The historical port where Japan opened its doors to the world.
下田 (SHIMODA) is a well known city among Japanese people because SHIMODA Port was the first port where Japan opened its doors to the world. As you might have learnt at the history class, during Edo Period, 徳川幕府 (TOKUGAWA BAKUFU / TOKUGAWA Shogunate / TOKUGAWA Regime) which governed Japan had closed the country to the foreigners since 1639. However, in 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry’s four-ship squadron (called 黒船 / KURO FUNE / Black Ships) , which was sent by the United States, arrived off the shore of URAGA (KANAGAWA Prefecture), with an official letter from the President of the United States to urge Japan to open the country. In the following year (1854) again, Perry’s KURO FUNE came to YOKOHAMA to urge Japan again. Then, Japan finally agreed to open the country and sign the treaty between the United States and Japan which opened the ports at SHIMODA and HAKODATE (HOKKAIDO).
It is said that people were so surprised when they first saw this KURO FUNE (Perry’s squadron) which had black body, very tall mast, and steam engine. You know what, there is a leisure boat which resembles this historical heritage “KURO FUNE” at SHIMODA Port, and you can enjoy cruising with thinking about 幕末 BAKU MATSU (closing days of TOKUGAWA Shogunate).
Under this treaty in 1854, it was also agreed to place the consulates at SHIMODA, and then the United States sent Townsend HARRIS to SHIMODA as the first consulate in Japan in 1856. 玉泉寺 (GYOKUSEN JI Temple) was the place used for this US consulates which is definitely worth visiting. Also you should visit another temple 了仙寺 (RYOSEN JI Temple) where the treaty between US and Japan signed.
Right next to this 了仙寺 (RYOSEN JI Temple), there is a museum named “Mobs KURO FUNE Museum”. “Mobs” stands for “Museum of Black Ship”. Although there are a lot of museums related to BAKU MATSU in SHIMODA City, this Mobs is a little different from the others. Both interior and exterior are super modern and contemporary and you may feel as if you were in MOMA. Not just seeing the exhibitions, you can buy some cool souvenirs and gifts related to BAKU MATSU here. I bought some post cards and paper fans which have 浮世絵 (UKIYOE) paintings.
The road right in front of RYOSEN JI Temple and KURO FUNE Museum is called “Perry Road”, and this is the road where Perry and his 300 officers marched from the port toward RYOSEN JI to sign the treaty. There are a lot of old traditional buildings remain along this road, and I would recommend you to take a walk on this road.
Enjoy tasting the local foods at SHIMODA.
Since SHIMODA is a port, you can enjoy a lot of seafood. I would recommend you to go to “道の駅開国下田みなと (MICHI NO EKI KAIKOKU SHIMODA MINATO)”. 道の駅 (MICHI NO EKI) means “Road Station”. There are so many road stations all over Japan, where you can buy variety of local specialties at shops as well as tasting local foods at restaurants. MICHI NO EKI is definitely the place you should go whenever you travel. The MICHI NO EKI in SHIMODA City is here “KAIKOKU SHIMODA MINATO”.
A well known seafood in IZU Peninsula is 金目鯛 (KIN ME DAI / Red Snapper / Alfonsino). Usually in Japan, KIN ME DAI is regarded as a high class fish just like 鯛 (TAI / Snapper / Sea Bream), and it is common in Japan to eat KIN ME DAI as 煮付け (NITSUKE / boiled with soy sauce and sugar) at high class Japanese restaurants or SUSHI restaurants. But here, since it is one of the local specialties, it is served in any ways.
At MICHI NO EKI KAIKOKU SHIMODA MINATO, you can buy dried KIN ME DAI so that you can take it back home and cook it. Dried fish is perfect with drinking Japanese SAKE. Also, there is a SUSHI restaurant at this road station, and you can eat SASHIMI and SUSHI of KIN ME DAI in very reasonable price.
What I would like to highly recommend is “SHIMODA Burger”. The restaurant named “Cafe & Hamburger Ra-Maru” serves this signature menu. When I first heard of this “SHIMODA Burger”, I had no idea what kind of burger it was, and I didn’t feel like going there and eating it that much because I felt it was not that worth trying in this historical town if it’s a normal burger with beef. However, this is a burger with the local specialty KIN ME DAI!. A big fried KIN ME DAI and camembert cheese are in a bun. How attractive this burger looks! I often eat KIN ME DAI as a NITSUKE or SASHIMI, but I’ve never eaten fried KIN ME DAI in such a way. It was really amazing!
Like this, SHIMODA has a lot of things you would better see and touch. If you drive around IZU Peninsula, SHIMODA would definitely be the 1st candidate you stop by.
Not only SHIMODA, but also you can find a lot of sightseeing spots as well as many ONSEN places on the way of driving around IZU Peninsula. Why don’t you enjoy driving around IZU Peninsula?
Related article: SHUZEN JI ONSEN – Beautiful ONSEN town with historical temples