The Tea Museum: O Cha No Sato in Shimada City!
Shizuoka Prefecture produces between 45 and 55% of all green tea in Japan depending on the year and official surveys. Moreover, 70% of all tea made in this island finds it way every year at auctions and sales held within the confines of this central Prefecture.
The Tea Museum in Kanaya, Shimada City, would be a sufficient reason to visit this relatively unknown tourist destination, but you could also include it in a grander tour as it stands near Shin Kanaya Station where you could board one of three daily Steam Locomotive trains running up to Senzu Hot Spring resorts along the Oi River and unending tea fields. Another option would be to walk along the Old Tokaido Paved Road through mountain and forest, or along the main road circling its way up over beautiful vistas of the Oi River and its surrounding landscapes.
Tea leaves Exhibit
Serving and drinking a cup of tea is an exchange of hospitality. It is evident that tea is in fact one of the very foundations of Japanese culture.
At The Tea Museum you can learn by experiencing its history and culture hands-on
Tea leaves Exhibit
Tea has its origin in the mountain ranges of Asia. Its culture was developed in China and Japan, and later all over the World. People and environment each play a part in the way tea is enjoyed with amazing variations.
Here in Japan drinking tea takes root very deeply.
However because tea is such a part of our everyday lives we perhaps have come to value it less.
The Tea Museum, therefore, invites everyone to reconsider the original meaning of tea through many exhibits of tea life in the World.
Huxinting/湖心亭 Tea Room in Shanghai
First, as you enter the small lobby leading to the exhibition rooms, you will be offered a cup of tea from Kanaya and invited to check the ninety varieties of tea from thirty countries displayed inside glass drawers you may open to feel and smell their contents!
Then, as you follow the visit route, you will discover the highly sophisticated ambiance of Chinese Imperial Era inside the reproduction of the famous Huxinting/湖心亭 Tea Room in Shanghai, the simplicity of a typical Tibetan house in Nepal, the great setting from a Turkish Restaurant in Ankara, or the quaint atmosphere of a traditional British household!
Samovar and tea utensils from Russia
Other exhibits include a replica of one of the oldest tea trees in the World, from Yuna, China, a scaled down landscape of tea fields, farms and growers in Japan, and the History of Tea in Japan.
Grinding your own matcha!
Check this site for more information!
Real tea lovers will also be able to sample and grind their own matcha tea in situ!
Tea House Garden
Now, the main attraction is the Japanese Tea House/Ocha no Sato-お茶の里!
The tea house, tea rooms and extensive garden are reconstructions of original architectural works of Kobori Enshu-小堀遠州 (1579~1647), a renown magistrate and tea master from the early Edo Era.
The east garden of the Sento Palace in Kyoto, the residence of Emperor Gomizunao-o after he abdicated the throne in 1629, has been recreated there.
The Japanese garden is open to visitors free of charge.
Before entering the tea house, walk along the Yatsuhashi-八橋 (eight-wooden plank bridge), enter the house through Kouhoukyo－向峯居, the arbor of the official residence for the Chief Administrative Judge of Fushimi, and visit Taiunkaku-対雲閣, tea room from the Iwashimizu-hachimangu Temple and Rinsuitei-臨水亭, tea room of the official residence of the Chief Administrative Judge of Fushimi.
Tea History in Japan
Before leaving the Tea Museum pay a visit to the small but very interesting library if you can read Japanese, the Yume Ichiba Shop to purchase local products and souvenirs or Restaurant Moegi for a well-earned refreshment!
Train: 5 minutes by bus or taxi from Kanaya Station on the JR Tokaido Line.
Car: 10 minutes by car from Sagara/Makinohara I.C. on Tomei Expressway
Or 15 minutes from Ojiro I.C. Bypass
Museum visitor’s regular exhibition fee: 600 yen per adult. Cheaper for students, groups and disabled people.
Service hours: 9:00 a.m.~5:00 p.m.
Museum and Teahouse visitor fee: 1,00 yen per adult. Cheaper for students, groups and disabled people.
Service hours: 9:30 a.m.~4:00 p.m.
