To all hot spring lovers, did you know that only 100 km west of Tokyo exists a region where you could find some of the most famous Onsen of Japan? Three of them were even recorded in 2010 on the top 10 Onsen list established by the Lonely Planet travel guide for the following categories: Best outside Onsen (Sawada-kōen Rotenburo Onsen – Dogashima, Izu-hanto), best Onsen on an island (Jinata Onsen – Shikine-jima, Izu-shotō) and best tropical Onsen (Urami-ga-taki Onsen (Hachijō-jima, Izu-shotō).
But no more suspense, this region (and you may have already guessed since it is in the title of this article) is Izu Peninsula! The area abounds of many sources with therapeutic virtues, and some of them have been used as sceneries for the Thermae Romae movie (I recommend the reading of the Manga the movie was adapted from if you’re curious to discover a little more about Japanese bath culture. Plus it’s very funny!).
So let’s go! Welcome on board and follow me for a little ride on the railway line along the east coast of Izu peninsula for a little insight of some of the best things Izu has to offer.
First stop: Ito
Atami is certainly the nearest spa from Tokyo if you’re just looking at enjoying some Onsen in Izu. However, if you continue a bit further, there is this cute little city also famous for its many nice hot springs and located between green hills and cliffs. Perfect for a relaxing time away from the tumult of the Nippon capital.
Spend the night in an historical Ryokan
In addition, you will also be able to book a futon for the night in an historical Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). The 100 years old building all dressed of wood is really worth a visit and the Onsen is also very charming. A truly unique and economic experience (costs around ¥ 2,000 ~ ¥ 3,000 for a single futon in a big tatami room).
Second stop: Izu Kogen
Only 10 km away of downtown Ito, you can also visit Izu Kogen, another popular resort with many museums and restaurants, but also the Mount Omuro and the beautiful rugged coastline of Jogasaki.
A walk that I highly recommend: the contrast of the blue sea and black rock (the area is very volcanic) offers some quite spectacular views.
The highlight of the ride is the Kadowakizaki suspension bridge (23 meter long and 48 meter above the ocean).
Third stop: Kawazu
Kawazu is another step also very well known by Onsen lovers, but also people who want to see the early blooming of the Sakura! In late February every year this city organizes the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival where you can even try the Sakura Udon!
If you have time, take a bus from Kawazu station to visit the 7 waterfalls path.
Kawazu 7 falls: Kawazu Nanadaru
These seven waterfalls are located in the heart of the mountains of the southeastern part of the peninsula. The waterfalls are 30m for the biggest one (Odaru) and only 2m for the smallest one (Kanidaru, the waterfall crab) and all of them can be admired along a small trail through the forest.
For having visited Izu in last autumn season, the path had a very special atmosphere as all the trees were dressed with their most beautiful autumn colors.
Several statues along the trail represent the heroine of the story “Izu no Odoriko” (The Izu Dancer, 1926), written by Yasunari Kawabata (Nobel Prize in 1968).
Waiting for the bus, have a break inside some of the few shops to enjoy a wide selection of local vegetables (mostly mushrooms embellished with miso sauce (Yummy!).
Joren no taki
A little further is one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in Amagi area, which was made famous by a Japanese singer called Sayuri Ishikawa: Joren no taki.
Close to the waterfall a wasabi farm borders a small shop where you can find fresh wasabi, of course, but also many other products made from wasabi like … ice cream (the mix between cold and spice creates a very funny sensation). Try it!
Fourth stop: Shirahama
By taking up the road from Kawazu to Shimoda, bask for a moment on the white sands of Shirahama beach (Shirahama literally means “White Beach”), one of the most famous in Japan. This is indeed one of the finest in the area and a real paradise for surfers!
Down the beach, a torii stands on the rocks and contemplates the sea.
Time to get back on the train for the final step of this trip: Shimoda.
Last stop: Shimoda
This is the largest resort of Izu and also where Commodore Perry landed in 1853. The place has become particularly “fashionable” when Emperor Meiji himself built the villa Suzaki, still used today.
The Shimoda volcanic coastline is also edgy and sharp, and offers some superb walks from Toji to Tarai and Irozaki caps.
Finally, the trip would not be complete without some good seafood treat! The Izu Peninsula is bordered to the west by Suruga Bay and to the east by the open sea of Sagami. The area is therefore famous for its seafood specialities, especially shellfish or the Ise lobster. Don’t hesitate to have a look around, there is plenty of unknown restaurants serving quality fishes; sushi and sashimi to die for!
Have a nice trip to Izu!
For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/izu/