All images © Shizuoka Tourism
Just two hours from Tokyo, at the base of magnificent Mount Fuji, Brodie Summers discovers there’s no shortage of fun for families in Shizuoka.
Iconic sights, a mild climate and some of Japan’s most picturesque natural scenery await in Shizuoka prefecture, often referred to as ‘Japan's Riviera’. Located at the foot of Mount Fuji on the Pacific Coast halfway between Tokyo and Osaka, Shizuoka is the meeting point between East and West, mountain and sea. And it should definitely be added to your family’s Japan holiday bucket list.
Shizuoka is best known for its views of Mt Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan and one of the most enduring symbols of the country. The best views of the iconic peak are from Miho no Matsubara and the Nihondaira Plateau to Kunōzan Tōshō-gū, an ornate 17th-century shrine that can be reached by climbing the 1000 stone steps that zigzag up the mountainside, or by the far easier cable car that links the plateau to the shrine.
Another exciting way to see Mt Fuji is from the Mishima Sky Walk, the longest pedestrian-only suspension bridge in Japan at a length of 400 metres. Whether you are a daredevil or not, the 70-metre-high bridge is taking off as its 360-degree vistas also show off surrounding Suruga Bay. Visit shortly before closing time to enjoy a glorious sunset.
Snow much fun
Snow Town Yeti is one of only two ski slopes on Mt Fuji and is the first snow resort in Japan to open each season, in around late October, albeit with artificial snow. While the family-friendly ski and snowboarding resort is home to just two lifts and four runs — two at 1000 metres and two at 500 metres — both beginner and advanced snowsters are catered for and lifts operate every day, and until 11pm for night skiing.
The resort has a small terrain park with jumps and rails, a snowboarding park, and separate areas with a snow stadium where the kids can go wild throwing snowballs, sledding and tubing.
There’s also a snow school, which opens from December, offering fun workshops for kids and adult lessons. Should the kids prefer to stay indoors, they can head to Snow Town Yeti Daycare, where they’ll find plenty of toys and fun activities to keep them amused while parents hit the slopes.
Foor for thought
Shizuoka is also one of Japan's most famous tea-growing areas, with lush tea fields carpeting the rolling hills right across the prefecture. There are plenty of great opportunities for children to see where their food comes from, how it is harvested, and to learn about local food. Kids will enjoy getting their hands dirty on a tea-picking experience where they’ll learn the history, culture and production methods of tea plantations, with a tea tasting afterwards.
Besides tea, Shizuoka is famous for strawberries. At Nihondaira Hill, kids can enjoy winter strawberry picking, and devour their sweet, juicy harvest in the shadow of Mt Fuji.
Shizuoka’s fishing harbours are also some of the busiest in Japan. Shimizu Port boasts the largest haul of tuna in the country, as well as S-Pulse Dream Plaza, a fantastic shopping mall and amusement park. Here you’ll find an anime theme park, a Ferris wheel from which you can see Mt Fuji, and the Shimizu Sushi Museum and Shimizu Sushi Alley, a strip of sushi restaurants, where you can enjoy fresh toppings straight from Suruga Bay.
Numazu-don’s fish market is the place to catch auction-style trading in action, and local delicacies, including whitebait and sakura shrimp, can be tasted at the market mall. Each of the harbours is lined with great restaurants and markets serving local seafood, fresh and fabulous sushi, soba noodles, and local favourites such as oden, a hearty Japanese broth, and toro, a grated yam soup.
Some like it hot
Due to the volcanic nature of the area, Shizuoka’s Izu Peninsula is like a giant kettle, water quite literally percolating out of its ground at numerous hot springs. These springs are known as onsen and taking a dip in the healing waters of these traditional baths is a big part of the Shizuoka experience. Just remember to use appropriate onsen etiquette in the communal hot springs. Kids are welcome (though they need to be toilet trained) when accompanied by a parent, but the water is extremely hot so proceed with caution.
For the ultimate experience why not combine your onsen visit with a stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. From the tatami-matted sleeping quarters and yukata (kimono-like robes) to the supplied indooronly slippers, kids will adore the novelty of an overnight stay, Japanese-style.
This article appeared in volume 53 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.