As a travel destination, Shizuoka is often overlooked, yet this city deep in the shadow of Mount Fuji is steeped in samurai history and folklore. Don’t forget the tiny cherry shrimp (sakura ebi) you can pop in your mouth like popcorn.

Day One: Beaches and Beautiful Sights

Shizuoka City’s views of Mount Fuji are unparalleled. Located at the base of the sacred mountain, Shizuoka is halfway between Tokyo and Nagoya along the Tokaido Corridor. With Suruga Bay lying to the south and the Minami Alps to the north, there is no shortage of outdoor activities and sightseeing to partake in.

Start at the port area of Shimizu and catch the Suruga ferry to the beach at Nishi Izu Toi, located on the west coast of the Izu Peninsula. The entire 65-minute seaside journey offers exquisite views of Mount Fuji. But get ready to ooh and ah even more once on dry land – or more accurately – dry sand. Stroll up and down the secluded beach enjoying the blue waters, and more Fuji-san views. Hot springs are abundant, including a hot spring pool for children.

Take the ferry back to the Shizuoka side of the bay for more beachcombing, only this time at Miho no Matsubara, one of Japan’s six most beautiful places. The 7km-long stretch of pine trees is lined with jet black volcanic rock sand, and surrounded by mountain, beach, ocean and fauna, offers arguably Japan’s best view of Mount Fuji.

Returning to the port area of Shimizu those looking for something more urban can spend time at S-Pulse Dream Plaza, which offers museums, a movie theater, shops and restaurants. Alternatively head downtown Shizuoka and spend the rest of the day exploring quaint side streets, souvenir shopping and castle-hopping.

Surrounded Shizuoka’s business district, Sumpu Castle Park is nothing but ruins. The moat is still intact as well as a few ancient guard posts and remnants of wall. The grounds are well-manicured and at any time of day locals are about enjoying the atmosphere. On the far side of the park is a towering statue of none other than Ieyasu Tokugawa, the samurai warrior who united Japan and founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan peacefully for more than 250 years.

As a youth Tokugawa was held hostage at Sumpu Castle by the Imagawa clan. He would return in the twilight of his career, living out his remaining years in Shizuoka. Sites around the park are related to Tokugawa history, including Hodaiin Temple, Shizuoka Sengen Shrine City Cultural Properties Museum and the residence of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, who was the last of the Tokugawa clan.

Because of the city’s proximity to the sea, seafood is succulently fresh, particularly the tuna as well as shirasu (the tiny white fish sprinkled on top of many Japanese dishes) and the aforementioned sakura ebi shrimp (a small, pink shrimp found only off Shizuoka in Suruga Bay). The streets are lined with sushi shops so it is easy to find delicious offerings for a reasonable price. Since wasabi is another product from the region, excellent sushi abounds. A mouthwatering seafood smorgasbord is the perfect way to end the night.

Day Two: Strawberries, Shrines and Ancient Sites

Head east to Higashi Shizuoka for breakfast of fresh baked goods along with more local food specialties – fruit. Shizuoka mikan tangerines and strawberries are famous throughout Japan. Since can never get enough of Shizuoka’s plump, juicy strawberries ahead to the Mount Kuno area for some strawberry picking.

Just as addictive as the strawberries is Tokugawa history, so head out to the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine. This ornate national treasure is where Ieyasu Tokugawa commissioned his mausoleum to be built. Located at the top of a picturesque hill, you can choose to climb the 1,159 steps from ocean shore or ride the ropeway. Either way offers plenty of nice views of the surroundings.

Finish your Shizuoka excursion at the Toro Ruins and museum. These are archeological remains from the Yayoi Era (300 BC to 300AD) and the site thoroughly explains this ancient culture.  If there is still daylight remaining, visit the nearby Nihondaira Zoo.

With everything from topnotch Japanese seafood, to phenomenal Fuji views to fascinating cultural experiences, Shizuoka deserves to be nearer the top of every Japan destination wishlist.

Access: From Tokyo Station take a Shinkansen on the Tokaido Line (approximately 60–90 minutes). Buses run regularly from Shibuya Station (approximately 3.5 hours) or Shinjuku Bus Terminal (approximately 4 hours).

Feature photo: Shutterstock