In this article, we explore some of the famous attractions in the Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka. Blessed with a mild climate, plenty of natural beauty and fine hot springs everywhere, it has always been a favourite weekend retreat for Tokyoites.
After introducing Atami, Ito and Shuzenji in Part 1, in this post we continue to look at what’s interesting in another three places – Kawazu, Shimoda and Dogashima.
The town of Kawazu is most well-known for its early flowering sakura, bloom between early February and early March. This breed of cherry blossoms is called Kawazu Zakura. It is one of the earliest blooming sakura in the country, also lasts longer for about a month.
Check out the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival which is held in celebration of the season. Stroll down the tunnels of blossoms along the banks of Kawazu River and see how the deep pink sakura is contrasted nicely with the yellow rape blossoms bloom about at the same time. Stop by the vendors that offer a range of sakura-themed snacks and souvenirs, enjoy the illuminations in the evening as well!
Another main attraction in Kawazu is a collection of seven waterfalls called Kawazu Nanadaru or Kawazu Seven Falls. Follow the 1km walking trail that leads through the lush forest and past the waterfalls of varying shapes and sizes – while Odaru is the largest, Shokeidaru is said to be the prettiest. Along the way, there are several statues depicting the characters from “Izu no Odoriko”, a short story by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kawabata Yasunari.
Kawazu Nanadaru is beautiful no matter the season. To complete your experience, consider a stay at the Nanadaru Hot Springs which is next to the largest waterfall. Enjoy a relaxing soak while being surrounded by nature and the rejuvenating power of a waterfall!
Image: fujitariuji on Flickr.
How to go:
Kawazu is on the Izu Kyuko Line Kawazu Station. It can also be reached by bus from Shuzenji. The Kawazu River (festival venue) is only a short walk away from Kawazu Station. To go to Kawazu Nanadaru, take a bus from Kawazu Station (30 min) or Shuzenji Station (50 min), get off at “Kawazu Nanadaru” stop for an ascending hike, or “Mizutare” stop for a descending hike.
Next, the coastal city of Shimoda in the south is a destination with much to see and do. Its main draw is the many picturesque beaches that attract thousands of visitors in summer.
Image: Izu navi on Flickr.
Among them is Shirahama Beach, one of the best and most popular beaches in Japan. There are plenty of hotels, pensions, restaurants and cafes in the area, but one sight that thrusts into attention is Shirahama Jinja, located about 1km north of the beach. It is the oldest shrine on the Izu Peninsula, and its torii gate which sits atop a rock by the sea is another symbol of Shirahama Beach after its soft white sand and clear blue water.
Sitting over the waters of Wakanoura Bay, the Shimoda Aquarium (admission: 2,100 yen) is home to 250 species of marine life. Don’t miss the entertaining shows featuring its star residents like dolphins, sea lions, penguins and rays. Another highlight here is the programs that let visitors interact with dolphins – feed, touch, or even swim and play with them!
Next to the aquarium is the entrance to Shimoda Park which is located on a small hill overlooking Shimoda Bay. Hike through the stairs and slopes to reach the top for spectacular views of the harbour, city and mountains. A nice place to enjoy nature, the park is also famous for the 3 million hydrangeas or ajisai which bloom beautifully throughout the month of June.
Shimoda is also historically important as one of the first ports to be opened to American trade, marking the end of Tokugawa shogunate’s isolation policy. Ryosenji Temple, the venue where the treaty was signed, has a small museum displaying artefacts related to this chapter in history. It is located on Perry Road, a quaint street lined with cafes, pubs, shops and boutiques.
Image: IZU BIZ BLOG on Flickr.
Finally, Tsumekizaki is a beautiful cape featuring rocky shore, azure sea and a lighthouse on the tip. A swimming beach in summer, it is also known as a good spot to watch sunrise, sunset and for the 3 million daffodils that come into bloom in winter (late Dec to early Feb).
How to go:
Shimoda is on the Izu Kyuko Line Izukyu Shimoda Station. Shirahama Beach is a 10-minute bus ride from the station, get off at “Shirahama Kaigan” stop. To go to Shimoda Aquarium or Shimoda Park, take a bus for “Shimoda Kaichu Suizokkan” from the station and alight at the last stop (7 min ride). Ryosenji and Perry Road are 10 minutes on foot from the station. For Cape Tsumeki, take the “Tsumekizaki” bound bus for 20 minutes from the station.
The west coast of Izu Peninsula is the place for some of the best views nature has to offer. Comparatively less touristy, the coastal scenery here is enhanced with the graceful sight of Mt. Fuji looming on the horizon. As the area is facing west, you can enjoy gorgeous sunsets too.
The Dogashima area in the Nishiizu town is particularly well known for its Tombolo phenomenon, whereby a sand bar appears at low tide connecting the Sanshiro Islands with the mainland, allowing visitors to walk to the islands and viewing them up close.
There is also the Tensodo, a sea cave with a round opening in its ceiling as a result of erosion. You can walk to the cave and peek through the hole from the top, but the best way to see it is from inside aboard a boat – the spectacle of the sunlight pouring in and illuminating the cobalt blue water makes a different experience. There are also other boat cruises available; they are a good way to take a look at Dogashima’s stunning coastline.
Dogashima has many seaside ryokan and hotels offering hot springs with sea views. If you love extraordinary onsen experience, be sure to check out Sawada Park Open Air Bath (admission: 600 yen) near the popular Noribama Beach. Despite its small size, the public bath sits on the edge of a cliff commanding a magnificent view over Suruga Bay. Needless to say, it is also a good spot to enjoy Dogashima’s beautiful sunset.
Further north is Koganezaki, a scenic lookout with marvellous views of blue sea, sheer cliffs and Mt. Fuji on a clear day. While you are here, pay attention to the rock that looks like a horse head called “uma rock”! It is also a popular place to watch the sunset, the rocks here take a yellowish brown colour and turn golden when basked in the sunset glow. Nearby is Koganezaki Beach, whose clear water attracting people to come to swim and snorkel in summer.
How to go:
Dogashima is 1 hour by bus from Izukyu Shimoda Station, or 1 hour and 30 minutes from Shuzenji Station. The attractions in Dogashima are all within walking distance, except for Koganezaki which is a 30-minute bus ride from Dogashima Bus Stop, get off at “Koganezaki Crystal Park” stop and walk for 10 minutes.
Notes on Getting Around Izu Peninsula
Image: : : Ys [waiz] : : on Flickr.
Trains only run along the east coast as well as the upper part of the peninsula. For the rest of the region, bus and car would be the main modes of transport.
There is an extensive bus network operated by Tokai Bus which covers the whole peninsula. You can reach most destinations by buses, and the buses run quite often too. Of course, you can explore Izu by renting a car, given the size of the peninsula and the remote locations of some attractions.
A travel pass can be a convenient option for those visiting Izu using public transport. There are various passes available, with the popular ones include Unlimited Ride Pass covering all Tokai Bus routes, and Minami Izu Free Pass which allows unlimited rides on the Izu Kyuko Line and specific Tokai Bus routes in the south.
More info: http://www.tokaibus.jp/page.jsp?id=379