Shimizu & Shizuoka, Japan

Shimizu is rated among Japan’s top three prettiest ports because of its crystal-clear natural harbor, abundant entertainment and majestic views of Mount Fuji. In 2003, it merged with Shizuoka City. This capital of Shizuoka Prefecture is home to Sunpu Castle. The fortress was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of Japan’s ruling dynasty from 1603 -1868.

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Mount Fuji from Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s iconic landmarks, portrayed in endless paintings and photographs. The country’s tallest mountain has an elevation of 12,389 feet. Fujisan’s summit can be seen in Tokyo on a clear day from an elevated observation deck. But at Shimizu Port it is half the distance away – less than 25 miles. The peak is snow-capped for about five months and typically shrouded in clouds. The stratovolcano last erupted in 1707/1708. This does not mean it is dormant. Volcanologists calculate the current magna pressure exceeds the Hōei eruption over three hundred years ago.

1 Visit Both Shizuoka and Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

If your cruise itinerary includes Shizuoka, then your ship will dock at Shimizu Port. In 2003, the two cities merged yet are very different. Shizuoka offers exciting historical attractions plus a bustling downtown. Shimizu provides a wide spectrum of entertainment along with the serene waterfront of Suruga Bay. Best advice is to first explore Shizuoka’s highlights shown in this travel guide. Then save time before embarkation to unwind and enjoy Shimizu.

13 Irifune-cho, Shizuoka Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka, Japan

2 History of Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka, Japan

While Imagawa Norikuni was shogun of Suruga Province (present day Shizuoka Prefecture) during the 14th century, he built a fortification here. Starting in 1585, Tokugawa Ieyasu (who founded the 300 year Edo Period of Japanese rulers) began transforming it into Sunpu Castle. By the early 17th century, Sunpu-jō had a system of moats and a keep to protect his palace. It soon burned down but was elaborately rebuilt. At the start of the Meiji Restoration (1868), when the Tokugawa shogunate ended, Sunpu Castle ceased to be their residence. In 1889, the property was donated to Shizuoka City. From 1896 until 1949, it served the Imperial Japanese Army. Then the ruins of Sunpu Castle became a free park. A few structures were historically recreated in the 1990s. On the left is Tatsumi Yagura. The tower’s name means armory (arrow storage) in southeast corner. On the right is the East Gate.

Sunpujōkōen, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken 420-0855, Japan

3 Historic Description of Shizuoka, Japan

The area now known as Shizuoka in southcentral Japan has been populated since ancient times. However, it first became significant during the Nara period (710 – 794) when it was called Suruga Province. In the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333), the land was ruled by the Hōjō clan and subsequently the Imagawa clan until the end of the 16th century. Then it was dominated by the Tokugawa shogunate from 1602 until 1868. In 1871, it became the Shizuoka Prefecture and Shizuoka was given city status in 1889. The name means “calm hills.” Today, Shizuoka-shi is the capital of Shizuoka Prefecture with 700,000 residents. In 2003, it merged with neighboring Shimizu City, becoming one of Japan’s largest municipalities with an area encompassing 545 square miles. Across from the inner moat of Sunpu Castle are the headquarters for Shizuoka Prefectural. On the left are the main offices with a spectacular free observation platform on the 21st floor. On the right is the Shizuoka Prefectural Office Annex.

9-6 Ote-machi, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka 420-8560, Japan

4 Moat Wall below Shizuoka Prefectural Office in Shizuoka, Japan

Although the Shizuoka Prefectural Office building is worth a close up for its architectural design, what caught my attention was the massive wall below it. Historically, this was the location of Sunpu Castle’s Ote Gate spanning the middle of its three moats. Well-fortified Japanese castles had two-part curtain walls. The stone base could exceed a height of 125 feet. On top was a plaster wall niched with slots for firing weapons.

9-6 Ote-machi, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka 420-8560, Japan

5 Hitsujisaru Yagura at Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka, Japan

Hitsujisaru Yagura is a reproduction of a wooden gate built at Sunpu Castle in the early 17th century. Its hip and gable roof design is called irimoya-zukuri. Although Higashigomon (East Gate) looks decorative, it was designed for battle. The façade includes narrow arrow slits (ya-sama) plus openings for muskets (teppo-sama) and cannons (taiho-sama). Assuming an enemy reached the moat, they were pummeled by falling stones hurdled from roof slats called ishi-sama. No wonder the Japanese named a castle entrance koguchi meaning “tiger’s mouth.”

