Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Shizuoka


The childhood residence of Ieyasu Tokugawa (you know who this is anot? He unified Japan) and also the place he chose to retire, Shizuoka used to be called Sumpu. The Sumpu gardens is what used to be his residence. Only the East gate is still there though.


Inside Sumpu Park is Momijiyama, a small but beautiful Japanese style garden (admission fees) which I believe is most brilliant in Autumn from the name (Momiji means autumn maple). When we were there, the irises were in bloom =)



You can sit down in the teahouse and enjoy some wagashi (Japanese sweet) and matcha (whipped powdered green tea) for JPY500. You may also visit the inner rooms if they’re not in use. When we visited, there was a function so we were not allowed in.





Two other places you MUST visit are Nihondaira 日本平 and Kunozan Toshogu Shine 久能山東照宫. On a good day, you can see Mt Fuji from Nihondaira. Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is the original shrine built by Tokugawa’s son. The one in Nikko and all other shrines in Japan copy its architecture. The weather in Shizuoka was not very good when we were there =( cloudy throughout and drizzled for two days.





I recommend a day-trip to Nihondaira and Kunozan Toshogu Shrine. Shizuoka is only one hour from Tokyo.

There are two ways to get Nihondaira and Kunozan Toshogu Shrine:

The (kay kiang and siao on)"I want to show my sincerity” way:
Ride the Ishida-Kaido-Line bus (#12 or 14) from JR Shizuoka station (#22 bus stop) for 35 minutes to Kunoyamashita (which means the bottom of Mount Kuno) with a change at Ooya stop. Then, CLIMB UP 1159 stone steps to reach the shrine. From the shrine, take a 5-min ropeway up to Nihondaira. Back-track to go back.

The “everybody goes by this way” way:
Ride the Shizuoka-Nihondaira-Line bus (#42) from JR Shizuoka station(#19 bus stop) for 35 minutes and get off at the terminal Nihondaira bus stop. The route up has many curves and turns so be prepared. Then take a 5-min ropeway down to Kunozan Toshugu Shrine. Back-track to go back to Shizuoka station.
You may get the bus times from the tour info counter at JR Shizuoka station and ask for the discount ticket for the ropeway and shrine entrance.

Of course, you can do a combi of the two routes i.e. go by Nihondaira, come back from Kunozan Toshogu Shrine. But whatever it is, make sure you check the bus times. Don’t miss the last bus otherwise all the best to you.

Shizuoka is the home of green tea in Japan. We visited the Ocha-no-sato in Kanaya. Not very accessible. Buses are not frequent. We took a taxi and paid about SGD$15 one way. It’s basically a place for tea-lovers. Go only if you LOVE tea. You can experience grinding your own tea leaves (FOC) and tea ceremony (JPY500) in a tea garden. You can also come up close and personal with the tea fields of Shizuoka. The museum is nothing much. Just some mock-up rooms of tea culture in the whole (china, Nepal, India, turkey) wonder why no English tea culture... the explanations are all in Japanese so hm... the shop sells EVERYTHING that has got to do with green tea.










On the way back, we stopped by at Kakegawa castle, a tiny castle not worth seeing if you have seen Himeji hahaha.


In Shizuoka, make sure you try the Unadon (unagi rice). It’s quite similar to Nagoya’s Hitsumabushi, except that they add raw yama imo (huai shan) cubes which gives it a gluey chewy texture and sakura ebi (cherry shrimps), another local produce of shizuoka. The shop recommended by both the hotel and tour info is Unagi Harakawa. Only Japanese menu but with pictures so you can point. While waiting for your unagi, the smoky smell of the BBQ eel teases you and makes you very hungry =) nice. I like. But very expensive. About SDG$20-25 per person for a bowl of eel rice.



Do also buy the tea and wasabi products before you leave as these are specialties of Shizuoka. Pictured below is the wasabi plant. Yes, i have the shark skin grater for grating wasabi but it's difficult to find wasabi in singapore -.-