As usual, after a complaint by Dixon on the lack of travel info, I decided to share this particular route I always take to Shizuoka which has been the case for the past 3-4 years after I discovered the beauty of the prefecture. Heads up, this is going to be a trip where most of the time is spent driving, and if you’re alright with constantly driving, I highly recommend it.
Breakfast at Tofuya Bakery & Cafe
Image taken from Suruga Bank site
Tofuya Bakery & Cafe is not an ordinary cafe. It is situated in one of the most beautiful location in the countryside in Yoshina, Izu, and has the best buns I’ve ever tried. If you think, “bread is bread, how tasty can it be,” then you’ve really got to give this bakery a try. The breads are so good, even locals make a trip there specially just to buy some of the bread home and if you arrive late, expect a very long queue. The cafe opens at 9.30am and has both indoor and outdoor seating. I always try to arrive by 10am so that I don’t have to wait too long to get a seat outside the cafe but if you arrive anytime after 11, there will be quite a crowd.
The area in front is not a pool and you’re not supposed to wade in it, but it is actually a foot onsen you can enjoy by taking a seat by the table next to it. The cafe also provides towels for you to dry your feet after you’re done soaking and dining, so be sure to grab a towel right behind the seats before heading over to enjoy your breakfast. That means the best time to visit would be during the colder seasons from late autumn through winter till early spring. But to soak your feet in the onsen also means you shouldn’t wear stockings that are cumbersome to remove or pants that are difficult to roll up. For your reference, anything you can roll up to right under your knee level should do fine.
Right next to the cafe is also a spacious garden space with vast greenery where you can let your pooch roam freely. I am not responsible if your puppy runs off and disappears though. There are also tables and comfortable chairs for you to dine at if you are not so big on the foot onsen.
Because the cafe is so popular, they are also constantly making new batches of the variety of breads available, so if someone before you grabbed that last piece of bread you want so badly, you can make a reservation for it by heading to the cashier and telling them what you want.
Lunch at Yaizu Fish Center
Image taken from official Yaizu Fish Center site
Yaizu Fish Center is a large seafood center much like a wet market except dryer, cleaner, and smells nicer. Apart from the regular stalls seen at markets selling very tasty looking fresh seafood, there are also several food outlets that serve some of the best and freshest seafood I’ve ever tasted.
My favorite stall is Sansui (山水), who serves a huge variety of seafood rice bowls. Their medium-fatty tuna bowl is only 1,600 yen but its volume and taste can probably very easily cost over double the price in Tokyo. You can also add toppings of certain seafood if you find your fresh sashimi craving is not satisfied with just one bowl.
Yaizu is located about another 1 hour 45 minutes away, so if you hang around Tofuya for about 30 minutes, you can get to Yaizu around noon for lunch. But be prepared to queue during lunch time. There are a number of shops where you can get some souvenirs from in the large venue and it would probably take you some 1 to 1.5 hours to dine and walk around the area. If you go a little later, you probably wouldn’t have to queue, but it might disrupt the next couple of sites I am going to recommend.
After Lunch Workout at Kunozan Toshogu Shrine
Image taken from Kunouzan Toshogu official page
Kunozan Toshogu is the original burial location of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is located about 25 minutes drive away from Yaizu Fish Center on the way back toward Tokyo. There are two ways to get to the shrine itself: one is via hilltop cable car, and the other by foot from the bottom of the hill. I strongly recommend the latter. There is a stretch of road along the Pacific coast where tons of strawberry farms are and you can park at one of the carparks there for a fee (or free if you purchase a determined amount of souvenirs from the local shop). From there, it is about a thousand steps up a pretty vertical stretch hill up to the shrine.
I can’t find a good picture of the shrine from the bottom but I think this image from the top conveys the breath of peace you get to inhale at the top pretty well. Apart from the shrine, there is also a museum at the top. Even if you aren’t that interested in the shrine or museum, the view is great from the top with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the many tiny looking strawberry farms.
Don’t wear heels there though, as the steps are made of rocks so if you’re not a pro in wearing heels, you might twist your ankle.
Finale at Miho no Matsubara
Image taken from Japan Highlights Travel
Miho no Matsubara is about 15 minutes drive from Kunozan Toshogu and has pretty much nothing but a small park, some stalls and a beach made mostly of stone rather than sand. But it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because the beach has one of the best views of Mt. Fuji in the whole of Japan. On a good day, the mountain’s magnificence is majestic and was where I literally felt what it means to say a view is breathtaking.
If you’re interested to try this itinerary, make sure you get to all these places by 4 to 5pm the shrine closes at 5 and sun sets very early in the winter and hence, arriving at Miho no Matsubara too late might mean you don’t get to see the full glory Mt. Fuji has to show.
This itinerary is good for people who have their own cars as well as people who rent them. But based on my experience, I strongly recommend renting the vehicle till the next morning so that you do not have to rush to return it, because chance is you’ll be caught in the traffic and it takes at least 2.5 hours to return to Tokyo. If I didn’t remember wrongly, it only costs less than 2,000 yen more to keep the vehicle till the next morning and I think that is worth paying to be able to slowly enjoy the experience. After all, you’ve already paid so much to travel, why waste the opportunity for a couple thousand yen?