Ask Businessmen and tourists coming to Japan from China and Korea and they will answer the new starting venue in this country is Shimada City!
Shimada City? Where can that be? So many people in other celebrated metropolises will surely ask.
Shimada City is slightly away from the center of Shizuoka Prefecture which in turn lies in the very middle of Japan halfway between Tokyo and Nagoya, the most traveled portion of this country. But it all started with the advent of Shimada Airport, also called Mount Fuji-Shizuoka Airport, in 2009. You will understand why we see many Chinese and Korean visitors in this area when you realize planes daily land there directly form Seoul-Incheon and Shanghai-Pudong. In fact, it is faster and cheaper to travel from Shimada to Paris via Seoul-Incheon Aiport!
All that is fine, you might say, what brings all these visitors to that particular part of Japan? What does it has to offer to businessmen and tourists?
Well businessmen know that Shizuoka is the third richest Prefecture, GDP-wise, after Aichi and Kanagawa Prefectures (which incidentally follow each other along the Tokaido Road!), and that ought to be a good enough reason.
Alright, alright, businessmen also share more reasons to come with tourists!
Shimada City and its neighborhoods certainly have enough to warrant a serious visit and a longer stay than expected. After all, if you also come from Kyushu or Hokkaido you will appreciate to learn they are regularly serviced with direct flights from Mount Fuji-Shizuoka Airport.
Shimada tea fields
Shimada City being in the middle of Shizuoka prefecture finds itself in the heart of green tea country. It also has two railway stations, more precisely in Kanaya where you can board the Steam Locomotive for a beautiful trip along the Oigawa Main Line up to Senzu Hot Springs Resort across vast expanses of green tea fields bordering the Oi River. Do not forget to pay an enriching visit to the Tea Museum/Ocha No Sato in Kanaya!
The same Oi River was at its most difficult to cross in Shimada City along the Old Tokaido Road prompting the Meiji Government to build the (still) longest wooden bridge in the world, the Horai Bridge, in 1879. It is 897.4m long and 2.7m wide.
Not only it deserved to be walked across for a great vista but it also has the great merit to lead to vast green tea fields beyond a small mountain ridge along a lane dotted with statues of Seven Deities.
Obi Sword dancer
Every city worth its salt in Japan has a major festival to boast from.
Shimada City not only has one, but it is one of the so-called most unusual festivals in Japan!: the Shimada Obi Matsuri and its Daimyo Procession.
The 300-year old Daimyo Gyoretsu imitates the procession of a grand jumangoku (one hundred thousand koku, units of rice) daimyo, and a total of 250 marchers stretch over 500 meters. Particularly striking is the presence of oyakko who walk gracefully, carrying an obi for safe delivery of babies on the tip of a wooden sword.
The procession is held every three years, in the years of the tiger, snake, monkey and wild boar. It’s commemorated by a grand statue in case you cannot visit the city on time for the festival!
Now that we have enough reasons to either choose Shimada as a practical entry portal to Japan for our business or a source of new hidden treasures, what about the communications, accommodations and gastronomy?
Communications are no problem at all as the Mount Fuji Shizuoka Airport is directly linked by bus to Shimada Tokaido Line Railway Stations and the Shinkasen/Bullet Train Stations in Hamamatsu, Kakegawa and Shizuoka Cities, all within 90 minutes of Nagoya and Tokyo. Moreover, a (free) parking lot for more than 1,000 cars, taxis and car rental companies are part of the facilities.
Accommodations should not be a worry either as the city has enough hotels of all grades, Western or Japanese style near and by the railway station.
As for gastronomy, the City is blessed with a celebrated Sake Brewery, Oomuraya Shuzo, whose brands “Onna Nakase” (“Make a Lady weep”), “Wakatake” (“Young Bamboo) and “Onigoroshi” (“Goblin-Killing”) are known as far as New York, Paris and London.
The presence of a great sake brewery means that the local Japanese Izakayas in particular are of a higher level. What with superlative marine products from nearby Suruga Bay and the extravagant abundance of vegetables (don’t forget the green tea!), there is plenty to please everyone, be they vegetarian, omnivores, drinkers or not!
Hotel Route Inn Shimada Ekimae, 427-0022 Shizuoka Ken, Shimada Shi, Hon Toori, 5-1-13, Tel.: (81)(0)547-37-0055, Fax: (81)(0)547-037-0065, http://www.route-inn.co.jp/search/hotel/index.php?hotel_id=48
Setsugetsuka (Soba, menus to please both vegetarians and omnivores alike. Great sake!), (Closed on Mondays and third Tuesday), 427-0022 Shizuoka ken, Shimada Shi, Hon Toori, 2-3-4, Tel.: (81)(0)547-35-5241
Tea Museum/Ocha No Sato, (Closed on Tuesdays) Shizuoka Ken, Shimada Shi, Kanaya, 3053-2, Tel.: (81)(0)547-46-5588
Oomuraya Sake Brewery (Closed on Sundays), 427-0022 Shizuoka ken, Hon Toori, 1-1-8, tel.: (81)(0)547-37-3058, Fax: (81)(0)547-37-7567
(Visits and tasting sessions for small groups possible upon reservation)