On the last day of my friends Megan Valentine and Tomas Eduardo‘s visit to Japan we wanted to do the token ‘day in the Japanese countryside’ with them. My boyfriend and I had already done Okutama, Tochigi and Gunma on our hirecar adventures so Izu was next on our list.
Problem: Izu is a byword for onsen and my illness has made that a no-go for now. Varying levels of fitness in the group also made serious walks potentially tricky. So if you only have a day in Izu and you can’t do onsens and climb mountains, what can you do? A lot it turns out.
After a beautiful drive, first stop was Izu Panorama Park, where you can get a cable car up a mountain to enjoy breathtaking views. I’ve been told my spirit animal is a cat and I certainly love being in high places, so this is pure pleasure for me. We were lucky with the weather and had a clear view of Mt Fuji! There’s a buffet deal at the bottom cable car station but I would recommend forgoing that in favour of the simple but tasty noodle restaurant at the top. Definitely food with a view.
Once you’re done slurping soba or sipping tea, there are paths with various routes you can take depending on how much time you have, with a shrine, an orange farm and several other points of interest. We needed to get to our next stop so unfortunately we had to get the cable car down after a quick wander. I slightly regretted that we didn’t come a few weeks later when the autumn leaves were in full swing in the mountain paths, but they were still lovely. If memory serves, a return trip up the cable car will cost you around 1200 yen.
Next stop was the lovely town of Shuzenji. The main attraction here is the gorgeous Shuzenji temple, founded by Kobo Daishi 1200 years ago. As well as founding the Shingon school of Buddhism, Kobo Daishi was has also been attributed as being an important figure in the creation of kana, which I thought was interesting. We were lucky in that the temple’s stunning chrysanthemum flowers were in full bloom. As well as the temple there is a shrine, traditional houses and charming shops and cafes on the town high street. We had matcha and mochi in a delightful little tea room with a lovely view of the river. And it turns out we didn’t have to miss out on the onsen experience after all! Shuzenji has an ashiyu or foot bath where you can enjoy putting your legs in the onsen without fully submerging yourself, which was fine for my health condition. The bath’s name is Tokko no Yu and it’s apparently the oldest hot spring in Izu. You can relax with your feet in the warm, health giving water on the banks of the river, and it’s completely free.
The only downside to our trip was that we were limited in how much we could do and how long we could stay at places because we needed to get the car back by 8.30. Life is busy for everyone all the time and sometimes it’s hard to spare more than a day to get away, but I’m glad I made the time for this sublime adventure in Izu.