From marvellous hot spring towns to gorgeous coastal scenery, the Tokai region boasts both renowned destinations and underexplored gems, both natural and manmade. Explore the unique food culture of this region through itineraries that include fruit picking and sake tasting, as well as savouring local dumplings - both sweet and savoury - and prime wagyu.
Savour Shizuoka's delectable offerings
TORA to FUSEN at SWEETS BANK
Enjoy breakfast at TORA to FUSEN cafe located in SWEETS BANK with its Instagram-worthy giant dining tables and chairs.
At TORA to FUSEN, try their brioche bread which is freshly baked daily, accompanied by unique drinks such as "Unagi Pie & Mascarpone Cafe Latte" which is topped with Unagi Pie.
Honey Sweets Atelier Nagasaka Apiary
Housed in a rustic farmhouse-style building, Honey Sweets Atelier Nagasaka Apiary is a specialty store run by the Nagasaka Bee Farm. The store offers various honey-based seasonal sweets like puddings and rusks, as well as honey by the bottle straight from the farm. One of the most popular items here is the honey soft-serve ice cream which is served with a drizzle of fresh honey.
Hamamatsu Castle Park
Located in the city centre, Hamamatsu Castle Park is often bustling with visitors who come here to spend time in the lush nature. Within the park is the spectacular Hamamatsu Castle that looms over the city, where Tokugawa Ieyasu spent his years as a young warlord from 1542 to 1616. The spacious park also boasts a rustic Japanese-style garden, a teahouse, and over 400 cherry trees that make this place a popular cherry blossom site.
Ishimatsu Gyoza Hamamatsu Station
Hamamatsu is one of Japan's most famous places for gyoza, or pot stickers, and specialty gyoza shops can be found in almost every corner of the city. You can enjoy the savoury flavour of these pan-fried dumplings at Ishimatsu Gyoza Hamamatsu Station, the birthplace of Ishimatsu dumplings. The light and juicy dumplings are filled with garlic, but you can eat them without worrying about the smell even during a lunch break from work. The shop was founded in 1953, and was the first to start the signature use of bean sprouts on the side of gyoza, which is now a custom for most dumplings served in Hamamatsu.
Atami Pudding Cafe 2nd
Complete the retro hot spring town experience of Atami by trying the famous Atami Pudding! Situated in the Atami Ginza shopping district, Atami Pudding Cafe 2nd is a Japanese bathhouse-inspired cafe space with tiled walls and bathtubs decorating the store. Their signature dessert is a smooth custard served in a retro-styled milk bottle, with various seasonal flavours and topping drizzles. The extensive cafe menu also includes other desserts like cakes, sodas, parfaits, and ice creams.
Set in a nostalgic building resembling a traditional rural house, Irorichaya is a cosy restaurant that is known for its irori (sunken hearth) that is set into each table. By dinnertime, diners can roast various fresh ingredients on skewers over this unique fireplace that used to be the heart of traditional Japanese houses. Famous for their hearty portions of seafood and beef bowls, other popular dinner dishes include seafood from the waters around Atami, like horse mackerel and kinmedai (alfonsino).
Situated away from the hustle of the city, SOKI ATAMI is a luxury hot spring resort with a spectacular view of the ocean. While all rooms include private hot spring baths, guests can also enjoy shared facilities like the semi-open air public onsen and Tea Salon & Bar overlooking Atami Bay on the top floor. Everything from the design of the resort to the use of Japanese herbal medicine teas emphasises elegant sophistication for a tranquil environment.
Savouring coastal delights of the Tokai region
Start off the day by picking your own melons - a prized delicacy all over Japan - in the melon-growing region of Tahara! Head to one of the six farms where you can pick from vines of either light green musk melons or orange-fleshed cantaloupes - all are sweet, juicy, and ready for the picking. Some plantations offer an all-you-can-eat service in addition to the pick-your-own-melon experience. The picking season is from June to October.
Koijigahama (meaning "Beach of the Love Path") is famous for its sunsets when the beach is painted in pinkish hues by the setting sun. The beautiful, curving white sand beach stretches for about 1km from Cape Irago, and is a popular spot for couples, be it for weddings or marriage proposals. From October to February, view the morning sunrise through the Hii-no-Sekimon, a rock formation eroded by wind and waves.
At the tip of Cape Irago is Shammy's Cafe, a casual restaurant with a breathtaking view of the ocean, where you can have some freshly-made pizzas, baked with their very own handmade brick oven, and hamburgers for lunch. You can enjoy your meal in the cozy, eclectic interior or sit outside on the lawn to appreciate the ocean views. Top off your lunch with an iced coffee or dessert.
