Shizuoka's Izu Peninsula is a favorite getaway for Tokyoites for its beaches, onsen and marine sports, and is home to a number of well-established and beloved beach communities like Atami, Ito, and Shimoda. Wilder shores such as the Jogasaki Coast and Irosaki and smaller towns to the south and west are also growing in popularity.
Izu's mountains and highlands are equally big draws, especially for trekkers and other nature lovers, and you can dine on wild boar and mountain vegetables. This area has also played a considerable role in international relations, as Shimoda became the site of the first official U.S. consulate general, ending Japan's extended period of isolation from the outside world.
The Izu area is less than an hour away from Tokyo by bullet train.
The JR Tokaido Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station takes 50 minutes to reach JR Atami Station, the gateway to Izu. You can also take the limited express Odoriko train from Tokyo to Atami, and slower Tokaido Line trains. Launched in 2016, the JR Izu Craile resort train is a stylish option traveling from Odawara to Izukyu-Shimoda stations. Use your Japan Rail Pass for all JR travel.
Shimoda was the site of the first U.S. consulate in Japan
The peninsula abuts Mt. Fuji and is a part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
Higashi-Izu has several long-established resort communities such as Atami and Ito, with lots of famous inns and some of the country's best hot springs. Inatori Onsen dominates Cape Inatori, while Atagawa Onsen has soothed millions since the 15th-century warlord Ota Dokan discovered it. Several fishing ports operate in the area, making Izu ideal for sampling some of Japan's freshest seafood.
The port town of Shimoda anchors the southern end of Izu, a place Commodore Matthew Perry and his Black Ships made famous by landing on its shores and demanding that long-isolated Japan start trading with the United States. Ryosen-ji temple, situated at the end of a nice little nightlife and entertainment district in Shimoda called Perry Road, is where they concluded the deal.
While the historical aspect is interesting, what brings people to Shimoda and the many beaches in the area such as Shirahama are some of the finest surf, sand and water sports possibilities in Japan. There are seaside pensions, hotels, and inns all over the place in Shimoda, several with onsen.
The coastline begins to take on a more untamed look at Izu's southern tip, typified by Cape Iro with its jagged shoreline and massive cliffs. The lighthouse here offers excellent views, and you can board a boat that runs around the cape.
Inland Izu also has its charms, such as the verdant Izu Highlands and natural wonders such as extinct bowl-shaped volcano known as Mt. Omuro. Mt. Amagi, Izu's highest vantage point, is actually a series of peaks worth a climb, including Mt. Banjiro and Mt. Banzaburo. This mountain range also has a beautiful waterfall called Joren-no-Taki, with wasabi fields, trout fishing and Shuzenji Onsen nearby.
While you're here, consider a visit to one of the area's many gardens, history museums or art museums featuring works by Renoir and Picasso.
Nishi-Izu's coastline zigs and zags all over the place, presenting some of the most fascinating geography in Japan. The Dogashima Coast from Sebama to Cape Ajo is dotted with oddly shaped rocks and islets such as Sanshirojima and Zojima.
Dogashima Onsen, a seaside hot spring resort with plenty of enticing inns and hotels, has two phenomena nearby worth seeing. One is known as Tombolo—you can walk from the mainland to Sanshiro Island at low tide. The other is Tenshodo, a sea cave with a natural skylight that's both serene and mysterious.
Further up the coast is Toi, with a gold mine, fine beaches and onsen resorts of its own. This side of Izu faces Suruga Bay, home to some of Japan's tastiest marine life. Try some of the fabled sakura ebi, or cherry blossom shrimp, a very local delicacy.
Izu is a popular day trip destination from Tokyo, but its many and varied attractions really require a few days or a weekend to appreciate fully. If you're staying near Atami, consider making a side trip to Japan's most iconic peak, Mt. Fuji. Although the mountain is easily visible from Izu, there's nothing quite like taking in all its glory from up close.