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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Wow, what an amazing trip! Look at those views! I would love walking through those Shrines, a great learning experience! The gardens are beautiful.
Heather, We were so excited to see Mt Fuji first thing in the day. A great backdrop for the shrines and gardens. Linda
Your photos are fascinating! We visited Mt Fuji in October and the clouds completely covered our view the entire time. 🙁 We were sooo disappointed!
Sarah, So sorry that you did not get to see Mt Fuji when you visited. But it is apparently not that uncommon. We feel blessed that we got such great early morning views. Linda
You surely had a great time in Shimizu. The photos say it all.
Kalyan, Shimizu was a great spot for photos and views. Linda
This looks really beautiful and breathtaking, surely wanna take a tour over there next time. And the photos are incredible.
Nishu, I am glad you liked the photos. It really was an amazing spot to visit. Hope you get to go one day. Linda
I’ve seen Mount Fuji from Hakone and was impressed by the sight. It’s good to know you can also get a great view of it from the Shimizu area, which does look like it has some lovely temples and museums too.
Christina, We were so amazed with our first morning view of Mt Fuji. A great spot to visit if you are in Japan. Linda
Shimizu sounds like the ideal place to chill out before heading to Mt Fuji. This is quite informative to me as I do plan a trip to this area hopefully this year or next (as I never been to Japan) and looks like I might stop of here. It just looks so beautiful.
Danik, You are going to love Japan. I am glad this helped you with some planning ideas. Shimizu was a great spot for us to see Mt Fuji. Also a good spot to start a hike. Linda
Lovely photos and memories to save forever! Did you feel different after completing the cleansing ceremony? I cannot wait to visit Japan one day with my brother. He climbed Mt. Fuji during his summer in Tokyo two years ago and he loved the adventure!
Simone, The cleansing ceremony did not have a special impact on me. It must have been amazing to hike Mt Fuji. I hope you do get to visit with your brother. Linda
shimizu its looking awesome place to visit or chill out i really like to be there
and i will try to visit there shortly your pictures are attracting me to visit thanks
James, I hope you do get to visit Mt Fuji. Shimizu is a great spot to visit from. Especially if you want to hike up. Glad the pictures inspired you to want to visit. Linda
wow wow…. what mindblowing visuals! Esp love two images of Fuji through wires and streetlights… and teh one rising above the sea!
Jitaditya, I am glad that you liked the images of Fuji we captured. We were so glad we got up early to catch so many great views. Linda
That would be a breathtaking sight to see! I’ve wanted to visit Mt Fuji for a while, hopefully we’ll make it over to Japan in 2020
Tom, We were so glad we added Japan to our Asia trip. Fuji was on our wish list too. So we were so happy she popped out to say hello! Hope you get to visit Japan. Linda
I wonder if the sun shines as beautiful as in Shimizu everywhere else in Japan. You have been so lucky to have such good weather when photographing Mt. Fuji. It’s been too long since I wanted to visit this country and after reading your post I’m convinced that there is way more to it than just Tokyo.
Anda, We were indeed very lucky to get such amazing views of Mt Fuji. If you look at all of our posts on Japan, you will definitely find that there is so much more to visit in Japan than just Tokyo. We have several posts on Tokyo coming. But some of the most stunning sights we saw were outside of here. Hope you get to explore Japan one day. Linda
So sad you never got a stellar view of Mt. Fuji — like the poster you displayed. But travel is like that, isn’t it? You just make the best of what you get. And that you did. Look at all the amazing things you did get to see on your cruise and during port days!
Tami, We were so glad we were up early to catch our views. But we have learned during our travels to take the picture when you see it. Because things may change suddenly! It was indeed a great stop. Linda
Stunning photos, especially the sunrise shot of Mt. Fuji. I’ve yet to do a Windstar Cruise, love that they go to some ports that the other ships can’t. How cool that the locals came to send off the ship. I’ve never been to Shimizu, but adding it to my list.
Debra, We did love our visit to Japan with Windstar. It had the exact itinerary at the right time for us. I hope you get to visit. There was so much more to see in Japan than we expected. Linda
Those views of Mount Fuji are just stunning. Japan is one of those places that is just divine. I haven’t done a cruise yet!
Nicole, We like to cruise to do a taste test of new places. It means we don’t get to see all we may want to. But we learn if we want to go back. Japan is certainly a place we would want to return to. Linda
Oh Japan, what a beautiful and unique country. And Mt Fuji is awe-inspiring so I totally relate with your description of how you felt when you saw it during sunrise, the snow covered peak. I visited Japan a couple of years ago too and made it to Mt Fuji during spring time when they had the spring festival. The colourful flowers with Mt Fuji in the backdrop is a sight I’ll never forget.
Medha, We were so happy we got the views of Fuji. I am sure the view of Fuji with the trees in bloom would be amazing. We certainly would love to return at cherry blossom time. Linda
Been to Japan multiple times, but always missed Mt Fuji!! Would really love to visit it sometime!
Trisha, People said we were very lucky to see Mt Fuji. Hope you get to see it on a return trip to Japan. Linda
Great trip and would certainly tick a few of our boxes for our Autumn 20 cruise round Japan. I’m wondering, was this a cruise tour offered by Windstar or was it something you setup for yourselves? If you used a private tour company I’d be interested to hear more.
Steve, You are going to love this taste test of Japan. We started with a week in Tokyo and then got on the cruise. This particular tour was offered by Windstar. Other than the pace of the guide, it was a good one to see a lot in one day. Hope you enjoy your visit. Linda
It always amazes tourists when they learn how elusive Mt. Fuji is. I visited Kawaguchi-ko and was only able to see Mt Fuji at around 5:00 am and it was similar to what you saw. I hope to return to Japan and see Mt. Fuji in the winter. I’ll have to visit Shimizu next time. The added bonus is the Hokusai museum. I love his works of art.
Julie, We were so glad we got a view of Fuji, if only brief glimpses. It leaves it cloaked in a bit of mystery still. We loved our tour around Shimuzu and will return to Japan one day to explore more. Linda