Sunpujōkōen, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken 420-0855, Japan

6 North Gate at Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka, Japan

Sunpu Castle has several Japanese names including Sunpu-jō, Fuchū-jō and Shizuoka-jō. The most descriptive English version is Castle of the Floating Isle because, during the 17th century, the fortress was encircled by three moats. This style of concentric rings is called rinkaku. The design was exceptionally expensive so rare in Japan. Two of the deep defensive waterways remain. This is the innermost moat at North Gate. Half of this footbridge was reconstructed in stone. The original was wooden.

Sunpujōkōen, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken 420-0855, Japan

7 Sculpted Gardens at Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka, Japan

Sunpu Castle was enormous. Only the inner ring remains today. This former third citadel measures 44.5 acres. The grounds constituting today’s park is flat and open accented with sculpted gardens and lined with ancient trenches. During the 17th century, this was a twisting maze of high walls where defenders could shower attackers with arrows, rocks, guns, bamboo spikes and hot liquids. In the center was a courtyard called a baily or hon maru. This is where a fortified tower (keep) stood as the final line of defense.

Sunpujōkōen, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken 420-0855, Japan

8 Tokugawa Ieyasu Statue at Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka, Japan

In 1600, the Western Army led by Ishida Mitsunari was defeated in the Battle of Sekigahara. Three years later, the leader of the victorious Eastern Army, Tokugawa Ieyasu, founded the Tokugawa shogunate and became the country’s first shōgun. This dynasty of military dictators ruled Japan from 1603 until 1868 during the Edo Period (also called the Tokugawa Period). Tokugawa Ieyasu lived at Sunpu Castle three times: as a child hostage, before he became ruler and then afterwards during his retirement until his death in 1616. He is shown holding a falcon because he admired the bird’s cunning and skill as a hunter.

Sunpujōkōen, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken 420-0855, Japan

9 Hodaiji Temple in Shizuoka, Japan

An oasis of serenity and harmony hiding in the core of downtown Shizuoka is Hodaiji. In front of the main hall of this Buddhist temple is a lovely pond filled with golden carp. The grounds are adorned with religious statuary and sculpted greenery. Adjacent is a graveyard with monuments honoring generations of loved ones. Unfortunately, nothing about this temple is available online. Perhaps they want to keep it a secret so its beauty is never marred by curious tourists.

12-2 Tenmacho, Aoi Ward, Shizuoka, 420-0858, Japan

10 Luxury Stores at Matsuzakaya Shizuoka in Shizuoka, Japan

Matsuzakaya Shizuoka is a major department store in city center adjacent to JR Shizuoka station. Most items on six floors are typical merchandise serving local residents. They also have a Choice Boutique wing in the North Building featuring luxury retailers. These premium fashion brands include Cartier, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tiffany and Co. plus Louis Vuitton. You will also find a grocery store and deli in the basement and restaurants on the eighth floor.

10-2, Miyukicho, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka 420-8560, Japan

11 Aoi Tower in Shizuoka, Japan

Shizuoka City’s tallest building is Aoi Tower. The blue-glass skyscraper stands 410 feet and was finished in 2010. The high-rise office complex is across the street (Tokai-do) from Shizuoka Station. Aoi-ku is the name of a Shizuoka Prefecture ward encompassing the city.

17-1 Koyamachi, Aoi Ward, Shizuoka, 420-0852, Japan

12 Museum of Art in Shizuoka, Japan

The Shizuoka City Museum of Art is located in Aoi Tower. Its collection reflects its mission to “create and communicate an energetic art and culture of the people and the local region.” This means the pieces are primarily a reflection of the Edo period (1603 – 1868), an era that defined Shizuoka’s role in Japanese history. Another gallery to consider visiting – especially if you like Auguste Rodin – is the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art. The exhibit includes 32 of the famous French sculptor’s work. A third option is the Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Art featuring 1,400 woodblock prints.

17-1 Koyamachi, Aoi Ward, Shizuoka, 420-0852, Japan

13 Concert Hall Shizuoka in Shizuoka, Japan

This dramatic, reflective façade has housed the Shizuoka Concert Hall AOI since 1995. The 618 seat, performing arts theater has an active schedule of events, ranging from the classics, to visiting artists to local musicians. In addition, they occasionally offer lunchtime concerts and programs for children.

