Our First Port Was In Shimizu, Japan
We went up in the Tokyo Tower on our week in Tokyo. But were disappointed we did not get to see Mt Fuji off in the distance. We considered a day trip to get closer. But we knew the first stop on our Windstar Cruises trip in Japan was the gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu.
The Suruga Bay is extremely deep and is a great spot for tuna. We sailed into Shimizu for our first port stop. It was the first but not last port with a large ferris wheel close to the port. The local people were on the dock to welcome us and send us off.
The Shimizu area is known for its beauty. We had a busy day planned to see Japanese art, a shinto temple and an ancient pine grove. All nestled under the view of Mt Fuji. Or so we hoped. This area is also known for its production of green tea. Throughout our bus ride our guide gave us lots of tea information. At one point we saw tea fields out the window of the bus. It reminded us of our visit to the tea plantation on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores.
Shimizu was a great first port on our two weeks exploring Japan with Windstar Cruises.
Getting Up Before The Sun To See Mt. Fuji
We were told that some of the best views of Mt Fuji were early in the morning. So we headed up to the top deck before the sun came out. And before even coffee was served. It was quiet but we were not alone.
As we started to see the first colour in the sky, Mt. Fuji was right in front of the bow of the ship. We stood mesmerized as we watched the snow-capped top light up. It was easy to see why people referred to this as the gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu.
Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan (12,389 feet or 3,776 metres high). It was created over 200,000 years ago and is an active volcano. The last eruption was in 1707. There are 25 sites located around Mt. Fuji that are designated as UNESCO sites. We saw three of them on this visit to Shimizu.
As we travelled through the day, we got fleeting glimpses of Mt Fuji through the bus window. But by the time we got to stopped for a viewpoint, Mt Fuji was hidden in clouds. We were so glad we were up early to see it.
See The Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum
Art and culture flourished in the Edo era in Japan (between 1603 and 1868). Our guide talked about a few of the major Japanese artists. Katsushika Hokusai produced the famous painting of the big wave with a small Mt Fuji in the background (“Great wave from Kanawaga”). His work influenced Van Gogh. When we visited the Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum we saw the art of Utagawa Hiroshiga.
This type of art is produced in a multi-step process. A carving is first created. Colour and gradations are gradually added to create perspective. And then an Inshou (or signature) is added. We wished that the interactive exhibit was manned and we could see the process in action.
Much of the art we saw focused on life during the Edo period. Or on travel along the Silk Road. We wandered the museum and looked at a variety of pictures from this artist.
When you visit the gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu, don’t miss a chance to visit the Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum.
We Visited The Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine
The Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine is located in Fujinomova City in the southwestern foothills of Mt. Fuji. Our guide said that this was a great gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu area to begin the climb. The shrine was recognized as a UNESCO site in 2013.
The shrine was built in 1600. It was damaged by several earthquakes and rebuilt. It is one of the most famous Shintō shrines in Japan. We entered through the main vermillion red torii gate and walked along the path. A samurai warrior guarded the path.
As we approached the main temple, we stopped to perform the cleansing ritual. We first saw this when we visited the Zojoji Temple in Tokyo. Our guide walked us through the process to wash our hands and mouth with the spring water from Mt Fuji.
We then got to make a wish. We threw a coin into the water and performed a series of bows and claps to usher our wish forward. Around the side we saw several areas where white pieces of paper with wishes were stuck. This reminded us of the pieces of paper we saw put into the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. More colourful wooden postcards were also used to write down wishes.
Both David and I made our wishes. We were sure that some people wished that at Mt Fuji would come out from the clouds. We were sorry we missed this iconic view of Mt Fuji over this shrine. Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine may have been a gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu, but I was not sure where I would find the path to head up.
Walk Around The Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine
We walked around the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine and admired the buildings from the outside. There was a ceremony in progress and we were not allowed inside the actual shrine. The two storied pagoda stood behind the main shrine. It was built higher to reach out to Mt Fuji.
Planted all around the shrine grounds are 500 cherry blossom trees that bloomed in the spring. The cherry blossom trees were dedicated to the Cherry Princess who was said to live on Mt Fuji. We had our first cherry blossom experience when we visited Washington DC in May. I am sure that the cherry blossoms in spring made the sight of this shrine simply amazing. It would be a most memorable gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu at that time of year.
We walked through the gate towards the Wakatuma pond. There was another purification station at this gate. The pond was ringed with trees. Ducks floated in the pond and gentle waters from Mt Fuji trickled in.
A smaller shrine sat at the other entrance to the property. And we found a brightly coloured vermillion red bridge at the end of the pond. It was a great last view of the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine.
It was good to visit the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine. We were a bit disappointed to not get inside the main shrine. With Mt Fuji buried in clouds and it not being cherry blossom season, we did not get quite the iconic view that postcards show. But it was still an interesting stop. We saw so many of the iconic symbols of Shinto shrines as we travelled around Japan. Red vermillion, torii gates, hand purification stations, wishes posted and beautiful shrine buildings greeted us in the shrines in Kyoto and when we visited Miyajima.
A Traditional Local Lunch
We really enjoyed trying different spots for Japanese meals at lunch when we visited Tokyo for a week. As part of our full day tour, we got a traditional Japanese lunch. The restaurant was divided into many rooms. Small gardens were tranquil spots to pause. Outside of each room was a spot to leave your shoes.
I was a bit worried that we would have to sit on the floor. But we sat at a table with low chairs. We were presented with a wide variety of foods, tastes and colours on our placemat. There were so many different things for us to try.
It was a great break in our day to try a Japanese lunch at this gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu.
Walk Through The Miho-no-Matsubara Pine Trees
After lunch, we headed back past the port area to the Miho-no-Matsubara pine trees. To protect the environment, the bus parking lot was some distance from the pine tree grove and the beach. We ran a bit late on our guide’s schedule so we really rushed through the long walk there and back.
When we hit the pine grove, we saw the old, bent pine trees. In the centre of the grove was the 650 year old Black Pine called Hagoromo-no-Matsu with its branches spread out in all directions.
There are many myths and stories about the trees in this grove. My favourite was about the angel that bathed in the water and hung her clothes on the tree. When a fisherman took her clothes, she had to win them back with to dance for him. I could imagine a nymph dancing amongst the trees. The site also has a monument to a French ballerina who composed a dance inspired by the legend. But we rushed through so fast I was not sure about the details of the monuments we saw in the trees.
We fast marched up the hill and over the volcanic sand to the beach. We saw a poster that showed how stunning this beach was with a view out to Mt Fuji. But that was not the view we got on this day.
We certainly wished we had visited this spot early in the day when Mt Fuji was still visible. I am sure this walk is a tranquil way to end a day. But not when you are almost running through. If you visit, plan enough time to slowly enjoy this spot. Also, when you visit the gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu, plan for a time when you may get the spectacular view.
The Gateway To Mt Fuji In Shimizu Had So Much Potential
We were so delighted that we started our day with the most glorious view of Mt Fuji. When we visited the gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu, this is the view we were looking for. We visited three different spots in this area. Each had the potential to be spectacular with Mt Fuji in the background. But with the volcano in the clouds, we had a very different experience at each stop. Still worth visiting. But we did not leave with quite the iconic views we hoped for.
Shimizu was a great first port on our two weeks exploring Japan with Windstar Cruises. But we did realize that we could have visited Shimizu on our week in Tokyo. The interstate from Tokyo and the train line both ran right through Shimizu. So there are lots of ways to get to the gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu.
Did you visit the gateway to Mt Fuji in Shimizu? Did you get a view of Mt Fuji and the iconic postcard views? Were you here with the cherry blossoms in bloom?
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