira, deemed one of the top 100 sightseeing spots in Japan, and Kunozan Toshogu, a shrine.
At JR Shizuoka station the main exit for the city is on the north side. There is normally an English speaker on hand at Shizuoka City Tourist Information Center (www.shizuoka-guide.com; daily 9am-5.45pm), by the North Exit. You can pick up maps and information about getting to the various sights. The Bus Terminal is to the right outside the North Exit. There are several restaurants and cafés in Asty in the station building.
For Nihondaira and Kunozan Toshogu take Shizutetsu bus No 42 (Apr-Oct Mon-Fri 6/day, Sat-Sun 8-9/day; 40 mins; ¥580) from bus stand No 11 at Shizuoka station and get off at Nihondaira 日本平 (the last stop). Hopefully the weather is good and you can admire the views from this plateau. When you have seen enough take the short ropeway ride (www.shizutetsu.co.jp/park; daily summer 9.10am-5pm, winter to 3pm; 3-6/hr; ¥550 each way, combo ticket inc round trip on the ropeway and entry to the shrine and shrine museum ¥1750) to the shrine; it terminates by the entrance.
Kunozan Toshogu 久能山東照宮 (www.toshogu.or.jp; May-Oct daily 9am-5pm, Nov-Apr to 4pm; ¥500 pavilion, ¥800 inc museum) was built here, on top of Mt Kuno (270m), as requested in Ieyasu Tokugawa’s will (1542-1616). He had spent the last years of his life in Shizuoka and wanted to be buried here; his body, however, is now in Nikko. Behind the main shrine, which is surprisingly ornate and colourful, is the simple mausoleum, surrounded by trees. Also here is a small but fascinating museum (9am-5pm; ¥400) housing a colourful treasure trove of Ieyasu’s possessions, including glittering swords, hanging scrolls, samurai armour and an antique table clock from Madrid.
There are two ways back to Shizuoka from the shrine. Either take the ropeway back to Nihondaira and then pick up the bus back to the station, or walk down the 1159 steps from the shrine to the coast. There are several strawberry farms at the bottom of the steps where, most of the year, you can buy strawberries and strawberry juice, ice-cream or jam. Turn left when you reach the foot of the steps (don’t go as far as the main road in front of you) and walk 150m to the bus stop, where bus No 14 (approx 1/hr; ¥480) will return you to Shizuoka station. If you really want to climb the 1159 steps up to the shrine you can catch this bus from stop No 22 outside Shizuoka station.
The highlight of Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art 静岡県立美術館(Shizuoka Kenritsu Bijutsukan; www.spmoa.shizuoka.shizuoka.jp; Tue-Sun 10am-5.30pm; ¥300; additional charge for special exhibitions; English audio guide available) is the Rodin Wing, which boasts an impressive collection of bronze Auguste Rodin casts, including his famous Thinker and the Gates of Hell. There is also a sculpture garden and the main exhibition includes works by Impressionists such as Monet. Take bus No 44 from stop No 11, which is across the road from Shizuoka station (take the North Exit and cross the road by Hotel Associa Shizuoka) and alight at Kenritsu Bijutsukan (30 mins; ¥350). Alternatively take a train to JR Kusanagi 草薙 station (6/hr; 7 mins; ¥190) and then pick up the bus (about 6 mins; ¥100).
The most convenient place to stay in Shizuoka is the JR-run Hotel Associa Shizuoka ホテルアソシア静岡(tel 054-254 4141, www.associa.com/sth; from ¥12,343/S, ¥16,972/D, ¥22,630/Tw; Japan Rail pass-holders get 10% discount), on your right as you take the North Exit from Shizuoka station. The rooms are a good size. A great place for some sushi is Numazu Uogashi-zushi Nagare-zushi 沼津 魚がし鮨 流れ鮨静岡石田店 (daily 11am-10pm) on the 1st/ground floor in Parche at Shizuoka station. TV screens here show fish being unloaded at Numazu port to show you it is really fresh, but also show how to place an order using the iPads by each seat. Depending on where you are sitting your sushi may be delivered on a conveyor belt, or if sitting in the main area the chef will give your order to you, though you still need to order it via the iPad.
- Routes and costs; When to go
- Rail Passes
- Sample route guide: Tokyo to Nagoya by shinkansen
- Side trip to Miyajima
- Off the beaten track sightseeing
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