Savoring all the sights, sounds, seafood of Shizuoka’s Numazu

Blessed by a year-round mild climate with an average temperature of 16.3 C, the city of Numazu, just 100 km from Tokyo, is the perfect place to enjoy majestic views of Mount Fuji and savor fresh seafood throughout the four seasons.

With a population of 211,000, the essence of this Pacific coast city can perhaps best be grasped by taking a stroll from JR Numazu Station down the Kano River that runs through the city center.

The walk allows you to take in the hustle and bustle of the city that serves as the political and economic hub of eastern Shizuoka Prefecture while enjoying the languid stretch of water that eventually flows into Suruga Bay. Several classical wooden boats are moored close to the mouth of the port at Iri-nyudo. Once a popular means of public transportation, Iri-nyudo no Watashi is a revival of the classic ferryboats, operating from this spot to Ayumi Bridge, located toward the city center. The ride offers a quiet moment or two to reflect on bygone days, as the boatmen skillfully maneuver their craft with very long poles.

The banks of the Kakita River offer delightful opportunities to observe the wildlife and vegetation of the neighborhood. A tributary of the Kano, the 1.2-km Kakita has its origins in spring water formed by rain and melted snow from Mount Fuji. Renowned for its purity and cleanliness, ayu (sweetfish) swim up the river to lay their eggs in late autumn.

For those looking to take in the entire city and the surrounding landscape without blinking, there’s a 360-degree panoramic view from the observatory at View-O. As one of the largest water gates in Japan, View-O links the Port of Numazu with the outer sea and protects 50 hectares of land from tsunami and tidal surges. The view from its 30-meter-high observation deck is spectacular: Mount Ashitaka, Mount Fuji, the Southern Alps down even to the city of Shimizu on a clear day, the peaks of Hakone and the Numazu Alps, the Ganyudo Shore just below, as well as Osezaki Cape on the tip of Suruga Bay.

Senbon Matsubara, the natural pine forest park, is ideal for walking or jogging. Renowned from the Edo Era around 400 years ago as the best place along the Tokaido route for views, the natural combination of pine trees, Mount Fuji and the setting sun beyond the sea is breathtaking.

Mount Kanuki, a popular hiking course, is a 193-meter peak located southeast of Numazu City. The view from the observatory at the summit is enchanting, especially in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The pink haze surrounding the five-story pagoda, as well as the view of the city, Mount Fuji and the Southern Alps, always has people reaching for their cameras.

And when you’re tired of feasting on the magnificent views, there’s Numazu’s famous seafood to satisfy your appetite.

Boasting the leading catch among Japanese ports, the Numazu Fish Market is filled with the freshest seasonal fish, including mackerel, sardines and horse mackerel in autumn, tuna, squid and octopus in winter, bonito, sierra, barracuda and grunt in spring, and striped horse mackerel, rare species of tuna and squid in summer. Fresh seafood, as well as delicious sun-dried fish of the day can be enjoyed at the numerous restaurant-cum-souvenir shops inside the fish market.

Autumn is a festive season. From Nov. 3 (Thurs.) until 17 (Thurs.), the Kikka-ten (Chrysanthemum Fair) is being held at the Numazu Imperial Villa Memorial Park (Numazu Goyotei Kinen Koen).

Originally built in 1893 as a rest house for Emperor Taisho, the villa was turned into a park in 1969.

During the festival, almost 1,000 pots of chrysanthemums in different shapes, sizes and shades of pink, orange, purple, white and yellow flowers will complement the superb views the park offers of Suruga Bay and Mount Fuji.

Another prominent, popular autumn event in Numazu is the Yosakoi Tokaido Festival.

Taking after the Yosakoi Dance of Kochi Prefecture, the festival will be held in Numazu on Nov. 12 (Sat.) and 13 (Sun.). The city’s streets will reverberate with excitement and throb to the beat of hundreds of dancers (mainly local people) clad in colorful costumes dancing to music while clacking their “narukos (Japanese castanets).”

For more information, call the Numazu Tourist Information Center at (055) 964-1300 or access its Web site