The teahouse only admission is 500 yen per person (no discount)
Address: The Tea Musuem/Ocanosato, 3053-2, Kanaya, Shimada Shi, Shizuoka Ken, 428-0022 Japan
Closed every Tuesday (the following day when Tuesday is a National Holiday), December 29th~January 3rd.
Parking: free of charge for 9 large buses and 90 cars.
Shimada City: a new Portal to Japan!
Ask Businessmen and tourists coming to Japan from China and Korea and they will answer the new starting venue in this country is Shimada City!
Shimada City? Where can that be? So many people in other celebrated metropolises will surely ask.
Shimada City is slightly away from the center of Shizuoka Prefecture which in turn lies in the very middle of Japan halfway between Tokyo and Nagoya, the most traveled portion of this country. But it all started with the advent of Shimada Airport, also called Mount Fuji-Shizuoka Airport, in 2009. You will understand why we see many Chinese and Korean visitors in this area when you realize planes daily land there directly form Seoul-Incheon and Shanghai-Pudong. In fact, it is faster and cheaper to travel from Shimada to Paris via Seoul-Incheon Aiport!
All that is fine, you might say, what brings all these visitors to that particular part of Japan? What does it has to offer to businessmen and tourists?
Well businessmen know that Shizuoka is the third richest Prefecture, GDP-wise, after Aichi and Kanagawa Prefectures (which incidentally follow each other along the Tokaido Road!), and that ought to be a good enough reason.
Alright, alright, businessmen also share more reasons to come with tourists!
Shimada City and its neighborhoods certainly have enough to warrant a serious visit and a longer stay than expected. After all, if you also come from Kyushu or Hokkaido you will appreciate to learn they are regularly serviced with direct flights from Mount Fuji-Shizuoka Airport.
Shimada tea fields
Shimada City being in the middle of Shizuoka prefecture finds itself in the heart of green tea country. It also has two railway stations, more precisely in Kanaya where you can board the Steam Locomotive for a beautiful trip along the Oigawa Main Line up to Senzu Hot Springs Resort across vast expanses of green tea fields bordering the Oi River. Do not forget to pay an enriching visit to the Tea Museum/Ocha No Sato in Kanaya!
The same Oi River was at its most difficult to cross in Shimada City along the Old Tokaido Road prompting the Meiji Government to build the (still) longest wooden bridge in the world, the Horai Bridge, in 1879. It is 897.4m long and 2.7m wide.
Not only it deserved to be walked across for a great vista but it also has the great merit to lead to vast green tea fields beyond a small mountain ridge along a lane dotted with statues of Seven Deities.
Obi Sword dancer
Every city worth its salt in Japan has a major festival to boast from.
Shimada City not only has one, but it is one of the so-called most unusual festivals in Japan!: the Shimada Obi Matsuri and its Daimyo Procession.
The 300-year old Daimyo Gyoretsu imitates the procession of a grand jumangoku (one hundred thousand koku, units of rice) daimyo, and a total of 250 marchers stretch over 500 meters. Particularly striking is the presence of oyakko who walk gracefully, carrying an obi for safe delivery of babies on the tip of a wooden sword.
The procession is held every three years, in the years of the tiger, snake, monkey and wild boar. It’s commemorated by a grand statue in case you cannot visit the city on time for the festival!
Now that we have enough reasons to either choose Shimada as a practical entry portal to Japan for our business or a source of new hidden treasures, what about the communications, accommodations and gastronomy?
Communications are no problem at all as the Mount Fuji Shizuoka Airport is directly linked by bus to Shimada Tokaido Line Railway Stations and the Shinkasen/Bullet Train Stations in Hamamatsu, Kakegawa and Shizuoka Cities, all within 90 minutes of Nagoya and Tokyo. Moreover, a (free) parking lot for more than 1,000 cars, taxis and car rental companies are part of the facilities.
Accommodations should not be a worry either as the city has enough hotels of all grades, Western or Japanese style near and by the railway station.
