Shimoda (下田) is a city on the Izu Peninsula in Japan. It is famous as the place where Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy arrived with his "black ships" in 1853. This led to the signing of the Convention of Kanagawa, effectively ending Japan's 200-year era of isolation from the outside world.
This city of 21,000 people (2019) has some of Japan's best surfing beaches and has consequently become an emerging hipster destination, with a few crafty bars and restaurants popping up.
Shimoda is as far south as you can go by train on the Izu Peninsula. The train station is the terminal of the Izukyu Railway, and is officially known as Izukyu-Shimoda (伊豆急下田) station.
Odoriko (踊り子) trains make multiple daily runs from Tokyo station via the JR Tokaido Main Line. A one-way trip will generally take 2 hr 45 min at a cost of ¥5890. Holders of the national Japan Rail Pass will have to pay ¥2070 each way to travel over the Izu Kyuko Line, but if you have a JR East Rail Pass, the entire journey is fully covered. Some Odoriko trains also leave Tokyo from Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. The name of these trains may have different variants; the Saphir Odoriko (サフィール踊り子), for example, has wider windows and makes fewer stops.
Local trains take slightly longer, with at least one change of trains required at Atami or Ito, but the cost is much cheaper (¥3780).
Across the street from the station is Shimoda Tourist Association, where you can get help with orientation. ☏ . Central Shimoda is small enough to be explored on foot. To reach the beaches and some of the sights it's more comfortable to take a bus. Platforms are outside the railway station.
- A cable car ("ropeway") takes you to the top of Mount Nesugata, 200 m above sea level. From there you get a great view of Shimoda and you can also explore a small park with a temple. The price for a return ticket is ¥1200, including admission to the park. A printable discount ticket[dead link] is available on the cable cars official site.
- Shimoda Park is near the port, a 20-minute walk from the station. You can also take a bus headed for the Shimoda Aquarium which is next to the park. The park features a 1957 monument of the opening of US-Japan diplomatic relations, and plenty of flowers including thousands of hydrangeas that bloom in June.
- The temple of Ryosen-ji is a 25-minute walk south from the station. A supplementary treaty to the Kanagawa Treaty was signed here by Commodore Perry and representatives of the shogunate. Next to the temple is a museum with exhibitions about the arrival of foreigners in Japan, and even a collection of erotic Buddhist art. Admission to the museum is ¥500. Another temple, Choraku-ji, is close to Ryosen-ji and also worth a visit. It is the site of a trade treaty between Japan and Russia, signed in 1854.
- Izu Cruise, ☏ . Around the bay depart several times every day from the harbour. The 20-minute "Black Ship" cruise on a modern replica of Perry's USS Susquehanna costs about ¥1,400/700 adult/child and departs every half hour.
- Cody Voellinger, ☏ . If you need help in English, it is best to visit Shelley`s English School and Cafe close to the station and along the river. They have free internet access and can help with booking hotels or other travel plans.
Some of Izu's best beaches are near Shimoda.
- The white sand beach of Shirahama (白浜), not to be confused with the town in the Wakayama prefecture, is 4 km north-east of central Shimoda. Buses from Shimoda Station depart about twice per hour and the trip takes ten minutes. The beach has great sand, and when the waves are high enough it is a good place for surfing.
- Irita-hama (入田浜), 15 min west of Shimoda, has much gentler waves. One of the prettiest beaches in Izu, it's a great place for a swim. To get there, take any bus bound for Irozaki (石廊崎) and get off at Nyuta (入田).
- Shimoda Aquarium. Prides itself as the world's first aquarium that floats on water. Admission is ¥1700 and the 5000 fish are in many cases unique to the Izu Peninsula. The aquarium also offers the opportunity to swim with dolphins for ¥4500 (reserve in advance). ☏ .
- The Kuro-fune Matsuri (Black Ship Festival) is held yearly on the third weekend of May. It is a celebration of the arrival of Commodore Perry, and features a parade and other festivities.
- Another festival is the Shimoda Taiko Matsuri (Drum Festival), celebrated August 14th and 15th. As the name suggests it features a lot of drumming, and dashi (Japanese festival floats).
Seafood is the specialty of Shimoda, and most restaurants serve locally caught fish. Recommendations include:
- Isoka-tei, ☏ . Lunch from ¥1000.
- Izutaro, ☏ . A conveyor-belt sushi place.
- Gorosaya, ☏ . Good seafood and a bit more expensive with dinners around ¥3000. Closed Thursdays.
- Mimatsu, ☏ . Luxury sushi bar. Lunch around ¥1500.
Don't worry, it's not all seafood:
- 1 Dining&Bar Naminami, 2--1-20 Higashihongo, ☏ . Daily 11:30-14:00, 17:30-21:00. Casual Hawaiian-themed restaurant serving up poke salad, burgers from Izu beef, spam musubis, inventive smoothies and more. It's hard to do this kind of fusion food right, but Naminami delivers in spades. Not to be confused with another unrelated Japanese izakaya in Shimoda also called "Naminami"! ¥2000.
