SHIMODA YAMATOKAN

Most holidays in Japan involve a train, onsen (spa), bento, and no more than 1 night.

Holidays are short and efficient and I was able to experience a quick getaway to Shimoda for Christmas day/night, which is located on the second peninsula due-south past Yokohama. 

Once a popular honeymoon location for couples in the 70's - 80's, Shimoda boasts beach frontage, local hospitality, and a range of onsen Hotels. If you know much about the story of Japan's Ryoma Sakamoto, Shimoda was the location that he spotted the first 'black-ship' survey ships from America when Japan was a closed off country to the rest of the world.

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After a 2.5hr express train ride from Tokyo Station with an essential bento we arrived at the Shimoda Yamatokan which is about 5min drive from the town centre. 

As we arrived all staff were present in a line out the front with bowing, welcomes, and encouragement to take a seat in the lobby lounge and soak up the sunset over a quick sweet and green tea. As you can see the beach is located a stone-throw away and on dusk many surfers were taking advantage of the swell.

The hotel was quite nice with friendly staff, mostly modern interior, free wifi in the lobby, a gift shop of local items, and two public onsen to sit and soak on the roof top. My experience of several of these style train holidays, the onsen hotels have an 70's feel in some character points. It all adds to the ambience of the buildings and I guess if some things don't need to be changed, then leave it. The automatically-played piano in the lobby is an essential for all onsen. 

Room 402 on the top level of the hotel didn't disappoint. A traditional Japanese style suite with two rooms (biggest suite in hotel I believe) and an amazing view over the beach and coastline. When in the hotel clothes come off and Yukatas (casual kimono like robe) come on. The public onsen at the hotel were fantastic with two on offer with a 'gender based' daily rotation. Both had an inside hot bath, and outside traditional hot baths with the freezing sea breeze blowing through. The onsen etiquette is; be naked, have a good wash before you get in, relax and soak, and get over it as everyone is naked. This can be a little daunting for the westerner. 

After soaking in the onsen for a few hours, guests usually wander into the onsite restaurant 'Umi'- meaning ocean, to enjoy the local produce. We had booked a private table and on arrival were greeted with course number one of the degustation menu. Throughout the dinner we dinned on sashimi, dumpling, local root vegetables and pork over coals, along with scallops, fish, and sea snail. The food was delicious and the extensive menu offered some of the freshest sashimi I have ever tasted. The menu did promote local abalone but we didn't have room to order this time. Desserts are buffet style offering all you can eat cakes and traditional sweets, along with a chocolate fountain that had me return multiple times.

Coming back to the room after a fantastic dinner the turndown service had set out the futons in the suite. Traditional setting of sleeping on the tatami mats. I couldn't resist though and went down to the lobby to see the 'Free staff concert'. Being Christmas night the staff and an audience of 4 went through some Marley classics and a few Japanese hits.

All in all a fantastic stay and a great contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Tokyo setting.


SHIMODA YAMATOKAN

2048 Kisami, Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture

http://www.shimoda-yamatokan.co.jp/