If you’re planning a trip to the Izu peninsula, first of all, know your terrain around Izu peninsula, what are your interests, and then decide what are your “must-see spots”. Izu peninsula is essentially about volcanic geology and coastal formations.
Needless to say, the whole peninsula is also dotted with hot spring areas each with an original, distinctive character.
#1. Atami is the gateway to the Eastern Izu. Atami Spa/Beach resort bustles with tourists and families. Atami is characterized by the laidback atmosphere of its beach resort (Atami Sun Beach), with its rows of palm trees.
It is particularly famous for the “Moon Light Beach”, where the illuminations make it the perfect spot for couples, and the Hydrophile Park with its many decks and terraces, gives it a Northern Italy and Cote d’Azur atmosphere.
Atami’s reputation is built upon the its hotsprings as the shoguns are known to have ‘taken the waters’ here and the hotsprings are said to have originally been discovered about 1,500 years ago. Atami literally means ‘hot sea’, the resort was so-named by locals who observed the hot water flowing into the surrounding sea. Atami rises out of the sea and then extends into rather imposing hills that overlook the town – reminiscent of Naples. The hillsides form one side of a volcano, and the town is built in the remnants of the crater. For accommodation, check out: Atami Seaside Spa & Resort (See access info); Hotel New Akao resort or alternatively, check out Atami Furuya Ryokan or this Ryokan listing by price.
At Atami, some of the historical attractions are:
The Atami Castle along the Nishiki-ga-ura coast, one of the best sightseeing spots in Atami, inside you can visit the exhibitions of Buke ( Samurai ) Cultures and Japanese Castles. The 360-dgree panoramic view from the top of Atami Castle’s observatory is of note. Atami Castle is a stop on the Yuyu Sightseeing Loop Bus (about 15 minutes from Atami Station, 250 yen per ride or 700 yen for a 1-day pass). Alternatively, the castle is a short walk away from the top station of the Atami Ropeway (400 yen one way, 600 yen round trip) which connects the castle to the port area below. The lower station of the Atami Ropeway can be reached by a ten minute taxi ride from Atami Station or a two minute walk from the Marine Spa Atami bus stop on the Yuyu sightseeing loop bus route.
MOA Museum Visit the MOA’s tea garden where the Maple Festival is being held between 14 Nov – 6th Dec. The MOA Museum has more than 3,500 ancient works of art from Japan, China and other Asian countries – 3 of which are designated as National Treasures, and 65 as Important Cultural Property. Don’t miss the Golden Tea Room.
A villa residence founded in the Taisho Showa era is on view to the public. It provides a tangible link to Atami city’s cultural heritage.
Other sightseeing spots include the Izusan Shrine and Kinomiya Shrine which boasts its “god”-tree – a giant camphor tree, which dates back over 2000 years and stands 26 metres high. And then there is the Akao Herb and Rose Garden. This is a terraced valley featuring 12 differently themed gardens and boasting a total of approximately 100,000 herb plants and 5,000 rose bushes
Access to all of Atami’s sightseeing bus via the Yu-Yu bus
#2. Next stop, Ito.
Mt. Omuro is a gently-sloped volcano on the Amagi mountain side. A crater of 300m in diameter and 70m deep is located at the summit. A tourist climbing lift (Adults 420yen ・ Children 220yen) operates from the foot of the mountain and from the peak, walk around the small crater and view the panoramic view of the Izu seven islands, Mount Fuji, Hakone and the mountains of Amagi from the summit. You can do a little archery at the range inside the crater. Izu Shaboten Park and Sakura-no-Sato are located at the foot of the mountain. Every year on the 2nd Sunday of February, a famous event called Yamayaki (burning the mountain) is performed.
#3. Jogasaki coast
Walk the trails of the Jogasaki coast, and Kadowaki suspension bridge.
The Jogasaki coast is a magnificent rias coast formed from the lava of the Amagi Volcano. The coast is cliff-lined and provides spectacular views along the 9 km trail extending along the sawtooth coastline from promontory to promontory, capped by the suspension bridge at Kadowakizaki Point (length 48 m and a height of 23 m).
