It had been a while since by last adventure within Japan so I was itching to go somewhere. With a rare three day weekend I decided to explore the Izu Peninsula. Justine had been down there in the summer and loved it and so she recommended a cool little (and cheap!) hostel to stay in so with accommodation set, I set off on Saturday for a day on my own, with Justine joining me on the Sunday.
I was trying to make this trip as budget friendly as possible so instead of taking the very convenient shinkansen down to Atami, I instead opted for local trains which in the end were a lot cheaper and did not take that much longer than the bullet train. I decided to head to Shuzenji first, right in the middle of the Peninsula before heading to the hostel. It was a little tricky navigating the train system (there wasn’t a lot of English signage down there and apparently train cards – IC Cards used throughout almost all of Japan are not used there) but eventually after 3 trains and a bus and about 3 hours later I arrived in Shuzenji.
When looking up places to visit in the area, I knew I wanted to visit Shuzenji even though it is a little out of the way. It is actually an old onsen (温泉) town and is named after Shuzenji temple (修禅寺). It is a quaint little town and I had a great time walking around basking in the sunshine, as it was a reasonably warm winter’s day. The town is quiet and relaxed, with a beautiful river running through the middle and various shrines and temples dotted around. There is even a little bamboo forest!
The beautiful serene streets
After spending a lovely afternoon in Shuzenji, I decided to make my way to the hostel and stop along the way for dinner. Using the ‘Happy Cow’ app (a vegetarian’s lifeline in Japan!) I looked up a vegan place in the area only to discover it wasn’t open for dinner! However, after checking in and receiving a recommendation from the hostel I had a lovely dinner in a local izakaya (居酒屋) and met two lovely girls who were also staying in the same hostel and we ended up chatting all evening!
The next day I had a free morning before meeting Justine after lunch so I decided to head to the Jogasaki coast (城ヶ崎海岸). The weather was absolutely beautiful, warm and sunny which made this trip all the more special.
The walk down to the coast, not a single person around
I was out and about early enough that there were not many people around at all. I sat on the rocks in the sunshine for about half an hour just staring out at the water, it was magical.
Just a casual fishing spot
Me being me, I also stumbled upon a temple, right along the coast and was one of the only people on the grounds. It was a lovely moment of peace and tranquility.
After a lovely morning out exploring, I made my way to Kawazu (河津) to meet Justine who was coming down from Tokyo for the next couple of days. She had mentioned wanting to do a hike to see the ‘Seven Falls of Kawazu‘ (河津七滝) and I gladly agreed as from what I had read online, it is a must-do thing in the area. It was a fairly easy walk with well paved paths rather than a hike and took us about one and half hours at a leisurely pace, with plenty of photo stops along the way.
There were several statues along the walking trail and we had no idea what they were about (until I got home and googled it) and it turns out they depict the heroine of the short story “Izu no Odoriko” (The Izu Dancer) which is set in the Izu Peninsula area.
We then hung out in the hostel common area under the kotatsu (炬燵), went to dinner at the same izakaya I went to the previous night, and then played a few friendly games of Uno with another guest.
The next day we had a lazy morning, taking our time to get ourselves together and to check out as we were in no rush to get out and go anywhere. We headed back up to Atami (熱海) around 10.30am and stopped off at the tourist information desk to figure our best plan of attack. It was bustling around the station, as it was another beautiful day but a little chillier and windier than the previous couple of days. We decided to catch the bus to the furthest place that we wanted to go – the Atami Ropeway, and then work our way back into the centre of town. Luckily Atami is a fairly small town and can be easily walked.
We caught the ropeway up to the top and it was a breathtaking view of the coast and the town from up top.
At the top of the ropeway sits Atami Castle, which was built as a tourist attraction and has no real historic value whatsoever! Nonetheless, it is a beautiful castle and naturally we lost our minds with the tourist snaps haha. We also stopped for a nice relaxed lunch of soba (そば) overlooking the water.
Our next stop was the cherry blossoms! The Atami area has one of the first blooming sakura (桜) and we had just missed the cherry blossom festival in the area (糸川桜まつり), but that did not matter in the slightest as the sakura were still in full bloom and looked absolutely gorgeous!
We then walked to Atami Baien (熱海梅園) to check out the plum blossoms. There were so many different shades of the various species of flowers and the contrast of colours was amazing to see.
Our last stop for the day was Kinomiya Shrine (来宮神社) which came highly recommended. Being a long weekend (and some decent weather to add), there were a fair few people out and about and the shrine was fairly packed.
Gotta love the tourist snaps – the one on the right (while looks fabulous, if I do say so myself haha) was a bit of a debacle. There was a line up to take a photo at the entrance gate pictured here, but my camera was not getting us and the gate in the frame until I realised the photo spot was set up for smartphones. So I ended up holding up the whole line…oops.
This was a much needed escape from Tokyo. I didn’t realise how much I had missed just taking off from the city for a little trip, it had certainly been a while. I know my time in Japan is coming to an end (which we all know I have very mixed feelings about) and I want to make the most of my remaining time here but getting out of town as much as I can!
Atami and the Izu Peninsula are surprisingly close to Tokyo (and all the closer to my place, as I live so far down south) so I hope I can make it back in the warmer months.