Friday, September 26, 2014

Rey Ian Corpuz

Escape to Izu-Shimoda

Sept - Oct 2015

Just a few hours away from Tokyo, roughly 100 kilometers from the capital, is the majestic beachfront city of Shimoda City. Shimoda City is famous for its pristine white sand shores, fresh seafood cuisines and rich cultural heritage. Shimoda City was one of the cities first opened to the west, including Hakodate in Hokkaido, to the ships of Captain Perry, the famous explorer who navigated the black painted colored ships in the shores of Shimoda in Shizuoka Prefecture. Shimoda is not as far as Okinawa, where you can enjoy the beach and hot springs and not as expensive as the sprawling hotels and resorts of Okinawa. A three-hour train ride welcomes you to a new exciting adventure.

Arriving at the station, the vicinity is surrounded with traditional and modern shops. Shimoda is known for kinmedai (金目鯛) or a kind of red snapper fish. Numerous shops serve it grilled, fried, raw like sashimi and their specialty simmered in Japanese sauces.

Before going to the hotel, a short side trip to Nesugatayama Park, which is accessible through a ropeway/ gondola was breathtaking. A meager amount of 850 yen per head takes you to the highest peak in Shimoda City. From the top you can see the entire cityscape, the Pacific shore of Shimoda which is surrounded with small islets and that cruising black ship resembling of Captain Perry’s is clearly visible from the summit. You can also visit the historic Renjo Photo Memorial Hall of Shimooka Renjo, Japan’s first renowned photographer. On top of the mountain was a clear vantage point of all the ships that crossed the peninsula. And an old canon was installed to protect the shores of Japan during the Bakufu Era. And there is also a Buddhist temple especially dedicated for lovers. Several stones engraved with wa (和) must be thrown into the circle and hitting the stone would prove a long lasting love. Four stones cost 200 yen.

Heading back down to the city awaits our shuttle bus going to Shimoda Prince Hotel. Booking towards the end of summer is far cheaper than regular rates but the waters were a bit cool already. The hotel’s selling point is that it’s too close to the shore and of course the white sand that surrounds it. Plunging to the waters reminds me of my hometown, Davao, where most white sand beaches are common. My family surely enjoyed the beach making sand castles, dipping into the cool waters and traversing the shores of Shirahama area. The southern side of the shore shows you the historic limestone cliff formation of the area. Numerous huge rocks scatter the area where a constant sight of washed away seaweeds (kombu) and some small crabs and shells can be found. The area is quite littered with trash by the way. So it’s just so sad to see that area where irresponsible guests throw their stuff there. The hotel has a temporary store near the shore where they sell the standard Japanese curry, oden, yakisoba and the like, and all sorts of drinks for kids and adults. The hotel’s pool was quite small so we did not really enjoy it plus the fact that only few people dipped, so the water was a bit cold.

Food in the hotel was super expensive. Even the Japanese guests either dined outside or bought bento in the nearby stores. However, we chose to dine outside as to really experience the real local taste the place has to offer. A nearby Papas Italian restaurant just a few meters from the entrance gate of the hotel was a perfect destination. We ordered spaghetti, pizza and sautéed fish. The spaghetti was stuffed with unusual flavors. The seafood pizza was filled with sazae (a kind of shellfish) caught locally and the one I ordered was the sautéed red snapper, the town’s specialty.

A walk to the other side of the town brings you to another shrine temple with that red torii or red arc gate in shrines. Further to the temple is a huge white sand public beach resort open to travelers and other nearby hotel guests. Waves were, however, bigger unlike those of our hotel.

The hotel staff spoke good English but lacked the SMILE factor that we got used to have here in metropolitan Tokyo. For a short beach escapade closer to Tokyo that is not too expensive and exhausting, Shimoda is the best destination. We would definitely love to go back there and further explore the Izu Peninsula area as there are other interesting attractions along the way.

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