As for gastronomy, the City is blessed with a celebrated Sake Brewery, Oomuraya Shuzo, whose brands “Onna Nakase” (“Make a Lady weep”), “Wakatake” (“Young Bamboo) and “Onigoroshi” (“Goblin-Killing”) are known as far as New York, Paris and London.
The presence of a great sake brewery means that the local Japanese Izakayas in particular are of a higher level. What with superlative marine products from nearby Suruga Bay and the extravagant abundance of vegetables (don’t forget the green tea!), there is plenty to please everyone, be they vegetarian, omnivores, drinkers or not!
Hotel Route Inn Shimada Ekimae, 427-0022 Shizuoka Ken, Shimada Shi, Hon Toori, 5-1-13, Tel.: (81)(0)547-37-0055, Fax: (81)(0)547-037-0065, http://www.route-inn.co.jp/search/hotel/index.php?hotel_id=48
Setsugetsuka (Soba, menus to please both vegetarians and omnivores alike. Great sake!), (Closed on Mondays and third Tuesday), 427-0022 Shizuoka ken, Shimada Shi, Hon Toori, 2-3-4, Tel.: (81)(0)547-35-5241
Tea Museum/Ocha No Sato, (Closed on Tuesdays) Shizuoka Ken, Shimada Shi, Kanaya, 3053-2, Tel.: (81)(0)547-46-5588
Oomuraya Sake Brewery (Closed on Sundays), 427-0022 Shizuoka ken, Hon Toori, 1-1-8, tel.: (81)(0)547-37-3058, Fax: (81)(0)547-37-7567
(Visits and tasting sessions for small groups possible upon reservation)
Ooi Shinto Shrine in Shimada City!
Torii/Portal at the entrance of Ooi Shinto Shrine
Whatever City you visit in Japan, down to the smallest mountain village, you will discover at least one Shinto Shrine venerated by the locals. And if you are lucky enough to visit them during traditional holidays or festivals they become an unending source of lore study and photography!
How do you recognize a Shinto Shrine from other cult sites?
It is actually very simple even if you can’t read any Japanese!
1) The entrance is always marked with “torii/鳥居/portal”, however tiny the shrine.
2) You will usually find a hand-washing fountain/basin.
3) Entrance is free contrary to some of the shrines of other beliefs. Actually you will often see children playing in their yards in daytime.
Ooi Shrine garden
Now, if you happen to pass through Shimada City, by road or train or on your way from the International Airport take a couple of hours off for a leisurely visit of Ooi shrine/大井神社 as it is only a 10-minute walk from the railway station!
It is just the right size and a true representative of the long local history and culture.
It is also within walking distance to places such as Setsugekka Soba Restaurant where you could take a beautiful lunch before proceeding to the next stage of your trip through Shizuoka Prefecture and Japan!
Shimada Obi Festival Dancer Statue
Shimada is celebrated for its Shimada Obi/belt Matsuri/Festival, an event officially designated as one of 20 strangest/most original festivals in Japan. It is held every 3 years on the Years of the Tiger, Snake, Monkey and Wild Boar!
A young dancer of the other celebrated Shimada Festival, the 300-year old Daimyo Gyoretsu, which imitates the procession of a grand jumangoku (one hundred thousand koku, units of rice) daimyo with a total of 250 marchers stretching over 500 meters!
The New Year is an important time for the Shrine to collect money through the sales of New Year decorations!
The New Year is a great time for photography when people of any age and station visit the shrine!
New Year Decorations sales booth.
The Shrine has a small and cute garden with a carp pond and arched bridge!
2012 being the Year of the Dragon, so it would be a good idea to search for hidden representations of the fabled creature!
An ancient hand-washing basin inside the garden!
Traditional paper lanterns/chōchin (提灯), make for great photographs!
A sacred cow, symbol of fertility and wealth!
Keep your eyes open and you will discover some very intriguing statues such that of a “kappa/河童”, the Japanese cousin of the Scottish kelpie!
The French will be glad to discover frogs everywhere!
More dragons spouting water instead of belching fire!
Lions help the dragons guard the shrine from evil spirits!
Looking forward to meeting you at the next shrine!