Many of these excursions are quite off the beaten path and even local Japanese may not be familiar with all of them. English can be a challenge for the people in this area, as they don’t get many Western visitors. A call or e-mail to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and Shizuoka Prefecture Tourism division are suggested during the planning stage. Also, Japan offers a free Goodwill Guide service which may help clients navigate some of the waters along the way. (The services of the Goodwill Guides are free, but visitors are expected to reimburse the guides for any meals, attraction entry fees, accommodations and transportation fees.)
Japan National Tourism Organization
Shizuoka Prefecture Tourism Association
Most visitors to Japan try to take at least one excursion to view majestic Mount Fuji, arguably one of the most scenic mountainscapes in the world.
Travelers relying on the ease of packaged tours to get them around will likely find themselves in the Hakone area without ever realizing there are plenty of other ways to find Fuji.
The adventurous traveler would be wise to check out the Shizuoka Prefecture for their mountain-viewing excursions. The area is serviced by the Shinkansen high-speed rail, and it just welcomed the new Shizuoka Airport (FSZ), which services domestic routes as well as several international cities throughout Asia.
In addition to avoiding some of the “commercialism” of Hakone, Shizuoka offers a long coastline, which means plenty of outdoor activities, gorgeous scenery and fresh seafood. It is also home to a large concentration of hot springs and some of the most beautiful Ryokan (traditional-style inns) in Japan, so visitors have plenty to do even when their memory cards fill up.
Mt. Fuji from the Osezaki Cape
This lovely, sandy peninsula, located in Numazu City features an easy, one-kilometer hiking path to the end of the cape, where there is a shrine dedicated to the gods of the sea. The entire path serves up stunning Fuji views. A large grouping of Chinese bottle trees protects most of the bay side of the cape, making for generally mild weather conditions. These conditions provide an excellent beach for swimming and also make Osezaki a popular diving area for weekenders from Tokyo.
Chichibu-no-miya Memorial Park
Mt. Fuji from the
Chichibu-no-miya Memorial Park
Formerly the home of the late Highnesses Prince and Princess Chichinomiya, the Chichibu-no-miya Memorial Park is located in Gotemba City. The royal family’s official residence and surrounding grounds were recently re-opened as a public park and the 280-year house serves a museum. After touring the residence, guests are offered Japanese tea and then invited to tour the gorgeous grounds with hundreds of flowering, seasonal plants, including the popular weeping cherry blossom.
GrinPa Amusement Park
The Ferris Wheel at GrinPa Amuseument Park
A fairly regional attraction, Grinpa Amusement Park is unknown even to some local Japanese people. The park, however, houses themed lands for the uber-popular Sylvanian Family and Ultraman Robots, so kids love it. There are also hilly areas that families can use just for sledding in the winter time. The park also houses the tallest Ferris Wheel in all of Japan, making this an excellent way to catch a unique view of Mount Fuji.
Race fans can catch views of Fuji and live-action driving on the Fuji Speedway, which hosted the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in 2007. Various visitor-participation levels are available, but the most common for novice racers is to take their own car on the track and follow a pace car. Passengers can snap great pictures of Fuji directly from the course, but they must work fast because speeds top out at nearly 70 miles per hour. The clubhouse, with full-size glass windows, offers a great place to get a snack while taking pictures of both the racecourse and the mountain.
Sunrise at the Awashima Hotel
Located in Numazu City, the Awashima Hotel is an amazing property will likely end up on my Fave Five Travel Experiences of 2009 list. Every room in the hotel faces Mount Fuji, and because the hotel sits on an island, every room also has a water view. Sitting on my balcony, listening to the waves lap on the beach, while the sun set over Fuji, was kind of the Japanese equivalent of those relaxing Corona television commercials. After a hard week of touring around Shizuoka Prefecture, I especially enjoyed that each room provided an in-room foot massager (which I used while watching the sunset.) Early in the morning, I made my way downstairs to the hotel’s Japanese Onsen, feeling somewhat decadent enjoying the sunrise, the brisk morning air and Fuji views all sans clothing.