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Discovering Shimoda City

The southern port city on Japan’s Izu Peninsula unfolds.

Shimoda beaches are always a draw, and two of them are among the Japanese Environment Agency’s Top 100 Beaches for its “AA” water quality.
On the southern coast of Japan’s Izu Peninsula, just a three-hour scenic train ride south of Tokyo, is the sunny port destination, Shimoda City. Endearing 25,000 residents and tourists alike are the city’s top notch beaches, cobblestoned charm, and a 160-year history of trade relations with the U.S. Here are a few of the must-sees:

Ryosenji Temple
Ryosenji, founded in 1635, was where the U.S. Treaty of Peace and Amity negotiations leading up to its 1854 signing took place, thus earning the nickname “The Hall of the Opening of the Nation.” Inside, see 3,000 Black Ship artifacts, maps of Japan and the Western world, plus texts and paintings portraying the many cultural differences between East and West. Every May, the temple hosts the annual Shimoda Black Ship Festival where people come dressed the part of Samurai warriors and 19th century merchants.

Hofukuji Temple
The Hofukuji depicts the darker side to Japan’s relations with the Western world. Buried there is Tojin Okichi, the young woman forced to serve America’s first consul to Japan, Taunsend Harris. When he left the country, Okichi was secluded from society as a “mistress of a foreigner.” She ultimately threw herself into the river, but lives on as the subject of poetry, movie plots, and manga.

Gyokusenji Temple
The assigned post for Consul Harris, Gyokusenji Temple now houses a cow memorial referencing the Westerner’s demand for milk and beef as part of his remuneration.

Shimoda Shiroyama Park
Quaint Perry Road leads to Shimoda Shiroyama Park, where serpentine pathways and an observation deck treat walkers to peerless views of Shimoda’s beaches and port area. Hydrangeas, camellias, and azaleas are in full bloom come summertime.

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