Whether you are a traveling visitor or a resident living here, Japan constantly has so much to explore. Honestly, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to pick and choose what to do and where to go. For one thing, there are 5 major islands, 47 prefectures, and more “sights to see” than I’m willing to admit. While there’s no question that you will enjoy your adventures no matter what they end up being, it may still be nice to have in mind a list of “must do” things that you want to prioritize.
Personally, I have a “loose” bucket list for what I want to do while in Japan and it is largely organized based on the different areas I want to explore. Let’s focus here on Shizuoka — a prefecture that is just a short train ride south from Tokyo that offers lots to do whether you’re hoping to escape for a weekend trip or are making a stop along your Japan travels.
**please note: each subheading below is also a link which will take you to Explore Shizuoka’s official website for more details and reservations**
As it is at the top of my own list, it is only fitting that I begin this Shizuoka bucket list with “Hiking Mt. Fuji”. While the mountain does span two prefectures, the hike starts in Shizuoka so I think it qualifies for inclusion here. Given you have the time and are physically able to take on the task, I think that climbing Mt. Fuji for a sunrise view of Japan is the pinnacle bucket list item. It requires work to be able to cross this item off your list, but the view and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from doing it will certainly make it worth it in the end.
If you’re seeking an exciting activity, canyoning could be perfect for you. It takes you into the mountains where you can jump from the top of waterfalls and slide down streams — nature’s very own water park. Guides will help prepare you with the right equipment (life vests and wetsuits) and show you the right areas where you can slide head first, feet first, or even backwards down the streams. Speaking from experience, it is definitely an adventure worth trying!
Lake Hamana is Japan’s largest brackish lake and is located in west Shizuoka. Its mixture of freshwater and saltwater supports an abundance of fish and makes it an ideal location for fishing. For a special, local experience, try takiya-ryo or night spearfishing. If you do, you will set out at sunset, try your hand at spearfishing, and then get to enjoy your catch on a dining raft that floats close to shore. From the sunset to the hands-on activity to the delicious seafood, it’s hard to resist the experience this place offers.
The Izu Peninsula offers some of the clearest water and most beautiful beaches in Japan. It’s the perfect place for a pleasant beach day so I would definitely have it on your list to visit. If you want to include an activity, kayaking or snorkeling are both great options depending on whether you want to explore the views that are above or below the water’s surface. If I had the budget, I would do both!
P.S. — if you spend the afternoon at the beach, consider staying for sunset because Izu supposedly has some remarkable sunset views.
An exploration of Shizuoka would not be complete without a visit to the area’s infamous green tea fields. Not only are the expanse of green fields beautiful, but they are also the heart of Japan’s green tea industry. If you come to the area, make sure to support the local tea farmers by visiting them for a tour, tasting, or even overnight stay. For a guided and informative experience about Japanese Green tea to prepare you for your visit, check out some of Arigato Travel’s Green Teatime experiences!
For a more relaxing activity, take a visit to the Garden City, Mishima. It was built over Mt. Fuji’s lava flow after the eruption and now waterways run alongside many of the residential streets. In addition to its shrines and museums, Genbe River and Mishima SkyWalk are some of the city’s top attractions. The former offers an intimate, peaceful walk and the latter boasts panoramic views of Mt. Fuji. Moreover, for those still hoping to get in an adrenaline kick here, the Mishima SkyWalk has zip lines that stretch the length of the bridge— and really, why walk when you can essentially fly?
To round out this bucket list, I think it would be nice to include a workshop of some kind. Shizuoka offers a variety of workshops where visitors can learn how to make things like soba, gyoza, sushi or even shoyu (soy sauce). While the shoyu workshop may not necessarily fill you up as much as the other options, you are able to take home some of the shoyu that you help make which will serve as a nice addition to your next meal at home :). No matter your preferences, these workshops will certainly provide a unique experience to remember.
As you can see, Shizuoka, a prefecture just a few hours outside of Tokyo, offers the perfect escape. It can give you adventure and/or relaxation whether you’re hoping to lounge at the beach, climb a mountain, or learn something new about Japan. In fact, when you go, you’ll likely find another thing to add to this bucket list and another reason to return!
Featured Photo from TSJ: Explore Shizuoka
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