SHIZUOKA: IZU (ATT.JAPAN ISSUE 56)
Shizuoka Prefecture is located in the center of the Japanese archipelago. Japan’s highest mountain, Mt. Fuji. is situated in this Shizuoka Prefecture. Also, the prefecture abounds in attractive natural scenic spots. Shizuoka Prefecture comprises four areas; eastern, central, western, and Izu. Starting with this issue, we will feature each area’s attractions over the course of four issues.
Tokyo→Atami: 50 min by Shinkanse
Tokyo→Ito: 1 h 40 min by JR Limited Express “Super View Odoriko”
Tokyo→Izukyu-Shimoda: 2 h 30 min by JR Limited Express “Super View Odoriko”
Tokyo→Mishima: 1 h by Shinkanse
Tokyo→Shuzenji: 2 h by JR Limited Express “Odoriko”
Atami→Ito: 25 min by JR Ito Line
Ito→Izukyu-Shimoda: 1h by Izukyuko
Mishima→Shuzenji: 40 min by Izu Hakone Tetsudo
Shuzenji, Kawazu, Shimoda→Amagi (Yugashima): by bus
Mishima, Numazu, Shuzenji, Shimoda→Matsuzaki: by bus
Atami, the Entrance to the East Izu Area
Atami City has long been one of the most famous hot spring resorts, with a lot of hotels and inns along the streets. At Atami Plum Blossom Park, some of the 730 plum trees in the park start to bloom as early as December, and blossoms can be enjoyed through March. The MOA Museum is located on a hill that commands a panoramic view of Sagami Bay. The museum houses approximately 3,500 pieces of Oriental art works, which include three Japanese national treasures. Kiunkaku is a traditional Japanese mansion built in 1919, which was once used as a hotel. Many famous literary figures loved to stay there. The garden of Kiunkaku mansion is beautiful in lush greenery.
Ito, One of the Best Hot Springs in the Izu Peninsula
Ito City has long been visited by many writers and poets, so stone monuments inscribed with those artists’ famous words and lyrics are found in the city. The main streets of Ito are Yunohana Street and Kinema Street, where a lot of restaurants and souvenir shops are along the street. Many shops selling dried fish are found along Kaigan (“Seaside”) Street. Walking along the Matsukawa River will take you to an old building, Tokaikan. This former hotel operated from 1928 to 1997. The old Japanese hotel building has an impressive observatory tower. At present, the hotel is closed, but the hot spring bath house in the building is open to day trippers. Nagisa Park commands a view of Hatsu-shima Island, Manazuru Peninsula, and in the distance, Miura Peninsula. Camellias and azaleas are very beautiful in Komuroyama Park.
Izu Kogen, Highlands Redolent With a Scent of Art
Lake Ippeki is a small lake created by volcanic activity with a circumference of 4 km. It only takes an hour to walk around the lake. You can enjoy birds singing, cherry blossoms in spring, and autumn leaves. You can find a conspicuously shaped grass mountain, Mt. Omuro. It looks like an upside down rice bowl. Take the lift to the top, and weather permitting, you can command a view of Mt. Fuji, the Amagi Mountains, and the Izu Islands. Izu Shaboten Koen, (Cactus Park) is situated at the foot of Mt. Omuro. In addition to this, there are more tourist attractions around this resort such as museums, nice cafes, shops, and restaurants. Jogasaki Kaigan has a trekking path along the rocky coast line. As you walk, the vista of Sagami Bay spreads in the distance. You can cross a thrilling suspension bridge, Kadowaki Suspension Bridge, which is the highlight of this trekking course.
Atagawa, Famous for Beach Hot Springs
Atagawa Tropical & Alligator Garden is a theme park which makes full use of its abundant hot spring energy. The park features 200 alligators comprising 22 species from all over the world, and about 9,000 kinds of tropical plants and fruit are well kept in the hot house.
