Have it all on the Izu Peninsula
Two hours from Tokyo by train is a place where you can have it all: historical sites, hot springs, pristine water front and great seafood.
Izu Peninsula, located west of Tokyo, is full of natural beauty. The 370,000-acre peninsula sticks out into the Pacific Ocean offering beautiful sandy beaches and warmer weather.
Izu is known for its onsens. In fact, 30 towns on the peninsula offer numerous hot spring venues.
Izu is also known for its fishing ports, which attract many visitors looking for a taste of fresh snapper, horse mackerel and other seafood delights.
Driving around the peninsula is also something to enjoy. It is about a four-hour drive to Izu from U.S. military bases on the Kanto Plain.
The coastline roads around the peninsula are beautiful. Route 414, which goes down the middle of the peninsula and connects the Tomei expressway and southern tip of the island, has great views. En route is a winding road called Loop Bridge, featuring a bridge with two loops. It was built to withstand earthquakess. The route takes you through the mountains, where drivers can enjoy the green trees during spring and leaves changing color in the fall.
Izu Peninsula features many attractions, so don't expect to take it all in over the course of just one weekend. Here are some sites we recommend:
Located in southern Izu, Shimoda was the first port in Japan to open its doors to foreign ships when Commodore Matthew Perry and his Black Ships appeared in 1853. You can also visit Ryosenji temple, where the signing of the treaty that opened Japanese ports and ended Japanese isolation took place, and Gyokusenji temple, which served as the first American consulate in Japan. Each May the town hosts the Blackship Festival, at which both U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel participate.
Shuzenji is known for its many onsen ryokan, or Japanese inns, where guests can enjoy a dip in a hot spring and tasty Japanese dinners. In the center of the town is Shuzenji temple, from which the name of the town originated. The temple was where the second shogun of the Kamakura period was imprisoned in 1203 and killed the following year.
Located on the western coast of the peninsula, there are a series of small uninhabited islands located off Dogashima. You can take a boat ride to the islands and explore natural caves that have formed over time.
A popular port town located in the northwestern part of the peninsula, Numazu is where many visitors go to try their hand at fishing. There is a fish market at the port, and near the market are small restaurants and stalls where you can taste fresh seafood that was caught that morning.
A famous onsen town at the northeastern part of Izu, Atami is only a one-hour train ride from Tokyo. It used to be a popular resort and honeymoon destination in the 1920s, and now it is a weekend getaway place. It also has the MOA Museum of Art, which owns various Japanese and Chinese art and pottery.
And if you have a family, you might want to check out the Marine Spa Atami, which is a large onsen facility with water slides and pools.