#4. Shimoda City and Shimoda’s beaches
From Shimoda city to Shirahama Beach. See Shimoda City guide and Tourist Board page for lots of historical sightseeing — by way of temples and museums in Shimoda. Fun activity: Go Nordic-walking on Shimoda’s beaches
Shimoda city is historic – because it is where Commodore Perry’s fleet of seven ships carrying a total of 1,265 Americans entered Shimoda Port on April 15, 1854 and “opened” Japan to the world. Take a 20-min harbour cruise around Shimoda harbor in a lifesize replica of the Susquehanna: the “black ship” that brought Commodore Perry here in 1854. Called the Shimoda Konai Meguri “Shimoda Harbor Circuit” offered by Izu Cruise, it sets sail throughout the day between 9:10am and 4pm at intervals of between 40 minutes and an hour. Adults: 1,000 yen, children: 500 yen
Access: On foot (15 mins): Follow Route 135 (Higashi Izu Dohro Road) that runs eastwards past the station, cross the bridge, and, about 600m on, turn right at the first traffic lights.
Take the Izu Cruise offers another cruise around the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula, about 15km south of Shimoda. The Irozaki Meguri takes you around the majestic cliffs and small rocky islands of the peninsula in a funky-looking boat It departs throughout the day between 9:30am and 4pm at intervals of 30 minutes. The cruise itself lasts for about 25 minutes. Adults: 1,200 yen, children: 600 yen. Contact Izu Cruise, Kamori Kanko Co., Ltd. Add: 19 Sotogaoka, Shimoda-shi, Shizuoka-ken
Tel. 0558-22-1151 [Info source: Japan Visitor]
This is one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Eastern Japan. Don’t miss the picturesque Shirahama shrine that gives Shirahama ohama Beach its character. Check out the Shirahama walking guide. However, Shimoda city has many glorious beaches – Shimoda’s Shirahama Chuo Beach and Sotoura Beach have been selected for inclusion in the “Top-100 List of Japan’s Most Pleasant Beaches” compiled by the Environment Agency. Suggested accommodation: Pension Izu-Sakuraya or Prince Hotel (located on the Shirahama beach, Shimoda) [At Shimoda Bay, Rendaiji Spa Kurhaus Ishibashi Ryokan]
#5. Southern Cape Irozaki
One usually runs out of time for a visit (unless you have at least 3 to 4 days to spare) to the remote southern cape Irozaki and there is only one bus a day bound for Toji (Touji). The sea cave and the sand ski ground in Toji are a five minute walk from Toji bus stop, about 20 minutes from Izukyu-Shimoda Station via a Toji (田牛) bound bus (20 minutes, 440 yen one way). Go beach horseriding at Toji
Tokai Bus offers a 2-day Minami Izu Free Pass for 2790 yen for unlimited use of buses in the southern Izu Peninsula. The buses between Izukyu-Shimoda Station and Irozaki, including those to Cape Tarai and Toji, are fully covered by the pass.
One usually runs out of time for a visit to the remote southern cape Irozaki and there is only one bus a day bound for Toji (Touji). The sea cave and the sand ski ground in Toji are a five minute walk from Toji bus stop, about 20 minutes from Izukyu-Shimoda Station via a Toji (田牛) bound bus (20 minutes, 440 yen one way). Go beach riding at Toji
From Shimoda to Cape Irozaki which is the southernmost promontory of Izu Peninsula. It is distinguished by tall perpendicular cliffs. Irozaki Lighthouse stands on the edge. The Seven Islands of Izu can be seen away in the distance from atop the cape.
Access: 40 min. by bus from Shimoda Sta. The Tokai Bus offers a 2-day Minami Izu Free Pass for 2790 yen for unlimited use of buses in the southern Izu Peninsula. The buses between Izukyu-Shimoda Station and Irozaki, including those to Cape Tarai and Toji, are fully covered by the pass. Note: If you run out of time, you can take an Izu cruise from Shimoda city instead which will allow you to see Cape Irozaki from the sea. (See above – Shimoda)
#5. Kawazu’s Seven Waterfalls (30 mins from Shuzenji stn)
The Kawazu Nanadaru (河津七滝) are seven waterfalls in the mountains above Kawazu Town in southeastern Izu. They range from the 30 meter tall Odaru (“large waterfall”) to the 2 meter tall Kanidaru (“crab waterfall”). A pleasant walking trail leads for about one kilometer through the forest, river gorges and past the waterfalls.