1-9, Kurogane-cho, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Japan

14 Tokugawa Ieyasu Sculpture at Shizuoka Station in Shizuoka, Japan

In a plaza outside of JR Shizuoka Station are two bronze statues of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, a dynasty who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1868. One sculpture shows him as a child when his name was Takechiyo and he was a hostage of the Imagawa clan at Sunpu Castle. This one portrays him as an adult during the height of his power. If you visit Sunpu Castle, you will learn Tokugawa Ieyasu extensively expanded the local fortress. On a grander scale, he also constructed the Edo Castle during his retirement (1605 – 1616). Japan’s largest castle is now the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Kurogane-chō, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, 420-0852, Japan

15 Historical Description of Shizuoka Sengen Jinja in Shizuoka, Japan

Shizuoka Sengen Jinja is a complex of 26 Important Cultural Properties. Three Shinto shrines co-exist on about 11 acres: Kanbe Jinja, Asama Jinja and Otoshimioya Jinja. Their origin ranges from 1,100 to over 2,000 years old. Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded Japan’s Tokugawa period (1603 – 1868), celebrated his coming of age here as a teenager. In 1582, when Ieyasu had become a master warlord, he burned the shrines down as part of a battle strategy but vowed to rebuild if he was victorious. In 1586, he kept his promise and sponsored a major reconstruction. They were restored again during the 19th century and then extensively renovated in 2013.

102-1 Miyagasaki-chō, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, 420-0868, Japan

16 Rōmon at Shizuoka Sengen Jinja in Shizuoka, Japan

At the main entrance of Shizuoka Sengen Jinja is this tower gate. The two-storied, wooden rōmon is painted in red lacquer and accented with gold leaf. After an extensive fire to the Sengen Jinja complex in 1804, the Tokugawa shogunate spent 60 years rebuilding the shrines. This gate was finished in 1815. In the foreground is a Japanese pedestal lantern called a tachidōrō. Notice the relief of the lion along the side.

102-1 Miyagasaki-chō, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, 420-0868, Japan

17 Main Worship Hall at Shizuoka Sengen Jinja in Shizuoka, Japan

The largest structure at Sengen Jinja stands an impressive 82 feet. The main hall of worship is a combination of two shrines, each with their own stairs and entrance. Kanbe Jinja was established during the 1st century BC and is dedicated to Okuniushinomikoto (god who ruled Japan) and Niniginomikoto (Japanese Emperor ancestor) plus Tokugawa Ieyasu. The building also houses Asama Jinja, founded in 901. Enshrined is Sakuya, the kami of Mount Fuji. People pray at this haiden for long life, a good marriage and a healthy child at birth.

102-1 Miyagasaki-chō, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, 420-0868, Japan

18 Yachihoko Jinja at Shizuoka Sengen Jinja in Shizuoka, Japan

During the Edo period (1603 – 1868), this was Marishitensha. The shrine was erected for the Buddhist goddess of Marishiten. Although this kami protects people and wealth, her primary role is guardian of warriors. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, prayed to her before the 90 battles he fought during his military career. In the 19th century, the shrine was renamed Yachihoko Jinja and rededicated to Ōkuninushi, the Great Land Master and god of nation building. The architecture of Yachihoko Jinja stands out at Shizuoka Sengen Jinja because of its black lacquer and intricate carvings beneath its irimoya-zukuri roof.

102-1 Miyagasaki-chō, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, 420-0868, Japan

19 Torii of Otoshimioya Jinja at Shizuoka Sengen Jinja in Shizuoka, Japan

The presence of a vermillion-colored torii gate is symbolic of a Shinto shrine. The pathway approaching the building is a sandō. This front sandō (omote-sandō) leads to Otoshimioya Jinja, founded during the reign of Emperor Ōjin (270 – 310). It is located along the southern edge of the Shizuoka Sengen Jinja complex. Visible is the haiden with a simple cooper roof.

102-1 Miyagasaki-chō, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, 420-0868, Japan

20 Honden of Otoshimioya Jinja at Shizuoka Sengen Jinja in Shizuoka, Japan

A Shinto shrine typically consists of two primary buildings. The heiden is the offering or prayer hall positioned in front. Behind it is the honden. This sacred main hall is where the deity is enshrined. It is rarely open to the public and only entered by a Shinto priest. This is the honden of Otoshimioya Jinja. Inside is the go-shintai (sacred body) of the kami Otoshimioya, the god of business and economy. This nagare-zukuri style structure was rebuilt after a fire in 1804.

