A small fishing village steeped in history, Shimoda is a great escape for a long beach weekend. Less than three hours from Tokyo Station, Shimoda has everything you’d want in a low-key sandy getaway: nice hotels, cheap pensions, historical sites, great seafood, and most importantly, clear water and soft white beaches.
How to get there: Splurge and take the super-cush green car train. The Limited Express Odoriko Superview offers panoramic views and a ride sweeter than first class in the air. From Tokyo Station it takes about 2 hours forty minutes to get to get to Izukyu-Shimoda Station.
Where to stay: I wanted to be On Ohama Beach. Not near it, not around it, ONNIT. (I settled for as close as I could get). I grabbed a cab from the station and went to The White Beach Hotel, literally a thirty-second walk from Ohama Beach. White Beach Hotel offers big, white, fluffy beds and a super cool staff, all of whom speak English. Note: this is a Western hotel that caters to foreigners and Japanese alike.
If you’re looking for a traditional Japanese experience, there are a ton of tiny, family-run pensions scattered in the area, some with rooms as low as ¥3500 per night (these look pretty bare bones, however). You’ll very likely need some decent JP skills to roll into these spots. There are other hotel options that looked really nice as well, one being Ernest House, just a few minutes’ walk from the beach. Ernest has a nice Hawaiian-ish cafe called Cafe Mellow.
Where to eat: Two words: fish tacos. I cannot tell you how happy I was to find Marina’s. Owned by a Southern Cali/JP couple, Marina’s Fish Tacos serves up the real deal. Authentic, California-style (not fried) fish tacos for ¥400. I ate the salmon and swordfish taco set, which comes with rice, black beans, chips with salsa and guack. The bomb.
What to do: If you have transport, you have a ton more options. White Beach manager Kevin gave me a mind-blowing tour of the area and pointed out some of the highlights in the area:
- If you’re into history, there’s the Perry’s Landing Monument. In 1854 Commodore Matthew Perry came to Shimoda to initiate the opening of trade with the United States. You can take a bay tour on a replica of one of Perry’s “Black Ships.” (You’ll see the model black ship at the station too). There are loads of pretty shrines and temples scattered throughout the town, including the Choraku-Ji temple, which dates back to 1555 and commemorates the spot where the Japan-Russia peace treaty was signed 300 years later, in 1855. Also check out the restaurants and shops on super quaint Perry Road
- If you’re into water sports, Shimoda has diving, kayaking, fishing, and surfing. Zero waves kept me from surfing, but hanging out on the super-clean, soft beach was a fine consolation prize. Check out the Real Surf Shop to get gear and/or lessons (White Beach can also hook it up for you).
- If you’re into nature, Shimoda is freaking paradise. Lush green mountains with endless winding roads give way to breathtaking ocean and cliff views, tiny secret coves, and little villages where life hasn’t changed in decades. If you drive, or can get a ride, definitely check out the Ryugu Sea Cave. There’s also a ropeway in town that takes you up for an aerial view of the entire area, including the Izu Seven Islands.
White Beach Hotel