Shimizu, Japan cruises

Shimizu is a bustling modern port with ancient roots and many a revered shrine to visit. You’ll no doubt find your gaze repeatedly drawn to the beautiful snow-capped cone of nearby Mount Fuji.

A fitting starting point here is Sumpu Castle, where you can contemplate the moats, remaining stone walls and restored buildings dotted around this 400-year-old site. After all, this is the building that, to some degree, put Shimizu on the map. In becoming shogun, or supreme military dictator in 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa shogunate which would last until the Meiji Restoration of 1868. This was known as the Edo Period. Tokugawa Ieyasu himself built Sumpu Castle, then retired there in 1605, even though he remained leader of Japan until his death in 1616.

During the Edo period, arts and culture flourished. The ukiyo-e style of art, produced using wood blocks and depicting geisha, sumo wrestlers and actors, became part of popular culture. The collections at the Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum in Shimuzu helps trace the development of this form and style over time, and includes works from Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), who developed a reputation for his landscapes.

Of course, when it comes to actual landscapes, sacred Mount Fuji takes star billing in this part of central Japan, and one of the best places to admire it from is Miho-no-Matsubara. This scenic spot has been designated as one of the “New Three Views of Japan,” a landscape where the inlets of Suruga Bay meet swathes of dark pine forest.

To avoid confusion at this point, it’s worth noting that Shimizu Port, whose earliest references date back over 1,200 years, was absorbed into Shizuoka City in 2003.

And it’s within the greater area of Shizuoka City that you’ll find Kunozan Toshogu Shrine on Mount Kunozan. Of all the shrines dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, as this one is, it’s second in importance only to that at Nikko, Ieyasu’s final resting place. Kunozan Toshogu is exquisitely ornate with intricate and brightly colored flourishes throughout. It’s worth conquering around 1,000 steps for, although you can take a more relaxing cable car from the scenic Nihondaira Plateau.

You may find yourself drawn closer to Mount Fuji’s foothills, on an excursion to seek out the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine. Should you stay in Shimizu itself, there’s Shizuoka Sengen Shrine to explore, actually a collective name for three Shinto shrines, close to Sumpu Castle.

And why not round off your trip with some local seafood? Shimizu is the tuna capital of Japan in terms of the amount caught, making it a popular choice on menus here along with shirasu, or whitebait. A local specialty is sakura shrimp, a small, crunchy variety found in Suruga Bay, and so named because it’s the color of cherry blossom. If you’re after a memento or two of your day, bamboo products and lacquered goods make perfect souvenirs.