The Joren-no-taki Waterfall (photo featured above) is one of the largest falls of Izu Peninsula. Visit it to see the characteristic “columnar joints” (rocks shaped like columns that are formed when lava cools down and contracts). The cascading waters are seen against of the backdrop of the lava formation that once flowed from the Hachikuboyama Volcano. The lava created the Kayano plateau and today, a large road (Route No. 136) runs through the landscape. The flatlands were also ideal for farmlands, which prompted people to build villages around the area. At the Joren Fall, try the wasabi ice cream and other products. Wasabi can only be grown where waters are very clear and clean. Read more here and here.
“… near the Joren Waterfall — the largest of Izu’s many cascades — we allow ourselves to be sidetracked by signs for a wasabi farm. With a microclimate perfectly suited to the growth of this root some term Japanese horseradish, the Izu Peninsula is the source of nearly a quarter of all the wasabi consumed nationwide. Clear waters and cool temperatures are an absolute must for this notoriously difficult crop, something the shaded Kawazu River can deliver almost year-round.”– Mandy Bartok, “Beat the heat in the Hills of Izu“.
The Nanadaru falls can be conveniently reached by a 20-25 min bus ride straight from the Kawazu station (along the Izukyu train line), and there are actually two bus-stops for the spot, the former ‘Kawazu Nanadaru’ at the base (before the big spiral loop bridge) and the latter ‘Mizudare’ (after the big spiral loop bridge) atop the walking trail connecting these falls. (From Atami to Kawazu, about 105 min). See walking map and guide here.
Izu’s oldest hot spring, Shuzenji Spa, is located in the central area. A famed spot for autumn colour, green bamboo groves and with its quiet, green and peaceful atmosphere, it is named ‘Little Kyoto’. Walk along the Chikurin no Komichi(Bamboo Forest Pass see photo above) path which meanders along Katura River for 400 meters from the Katsura Bridge past the Kaede Bridge to the Takishita Bridge.
At Shuzenji, visit the Niji-no-Sato which has a forest of approximately 1,000 maples, and which is therefore famous for its Maple Festival and fall colour as well as night light-up illumination. Access and more info about Niji-no-Sato. Lots of hands-on activities may be had at this amusement park.
#8. DOGASHIMA, in Western Izu.
Past Toi, Dogashima’s cliffs and islands are one of the best-kept geological secrets of Japan. The coastline of Dogashima is an approximately 2-kilometer-long extending from Sebama to Cape Ajo and is famous for the tonboro phenomenon, small islands, amazing rock and cliff formations, due to the past volcanic eruptions and the erosion by the sea. [Source: The Japan Travel Digest]
Much like France’s Mont St Michel, called a “Tonboro Phenomenon,” induced by the ebb and flow of the tide(see photos above), allows the visitors to walk from Sehama-kaigan Coast to Sanshirou-jima Island at low tide. The tidal pools here are a smashing educational experience. Boat service is also available from the Dogashima-onsen, allowing visitors to enjoy a Dogashima Island Caves Tour that will take you around several islands, such as Sanshirou-jima and Zou-jima.
I recommend a visit, weather-permitting, to the Tenso-do Cave (see photo above) that was created by sea erosion. Dogashima Spa which boasts a beautiful sunset view from the hot spring. 1 hr. by bus from Shimoda Sta., or 2 hrs. by express bus from Mishima Sta., is noted for its cave, through the top of which the sky can be seen. A sightseeing boat going into this cave departs twice a day. Time required: 25 min. Fare: ¥1,600. See Dogashima Cave Tour
On the northern side of the Dogashima-kaigan Coast is the Golden Cape, named for its golden color at sunset. Created by volcanic lava that slid down into the sea, it is a cape, known for its rugged scenery, displaying powerful white capped waves that pound against the towering cliffs. Many tourists visit this spot.
The best way to see the coast is from constantly departing sightseeing boats, which briefly enter one of the large caves along the way. The cruise takes about 20 minutes and costs 920 — see Cruising Route Accommodation
For a shorter visit focusing on geological structures, visitors can by-pass Atami, and go straight on to start from Ito as a base for exploring the Izu peninsula.
Access to Ito and Minami-izu (Shimoda)
Surviving Japan’s “Traveling the Izu Peninsula”
Western coast Ita and Osezaki (Diving off Izu Peninsula)
Photo credit: Wapedia; Wikimedia Commons; Shizuoka Tourist Board; Japan Guide; Japan Visitor