It can sometimes be overwhelming planning a trip to a destination like Japan. With an incredible culinary scene, cultural sights, architecture, and natural wonders, it’s hard to narrow down an itinerary. But, we’re going to let you in on a little secret. By traveling along one particular road, you’ll be able to experience some of the best the country has to offer.
Tokaido Road dates back to the 17th century and is an historic 320-mile throughway connecting the “east (new) capital” of Tokyo to the “west (old) capital” of Kyoto. It was the most important trade route during Japan’s Edo period, and people traveled on it by foot. There were 53 stops along the way that catered to these ancient travelers, many of which still exist today with both historic and modern offerings making it ideal for travelers who want to see urban cities and rural countrysides.
If you have the time, you could follow in the footsteps of those from centuries past by partaking in a walking journey. Some consider this trek a rite of passage as it’s the opposite of the busy Tōmei Expressway. Along the way, you’ll find traditional hotels, restaurants, and bars.
But for most of us who don’t have the luxury of time can opt for the Tokaido Shinkansen train line that follows the same route. Stick to the stops in the Shizuoka region, and you’ll get a taste of the best food, historic attractions, panoramic vistas, and beach days.
Start at Atami Station, which is perfect for sun and ocean as it’s the gateway to the Izu Peninsula. Then continue to Mishima station, a mountainous paradise ideal for those who love cycling or hiking. And make sure to capture your #FOMO moment at the Shin-Fuji station where you can get those stunning pictures of Mt Fuji while also enjoying the most authentic local Japanese stores.
For foodies, plan a stop at Shizuoka Station, which is home to the best Japanese dining hot spots with fresh seafood, traditional dishes, and plenty of green tea. History enthusiasts will love Kakegawa Station as it’s just a short walk away from some of the country’s most unique castles. Plus, you’ll find traditional tea ceremony houses and samurai armor shops.
Finally, at the last Shizuoka stop sits Hamamatsu Station. This spot is a place for artisans of all kinds including musicians and artists. Here you’ll see traditions and techniques handed down over many generations through sculptures and art.
Of course, you can expand beyond that Shizuoka region and take the high-speed train from Tokyo all the way to Osaka. The entire trip takes between two-and-a-half to four hours depending on which line you take and the number of stops. Another option would be to drive between the two major cities making stops along the way to hike portions of the original stone-paved path that formed the Old Tokaido Road.
Regardless of your transportation method, using Tokaido Road as the basis for your itinerary ensures you’ll experience the best of what Japan has to offer.