Isuzu Seigoan is famous for their local sweet called "Iwato no shio yokan", which is a sweet bean jelly infused with salt from the Futami Kouzaki coast. This sweet is made with carefully selected azuki beans, and kneading the specially acquired salt into them that imparts an exquisitely balanced taste that is salty and yet refreshingly sweet. You can enjoy the yokan with matcha tea at this shop's cozy eating space.
The Couple Rocks at Futami Okitama Shrine
Meoto-iwa, or 'husband and wife rock', is a famous pair of large and small rocks in the ocean recognisable by a sacred thick straw festoon that connects them. At 700m offshore, the rocks are part of the Futami Okitama shrine where they are worshipped, as it is said that marriages and matrimonial happiness are connected to this shrine. From May to July (summer solstice), you can see the sunrise between the two rocks.
Vison is a huge commercial complex which is home to everything from a farm-to-table marketplace to a hotel and spa. If you have a sweet tooth, head to the Sweets Village where you can indulge in all sorts of desserts at Confiture H, with creamy cakes and other variety of desserts prepared using fresh ingredients from Vison's gardens. Pair your confectionery with some specialty coffee from Sarutahiko Coffee Shop.
Take a stroll across the row of well-preserved traditional samurai houses at Gojoban Yashiki, built in the late Edo period. The samurai warriors that lived here were entrusted with the task of protecting the Matsusaka Castle.
The legendary Wadakin is famous for serving the best quality Matsusaka wagyu for over 142 years, and is a special place where locals come for celebrations and ceremonies. The most famous dish at the restaurant is its signature Sukiyaki, where sliced beef is seared in sauce and dipped into raw egg. The marbled beef is so tender it melts in your mouth. Other Matsusaka beef dishes include lightly grilled wagyu over charcoal fire and wagyu steak.
Savour the charm of traditional Japan in the Tokai region
Start the day with a sweet breakfast at Okagean, a cafe that specialises in traditional Japanese desserts. There, you can choose from traditional anmitsu (red bean) desserts, soft-serve ice cream, and dango (rice cake on sticks) that you can toast over a small tabletop grill. They also have simple morning sets with toast or onigiri, with a wide range of Japanese teas that you can choose to pair your meal with.
Atsuta Shrine is the religious heart of Nagoya, and one of Japan's most important Shinto shrines. It enshrines the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, and the sacred sword Kusanagi-no-tsurugi, which was used to slay a mythical eight-headed serpent. The shrine, said to be 1,900 years old, is situated in a pleasant, wooded park which is a nice place to walk around and discover hidden shrines tucked away in secluded corners as well.
Learn more about Atsuta-jingu Shrinehttps://www.japan.travel/en/spot/1231/
Pick up some Japanese wagashi confectionery as delicious souvenirs at Ryoguchiya-Korekiyo, which is known for making high-quality sweets since its founding in 1634. Can't decide on one item? Then get an assortment of their most popular confectioneries: Tabimakura, Shinanoji, and Yomoyama. Filled with anko (sweet red bean paste), these come in various shapes and go perfectly with tea. The shop also makes colourful, seasonal sweets that are introduced regularly.
Situated along the banks of the Itadori River, Ayuya is a restaurant surrounded by lush greenery, and specialises in ayu (sweetfish) which you can enjoy grilled, fried, vinegared, or prepared in many other ways. Take advantage of their set meals to savour the fish in many cooking styles. The best way to enjoy your lunch is to book a table on the platform right over the river.
Business period: May - November
Business hours: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Reservations: Please call to make a reservation for a course meal for the number of people seated on the terrace seats over the river (Japanese only)
Please note that there are no English-speaking employees.
Drop by Namonaki Ike for its homage to Claude Monet's scenes from his "Water Lilies" series. With beautiful water lilies floating in the clear turquoise water and colourful Japanese carp swimming under the lilies, it is aptly nicknamed "Monet's Pond." Surrounded by verdant foliage and blooming flowers, a visit to the pond is like stepping right into an Impressionist artwork. It is even more stunning in early summer with the flowers in full bloom.
HYAKUSYUN Sake Brewery Kosaka Shuzojo
Kosaka Shuzojo is a sake brewery located in Mino City's Udatsu Wall Historical District, home to rows of Edo-era merchant shops featuring udatsu - roof-dividing walls designed to stop fire from spreading. The brewery was established in one of these unique shops in 1772, and is run today by the 12th generation of brewers. They offer a variety of sake, from raw genshu to delicate junmai daiginjo, so you can find one to please your palate.
Check in at Hotel Sekisuien in Gujo Hachiman, a small 16th century riverside town known for its pristine network of waterways. The hotel specializes in quality Hida beef - a local beef variety known for its melt-in-your-mouth marbling - which you can enjoy as part of a sumptuous multi-course kaiseki dinner. The course also includes other local specialties like seasonal river fish, including ayu (sweetfish) and loach. Other ways to enjoy the Hida beef is have it prepared as steak, shabu shabu, or sukiyaki.