- 2 Doug, 687 Kakisaki, ☏ . 07:00-14:00. Tucked away in a quiet residential corner of Shimoura, Doug -- named after the owner's dog -- is a gorgeous little bakery pumping out absolutely impeccable French-styled pastries and chewy sourdough breads. Get there early before the good stuff sells out, and prepare to queue. Pastries around ¥500 each.
- 3 FermenCo, 348-37 Kisami (Irita Beach). d-Su 11:00–14:30, 17:00-20:30. This hipster pizza joint faces directly out onto the beach and churns out some of the best sourdough pizzas this side of Napoli, washed down with organic local juices or naturally fermented wines. The burrata starter is to die for. Pizzas from ¥1300.
- 4 Tonkatsu Nishiki (とんかつ錦), 静岡県下田市三丁目６−１１ (on the southeast corner of town, near the bust of Commodore Perry), ☏ . A friendly restaurant. The menu includes several different variety of Tonkatsu. ¥2,500.
Nightlife isn't the main reason why anyone would visit Shimoda, but the town isn't completely dry.
- Ja Jah, in the southern part of town on Perry Road, plays reggae and hip-hop. A beer costs from ¥600. Closed on Mondays.
- Cheshire Cat Jazz Bar is on the street My My-dori. Beers start at ¥500.
- Soul Bar Tosaya. Nice little bar on Perry road. Relaxed atmosphere, soul music, many cocktails, beer starts at ¥500. Food and snacks on an English/Japanese menu. Offers internet to customers.
- Oizu Ryokan, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00. A bargain at ¥3500 per person (meals not included). It's perfect for anyone who wants to get the ryokan feeling without forking out a fortune. It's in the southern part of town, less than a kilometer from the station.
- Pension Sakuraya, 2584-20 Shirahama Shimoda city (Shirahama district), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. Pension Sakuraya is on a hill, 4 minutes walk from Shirahama beach. There are Japanese style rooms and Western style rooms, and some of them have a sea view. Price per person per night ¥5,300 or more without meals for off peak season. There are prices for Peak season. Dinner ¥2,500, breakfast ¥600. Price per person ¥5,300~ without meals.
- 1 Pension Shimoda (ペンション下田), 静岡県下田市五丁目１１−４ (south of town, between the aquarium and Tatadohama beach), ☏ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 10:00. A typical Minshuku in an old home with several guest rooms. Each room has tatami and futon, and some rooms have a private toilet and TV. Japanese language skills may be necessary to book a room. ¥3,500.
- Irita-hama sanso (IZU015) is a cottage for 6 to 35 party. Properties are on the hill, so each cottage offers a uniquely spectacular the Pacific Ocean view. This cottage is equipped with a kitchen for self-catering. You can also enjoy a BBQ with this breathtaking view. There are restaurants (soba, udon, cafeteria) within walking distance. The nearest beach is Irita-hama beach, 7 min on foot. Reservation center phone ☏ . Off-peak season from ¥5700 or more per person, peak season from ¥7700 or more.
- Kokumin-shukusha New Shimoda, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00. Includes two meals in the price of ¥7000 per person.
- Station Hotel Shimoda (next to the railway station), ☏ . Check-in: 16:00. ¥5800 for a single room and ¥9800 for a double.
- Uraga Hotel, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00. Catering to business travelers. Singles ¥7000, doubles ¥9800.
- Izu beach club (IZU014)is an apartment hotel. There are twin or double room. No meals are included, but there is a working kitchen. And also you can taste Shimoada's local seafood 5 minutes walk. Nearest beach Irita-Hama is famous for white sand beach and clear water. 5 minutes walk to the beach. Off-peak season ¥6200 per person (double room), Peak-season ¥12,200 per person (twin room). Reservation center ☏ .
- Hotel Kurofone, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00. A 15-minute walk east from the station, along route 135. It offers a choice of Western-style or Japanese-style rooms. Price per person with meals ¥20,000, without meals ¥10,000.
The hot springs in this area make Shimoda an onsen town. Many of the hotels in the area have in-house bathing facilities, and there is even a small pool outside the railway station where you can dip your feet. Outside Shimoda there are some well-known onsen:
- Kanaya Onsen is in Rendai-Ji 4 km from Shimoda (one train stop north of Shimoda). It is one of the beat onsen on the Ize Peninsula, with the huge men's bath as a highlight. Admission ¥1000. The onsen is part of Kanaya Ryokan where you can spend the night for ¥7000 (¥15000 with meals).
- Gin-no-Yu, 10 minutes south of Shimoda, has an aloe bath on one side and a "new summer orange" bath on the other. The onsen alternates the men's and women's sections daily so that everyone can try both baths. Admission ¥1000.