A goldmine of beaches and hot springs with an enticing history to go along with it.
The Izu Peninsula has always been a favorite getaway for Tokyo peeps eager to escape the concrete jungle. It’s located in Shizuoka Prefecture, a couple hours’ drive south of the metropolis and the atmosphere couldn’t be more different.
The region is teeming with nature — soaring mountains, gushing rivers, pounding waterfalls, windblown coastlines, white sand beaches and glorious hot springs. The local history and folklore of the area add a layer of cultural exploration for visitors in addition to taking in the jaw-dropping scenery. Here are the some of the top attractions of the Izu Peninsula.
Go chase waterfalls
Izu’s beautiful waterfalls are a must-see. The 25-meter-high Joren Falls is the largest on the peninsula and considered one of the top 100 waterfalls in the entire country. Izu is also home to Kawazu Nanadaru or The Seven Falls of Kawazu. One of the falls, Odaru Waterfall, is particularly special because you can watch and hear the cascading water from the comfort of the nearby Odaru Onsen Amagiso. If you’re new to onsen (hot spring) culture and the thought of bathing naked with strangers makes you a bit uncomfortable, don’t worry, you can wear a swimsuit here.
The Izu Peninsula, which you can drive across from east to west in around 40 minutes to an hour, juts out into the Pacific Ocean, which makes for plenty of beaches that dot the coastline. On the eastern side of the peninsula, you can visit Atami Beach, which is also a longtime hot spring hotel getaway; Orange Beach in Ito; and the postcard-perfect beaches of Shimoda. On the western side, explore the more off-the-beaten-track beaches and geo parks of the Dogashima-Kaigan Coast showing off spectacular rock structures.
Hot, hot springs
Atami is the most well-known onsen town of the region and even has its own castle, but if you want a slightly cheaper spot nearby, try Ajiro — it has a few ryokan (Japanese inns) and a small port town vibe. That being said, Izu is home to many other onsen. A few other onsen hotspots include Ito, Shimoda, Shuzenji, and Kawazu. While Ito has a unique wildlife and cactus park, Kawazu, in particular, offers an unbeatable experience. Besides great onsen, it is one of the few places not too far from Tokyo to see early cherry blossoms (as early as February) at the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival.
History and culture
Beyond the blue and green landscapes, Izu is a treasure trove for literary and history buffs. Shimoda was the first international port (a few years before Yokohama and a few others) that was opened in Japan by US Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854. Take a stroll along Perry Road to learn more about the end of Japan’s period of self-isolation in the 19th century.
Izu also features locations immortalized in The Izu Dancer, a short story by Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata. Stop at Amagi Tunnel, The Seven Waterfalls of Kawazu, and the seaside town of Shimoda to feel his pages come alive. Joren Falls is also the rumored location of jorogumo from Japanese folklore, a shapeshifting spider woman who drags people into the water.
Of course, while you’re in Izu, try some of the food highlights like the fresh sashimi, with different areas specializing in different types, as well as kimedai, a slow-cooked fish in mirin and soy sauce. To uncover interesting history matched with spectacular waterfalls and onsen, hop over to Shizuoka’s Izu Peninsula.