Shimizu port in Japan's Shizuoka prefecture was one of my favorite ports to visit on my 9 day Diamond Princess cruise in April. We visited other famous and larger ports like Osaka, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, but the charm in Shimizu's cruise port lies in the fact that it is relatively unknown to tourism, lending to more authentic experiences in a very approachable and easy to get around location.
From the cruise ship you can see most of the harbor and the activities listed below, meaning everything is walking distance. This is a beautiful thing when in the other ports you will find yourself on trains or buses a lot of the time. Shimizu is also bound to be the first stop on your Japan cruise itinerary, given its close proximity to your departure point of Yokohama port south of Tokyo, so you'll appreciate the chance to relax a bit.
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In my opinion, this stop is one of the best for a simple day of eating, strolling and relaxation, especially after several days of traveling to get to Tokyo.
If you are like me and decide you'd like to stay local to the ship during your port day in Shimizu, I suggest following this loose round of up options for your day to make it the most enjoyable.
Start early strolling the port area and taking the 20 minute walk towards the fish market, where retailers are beginning their day. By 11 or so, be the first of many to dine along waterfront windows on some of Japan's freshest and best tuna fish. Finish the day with a fun ride on the water taxi, which stops at a local island (you may choose to get off and wander the beaches and shrines if you wish), but it also concludes its round trip route at the base of the cruise ship pier.
A perfect day in Shimizu awaits, let me share with you what to expect.
Rides and Attractions at S-Pulse Dream Plaza
The cruise ship docks at the pier adjacent to the S-Pulse Dream Plaza, a lovely area full of attractions for children, shopping, and dozens of restaurants.
A classic cruise port attraction, visit Shimizu's giant ferris wheel, let your kid play on diggers, or let them have a go at one of the other rides and attractions in the mall's outdoor areas.
Do Some Shopping
With stalls and boutiques for everything from food souvenirs to linens, textiles and toys, spend up to an hour shopping around the mall.
Hit the Arcades
There are claw machines everywhere! Hide your wallet, your kids will want to spend all you've got.
See a Movie
Do something a little different and catch a first-run film in Japanese at their movie theater inside the top hall of the shopping mall.
Visit Shimizu Fish Market: Kashi-No-Ichi
In my opinion, this attraction is the number one draw for any foodie or curious traveler wanting to know more about their destination. An easy 15-20 minute stroll along a paved path from the Dream Plaza, this market can easily take several hours of your day if you make the most of it.
Visit the Seafood Market Downstairs
Do not expect a smelly, puddle-filled market at Kashi-No-Ichi fish market. Instead, be delighted in knowing that this market is not only clean, but is a wonderful example of a retail fish market in Japan. There are ample bathrooms (with western toilets, be sure to wait for the appropriate stall), and although English is not spoken, there are plenty of opportunities to communicate in smiles with the vendors.
Browse the freshest of seafood displays, dried fish options, see the largest mussels and clams you've ever feasted your eyes upon, or try some of the other below offerings as well.
Browse Wax Food Displays Upstairs
Before deciding which of the many restaurants to choose from for having a fresh seafood lunch, I advise visitors to browse up and down the storefronts for their wax food displays. The food, I found, came out looking almost identical to the display, so it helps for you to visualize what you are getting into !
Dine with a Waterfront View Upstairs
After browsing your options from the wax models, the best views can be found from the upstairs restaurants along the waterfront. If you don't care for seafood, there are options like this amazing pork katsu dish that my father had.
Be sure to get some sake with your meal, poured tableside into a cup within a box.
The box looks like it will spill over, but the volume displacement is perfectly achieved.
Even children can find something to eat. My little one loved this sushi sampler, which also included juice, a chicken nugget, french fries and ketchup!
Try the Best Tuna in the World
Shimizu is the #1 tuna fishing port in Japan. I think that's enough said, but feast your eyes on this amazing spread of tuna fish options that we got to try.
Drink Some Green Tea
I had read that 40% of Japan's green tea comes from Shizuoka, the prefecture in which Shimizu sits. Since we couldn't get on a tea tour I just had to try some while we were visiting the market.
Luckily, there was a little stall perfect for just that. Offering up a tea set, it included a pot of green tea per person, along with your choice of a sticky rice based sweet. They even offered green tea beer!
Try Sakura Shrimp Kakiage
The Sakura ebi are famous cherry shrimps that can only be fished out of the waters of Shizuoka and Shimizu. The kakiage is a big crunchy fried thing full of the tiny shrimp, and it's delicious.
Try this local specialty at most of the upstairs restaurants.
Eat Fresh Oysters
Find the vendors selling fresh oysters and ask to try some. They'll shuck it on the spot and serve it with a squirt of lemon.
You won't get them fresher (or cheaper!) elsewhere.
Down the hatch!
Take the Water Bus
The Shimizu water bus or water taxi is a convenient way to get around between the S-Pulse Dream Plaza (where the cruise ship is docked), the Kashi-No-Ichi fish market, and Miho Island, where people like to enjoy Mt. Fuji views, beach walks and shrines.
There is an inside cabin or you may sit out back for fresh air.
Buy a ticket at the machines before boarding or pay onboard upon arriving at your stop.
Feed the Birds
We had a great time feeding the many birds that followed the water taxi around. Some local travelers on board with us knew the secret - purchase bird food from the boat driver!
Armed with an arsenal of bird food, there were dozens of flapping, squawking gulls following our entire journey. It was great fun!
Snap Photos of Mt. Fuji
I do NOT recommend taking a tour to try and see Mt. Fuji on your visit to Shimizu. Although it is offered as a ship tour, you will spend the entire day in transport without guarantee of seeing Mt. Fuji due to clouds and weather conditions.
Instead, opt into viewing points from the Miho Island beach (accessible via water bus), or just walking around the port.
At The Cruise Port
Take a Stroll
A waterfront pathway begins by the ferris wheel, taking visitors along a nice stroll all the way down towards the fish market.
Get Your Toes Wet
After a nice day of strolling around, we noticed many people taking their socks and shoes off to get their toes wet at a little sand beach between the ferris wheel and the ferry pier. It looked like a great place for kids to get one last bit of fun before getting back onboard the ship.
For those more interested in formal tours, here a few suggestions that you can do on your own:
Visit a rustic tea farm and learn about making tea. Make your own way there using public transportation or taxis.
Visit the same tea farm, but with a guide - on bicycles! This tour includes visits to a tea farm, a shrine, and more all on a bike.
Do something a little different and try a calligraphy workshop nearby
In any event, I highly recommend foregoing ship tours for your port day in Shimizu. There is plenty to see and do (and eat!) in the immediate port area, so relax and enjoy your day in Japan's Shimizu port.