102-1 Miyagasaki-chō, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka, 420-0868, Japan

21 S-Pulse Dream Plaza in Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

The shopping and attraction focal point of Shimizu Port is S-Pulse Dream Plaza. The complex is named after Shizuoka Prefecture’s professional football team. The mall’s best feature is the Shimizu Sushi Museum. Positioned as a theme park, the museum recreates Shimizu Port from the 19th century. Plus the Sushi Academy teaches you the history and preparation of Japan’s raw fish delicacy. When your mouth is watering, visit Shimizu Sushi Yokocho, a lane of ten sushi shops. Each one seems to have its own delicious specialty.

13-15 Irifune-cho, Shizuoka Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka, Japan

22 Things to Do at Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

S-Pulse Dream Plaza offers something for everyone. Visit the Suruga Souvenir Alley and take home some local handicrafts made from wood, lacquer, bamboo and fabrics. Don’t forget some green tea. The Shizuoka region produces over half of Japan’s favorite beverage. Bring the kid’s to Chibi Maruko-chan Land. This attraction portrays the life of the Sakura family, a popular anime (animation) series in Japan. Then lift your spirits by riding on Dream Sky. From a height of 171 feet, this Ferris wheel provides spectacular views of Suruga Bay and Mount Fuji.

13 Irifune-cho, Shizuoka Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka, Japan

23 Top Rated Beauty of Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

As you walk around the waterfront plaza at Shimizu Port and the Shimizu Marine Park, you will quickly understand why it got its name. The word Shimizu means “pure water.” You will also agree why it is consistently rated among Japan’s top three most beautiful ports.

Shinminatocho, Shimizu Ward, Shizuoka, 424-0824, Japan

24 History of Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

The history of Shimizu Port dates back to the 600s. One hundred years later, shipping in the natural harbor grew significantly during the Edo period (1603 – 1868) when it became a port for the Tokugawa shogunate navy. During the 19th century, it boomed again as an export center for green tea and fresh fish. In 1899, it was modernized and officially became known as Shimizu Port. This sculpture was raised to help celebrate the port’s centennial. Today, its 100 wharfs handle over 15 million tons of cargo annually plus an increasing number of cruise ships.

Shinminatocho, Shimizu Ward, Shizuoka, 424-0824, Japan

25 Miho Peninsula Near Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

The water at Shimizu’s small boat harbor is normally calm, except for waves caused by an occasional personal water craft. The reason? Miho Peninsula encircles the harbor like a natural breakwater. This promontory is worth a visit. Hagoromo Park features Miho-no-Matsubara, a legendary 4.5 mile coastal grove of 30,000 pine trees listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby is Miho, the best of several shrines on the headland. Also among the 9.5 miles of scenic shoreline is Masaki Beach, a great place to spend a summer day.

Shinminatocho, Shimizu Ward, Shizuoka, 424-0824, Japan

26 Fish Market at Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

If your palate loves fish – really, really fresh fish – then you must visit Kashi-no-Ichi along the pier at Shimizu. The fish market displays everything imaginable from the sea including creatures you have never seen or tasted before. This port produces over half of Japan’s tuna. Unlike the bigger Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, this one is less chaotic. They also do a better job of displaying and packaging their daily catches. The two-building complex – Maguro-kan and Ichiba-kan – sells to wholesalers and consumers plus offers restaurants and packaged take-out meals. And yes, this sashimi was as good as it looks.

149, Shimazaki-cho, Shimizu-ku, 424-0823, Japan

27 Enjoying Mount Fuji from Shimizu Port in Shizuoka, Japan

Enjoying Mount Fuji is parliament to a pilgrimage for some visitors to Japan. Most one-day guided tours bring you to the 5th Station at an elevation of 7,900 feet for spectacular views of the peak and then the Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha Shrine. Hiking advocates prefer to climb. Trained athletes have accomplished it in a few hours but most people require six to ten hours or more to reach the summit and return. There are easier trails around the five surrounding lakes. All of these options are part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Or you can enjoy Mount Fuji like a local: go fishing in Suruga Bay and savor the view while waiting for something to take your bait.

10 Hinodechō, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken 424-0922, Japan