Tattoo-friendly onsen, panoramic ocean views, and capybaras? Count us in.
About a two-hour train ride from central Tokyo is Ito, an absolutely gorgeous and foreigner-friendly hot spring town with a ton of quirky attractions. Located on the eastern half of Shizuoka Prefecture’s Izu Peninsula, Ito’s oceanside location gives it a variety of natural landscapes, including mountains and panoramic ocean views. This city has more than just your average hot springs — just ask the cute capybaras there relaxing hard in the baths!
Along with seeing the famous hot spring capybaras, here are some of the best ways to enjoy a trip to Ito.
Treat yourself at Akazawa Onsen
This tattoo-friendly hot spring resort is owned by Japanese cosmetic powerhouse DHC. For a luxurious spa experience, pamper yourself with DHC face, body, and hair products and then soak in open-air baths overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The resort has a variety of jacuzzi, saunas, whirlpool baths, and even a bowling alley to hang out in!
- ¥1,550 for day-trippers; ¥1,900 during peak season (Sakura season, Golden Week, Obon, and New Year); ¥2700 an hour for private onsen
- www.izuakazawa.jp/ (Japanese only)
K’s House Ito Onsen
This 100-year-old ryokan (traditional Japanese guesthouse) has been converted into a budget-conscious and foreigner-friendly hostel where the staff speaks English. Got tattoos? No worries, it’s completely tattoo-friendly. Get a room with a private onsen or stay in the mixed single-sex dorms.
About those capybaras…
If you think only snow monkeys in Nagano like to soak in hot springs, wait until you see the capybaras at the sort-of-touristy (but still worth a visit) Izu Shaboten Animal Park. In winter, the capybaras enjoy a yuzu-infused bath. After chilling with these furry creatures, check out the llamas, squirrel monkeys, birds, and 1,500 varieties of cacti.
- ¥2,300 for adults (includes junior high school and high school students; Elementary school children ¥1,100
Izu Kogen and more nature
After the animal park, head over to the nearby Izu Kogen for some beautiful landscapes and mountain views. There, you can explore Mount Omuro, a quirky extinct volcano that looks like an upside-down rice bowl covered in grass. At the top, you can walk along the rim of a huge crater or try archery and paragliding from inside it! Mount Fuji, Mount Hakone, and the Izu islands are visible from the 580-meter summit on a clear day. The summit is only accessible by chair lift.
The jagged Jogasaki coastline, formed after several eruptions of the extinct volcano, is nearby. Walk the 10-kilometer-long trail along the coast and cross the 23-meter-long Kadowakizaki Suspension Bridge over the choppy blue water below. Capture some awesome views of Sagami Bay from the top of the Kadowaki lighthouse, also located on the trail.
If you’re visiting in summer, time your Ito adventure with the quirky Matsukawa Wash Tub Boat Race in July and the spectacular three-day Anjin Festival in August, both listed in GaijinPot’s Top 15 summer festivals in Shizuoka.
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