Inatori, Proud of Having the No. 1 Catch of Kinmedai
Inatori Port takes pride in having the No.1 catch of kinmedai, a very delicious fish, in the Izu Peninsula. The local kinmedai is highly recommended among the local fish. Especially, nitsuke, a dish of kinmedai cooked in broth, tastes excellent. This area displays decorative tsurushi bina, hina dolls suspended from the ceiling, for Girls’ Day.
Kawazu, the City of Beautiful Cherry Blossoms
Go south from Atagawa, and you will come to Kawazu, famous for Kawazu Cherry Blossoms. Since the cherry blossoms bloom earlier than in any other area in Honshu, from February to March, a lot of tourists visit Kawazu every year at this time. The city has hot springs and beaches, too.
Shimoda, a Stage of Japanese History
In 1854, American warships commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry came to Shimoda. They came to demand that Japan open the country to foreign trade. You can enjoy strolling and thinking about this history along Perry Road. Some temples in Shimoda are closely associated with the history of abolishing the National Isolation Policy. The traditional stone made buildings of Izu and namako walls (lattice patterned walls made of plaster and tiles) are found in the town. They are very unique to this area. Gas lights are lit at night creating a nostalgic atmosphere. Mt. Nesugata is named for the shape which is like that of a woman lying on her back. The top of Mt. Nesugata affords a magnificent view of the Izu Islands and the Amagi Mountains. Shimoda Aquarium puts on wonderful dolphin shows and visitors can play with the dolphins. There are many hot springs including Rendaiji, and Shimogamo. Yumigahama Beach, which literally means a “bow beach,” is named for its arched coastline. In summer, many sea bathers visit this white sand beach. The view from Irozaki Promontory at the tip of the Izu Peninsula is breathtakingly magnificent.
Shuzenji, the Oldest Hot Spring in Izu
Shuzen-ji Temple was founded in 807 by Kobo Daishi, a great Buddhist priest. Shuzenji Town has many historic spots and hot spring resorts. “Tokko no Yu” is said to be the oldest hot spring source found in Izu. A tourist hiking path runs through the bamboo forests along the Katsura River. You can find tea houses and galleries along the way. Also, you cannot miss the Hakoyu Hot Spring bath with its noticeable 12- meter tower. You can enjoy the sparkling spring-time ocean view and beautiful autumn leaves in Shuzenji Park.
Amagi, the City Surrounded by Rich Nature
Go further south from Shuzenji, and you arrive at Amagi Onsen Hot Spring Resort. The thick forests and ravines are beautiful. There are seven hot springs along the Kano River. Of one of them, Yugashima Hot Spring, was a particular favorite of many writers. Yasunari Kawabata, the winner of Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote “The Dancing Girl of Izu” here. Go down 180 stairs by the wasabi horseradish fields, and you will come to Joren Fall. The sound of water falling into the basin under the waterfall is thunderously impressive. You will feel refreshed by the cool spray of the waterfall. Go up the zigzag curves of Old Amagi Street, and you will find Old Amagi Tunnel, which appears in “The Dancing Girl of Izu.” Walk through the tunnel, and go on to Kawazu Seven Falls, some of which are big, some small.
Matsuzaki: Houses with Namako Walls
Matsuzaki Town prospered as a base for commerce in the area. Traditional temples and shrines, and merchants’ mansions and warehouses of the Meiji era (1868-1942) remain the same as before. Stroll around and find houses with namako walls, whose black and white contrast is eye-catching.
Kinmedai and other fresh seafood are recommended. Wild boar stew and wasabi horseradish are traditional specialties, while wasabi soft ice cream is a new and unique one. Edible cherry leaves pickled in salt are used to wrap sakura mochi sweets. Matsuzaki accounts for 70 percent of the pickled cherry leaves in Japan.
Izu is relatively close to Tokyo, and known as one of the best hot spring resorts in Japan. Izu has a lot of tourist attractions. Why not visit Izu?