Shimoda – Izu Peninsular

View over Shimoda from ropeway

Shimoda is popular for its beaches – long stretches of white sand, or small coves with waves perfect for surfing. It is also important historically as the landing place of Commander Perry, an American who came to open Japan’s borders in the 19th century and ended the Edo Era.
 

Transport Shimoda lies on the southern tip of the Izu Peninsular, about 200km from Tokyo. Although there are major roads connecting Shimoda with Tokyo, these are often very busy at weekends or during public holidays so expect long traffic jams and delays.

Trains run from several major stations in Tokyo. It can be a little confusing planning trips to Shimoda, as the station’s full name is Izukyushimoda.

The Kodama Shinkansen travels from Tokyo and Shinagawa stations to Atami in about 40 minutes, where you have to change to the Odoriko Ltd Express. The journey costs around 7,000 one way but is the fastest option.

Alternatively, travel to Yokohama and catch the Odoriku Express from there, which takes about an hour and a half but will take you directly to Izukyushimoda for 4,500 yen.

The cheapest option is to travel by local trains , but this can be gratingly slow. Take the Shonan Shinjuku line to Ofuna and the Tokaido line to Atami, the Ito line to Ito, then finally the Izu Kyuku line to Izukyushimoda. If you make all the connections on time (good luck!) this should take about 3 and a half hours, but set you back a measly 3,800 yen.

Boat travel to Izu may take longer than trains but could be more exciting. They travel via Oshima island near Tokyo, you could try the night boat from Tokyo to Oshima which takes around 8 hours and leaves at 11.45 nightly, or splurge on a jet boat which gets you there in about 2 hours.

 

When? For surfing aim for summer, the sea should be warm enough to surf or swim without a wetsuit between late June and mid September. During August (especially the last 2 weeks when most people are on holiday) the beaches become extremely busy. Typhoons sometimes come near the Izu Peninsular, mostly during early September and make the sea very unpredictable and dangerous.
If you would prefer to explore the harbour and museums then any time of year should be fine.

 

Where to stay Shimoda itself has a huge amount of hotels and hostels, which fill quickly at busy times. There are also hotels or guest houses in smaller towns around Shimoda, clustered around the coastline and boasting easy access to a more secluded and private beach.

These smaller towns may have minimal facilities, no shops and little public transport, but compensate for it with quiet beaches and beautiful scenery.
If you are staying outside Shimoda some roads are not illuminated, so plan your route carefully if you want to go to the city at night

 

Things to do
Beaches Shirahama Beach is a long stretch of white sand and gentle waves that is extremely busy in summer – with people sunbathing by day or drinking and watching small fireworks by night. Get there by bus from next to Shimoda station in about 10 minutes.

Tatado beach is a bay slight south-west of Shimoda, about 30 minutes walk from the station with excellent waves for surfing. There are surf and body boards for hire for the day, and the beach showers are open in the summer. Look for stalls selling food or cold drinks, as the nearest shop is the Lawsons on the edge of Shimoda!
Further along the road to Tatahama is another small beach, with no stalls or stores nearby but bigger waves. I think it is called Iritahama beach.

History There are several museums concerning Commander Perry’s landing in Shimoda. You could visit the Shimoda Museum, or the collection of artifacts in the small museum near Ryosenji temple. Both are south of the train station.

Ropeway This takes you up Mt. Nesugatayama where you can see over a lot of Shimoda city and harbour, past the small islands dotted in the bay all the way to the Izu islands on the horizon. On top of the mountain are viewpoints, a small temple and some relics related to the Perry landing, such as the watch-house built to keep track of his ships in the harbour.
It goes from behind the train station, costs about 1,000yen and takes a few minutes to ascend. The cable cars come every 15 minutes or so
The cars can get very crowded – not good if you’re scared of small spaces and heights!

Food , always an important part of travelling in Japan, is especially good here. Wasabi a spicy horseradish-like plant used to season sushi , is grown here and added to several dishes – the best, or most unusual anyway, is the wasabi-flavoured ice-cream available at the top of the ropeway. As you’d expect from a seaside town, a lot of the fish dishes are exceptionally good.
Shimoda is a very small city by Japanese standards so most restaurants close earlier than those in the major cities. Don’t plan on finding a restaurant after midnight!

 

Links

Train Times – http://www.hyperdia.com

Accommodation – http://www.hostelworld.com

General information – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6300.html

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