Dear guests and future guests, my name is Maddy, I am a thirty years old French girl traveling around the world for six months and the Izu Peninsula is by far my favorite place until now. I really enjoy the serenity that surrounds me here and the nature which is everywhere has a lot to do with it. Thanks to my hosts Angela and Yasu I found out that cycling along the coastline is the best way to experience the beauty of the place and if you are ready to have your breath taken away, ride a bike ! You can enjoy the Kisami area thanks to the bicycles available at the guest house for 500 yen per day. Moreover, I highly suggest that you take a day bicycle ride south and around the coast. You will have to pay a 3,500 yen for the renting of a bicycle with gears (http://cyclingjapan.jp/rental/index.htm) to go on this ride up and down those mountainous roads. Before leaving be sure to wear a cap, to use plenty of sunscreen and to load your bicycle with one or two bottles of fresh water to hydrate yourself as often as possible. No need to worry about finding toilets as there are some at every touristic spots you will find on your tour (and don’t forget to refill your bottles once you are there). Now that you are on your bike, ride at your own pace. The Izu Peninsula has an abundance of natural beauty and you are free to take your time and take fully advantage of this breathtaking scenic coastline where you can breathe, rest, drink, eat and take some photos to share this experience with your friends later. By the way, even though this tour is the perfect occasion to challenge yourself and spend some time alone in the nature, having company might be a good idea especially if you are not used to cycle in mountainous areas. However you will see that those roads are perfect to ride a bicycle and will enjoy to have good brakes when the time will come to cycle down. I join to this article a map of a nice itinerary. On one hand the first thirty kilometers on the coastline are the most breathtaking but difficult. On the other hand the way back along the road 136 is much more easier but offers less interesting spots. I suggest that you take your time on the first part. Remember that happiness is in the doing not in the getting what you want. So cycle and have fun!
蓮(Hasu) is Japanese for lotus. This giant but delicate flower has long been a symbol for Buddhism as it represents the true nature of beings, who rise above the suffering of life then blossom into the beauty and clarity of enlightenment. Just like the lotus, which is rooted deep in the mud, with a long stem that grows through murky water, and a bud that finally rises and opens into the sun.
In Minami Izu there is a privately owned lotus garden that I can’t wait to get back to. A 13 year work-in-progress, where you too can experience real beauty not only from the flowers but also from their grower. An old man with a story to tell and beauty to share. He only ask that you make a donation to Tohoku, where people are still struggling to make their way through the mud and devastation left by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
You can find the lotus garden on our google map here.
Here is a picture of the Kisami area of Shimoda. From left to right, Goishi Beach, Ohama Beach, Maiso Beach, Irita Beach, Tatado Beach, and then more rocky coast line.
Yesterday, Matsuzaki held its 12th annual Taiko Festival. It was awesome! (or “saiko” pronounced psycho in Japanese) 4 taiko groups, 2 dancing dragons, a bamboos flute, smashing symbols and gongs were accompanied by torches of fire, candles in bamboo holders, and the sound of waves lapping on the beach. When the sun disappeared under the sea in front of us, the nearly full harvest moon came up behind us. Nothing short of spectacular! Please join us next year for the 13th annual Taiko Festival in beautiful Matsuzaki!
Summer is over….. NOT! Actually, the fun has just begun! Today was the last day of work for the lifeguards (aka fun police), parking is now free everywhere (was 1500 yen during the “official” summer season), the crowds are gone, the traffic has unjammed, the best restaurants have seating available, and all the locals are expending a huge exhale before swigging down a cold one…… Yes, anyone who spends much time here will tell you that September is undoubtedly the best time to enjoy Shimoda!
The sea is warm, but contrary to popular belief, there are no jellyfish. Yes, we know Kanagawa (Shonan) jellyfish are taking away all the fun of having a refreshing dip in the ocean, but here in Shimoda I have never *knock on wood* seen or felt a jellyfish, or even heard of anyone else getting stung. Now, back to the beach I go….
Late last night I went for a stroll along Ohama beach and with every wave that crashed on the beach, glowing lights shimmered at my feet. I have never seen so many yakochu (bioluminescent plankton)!
If you are quick, you can catch these mysterious glowing lights. When one lights up, scoop it up along with a bit of sand, keep shaking your hands slightly or the light will go out. The plankton only lights up when disturbed.
Back in March this field of himawari (sunflowers) was a field of nanohana (rapeseed flowers). You can find it in Minami Izu, just south of Shimoda and on our recommendation map here.
This is what this field looked like in March:
Last night we filled the van with guests and drove to the west coast to see the sunset. It was kinda cloudy so besides some stunning views of Izu’s rocky west coast, there wasn’t much to see. After that we headed to the southern most tip of the peninsula for fireworks in Yumi-ga-hama. Fireworks exploded above and were shot from the ocean, explosions and flashes of color reverberating through the starless sky. Looking forward to the next fire and light spectacle celebrating the Bon Festival on August 13th. Check out our calendar here for a listing of upcoming events in southern Izu.
On August 6th, 7th, and 8th, Shimoda held its second annual Candle Cafe. Which is not actually a cafe but a small festival with 1000s of candles lighting up the already beautiful Perry Road. Draft beer, cocktails and snack food was sold on the street. A good sound system oozed out smooth Jazz like Sade’s “Your Love is King”. There were plenty of places to sit and enjoy the ambience with a drink in hand. If you have yet to enjoy this classy festival of lights, don’t miss it next year!
The Izu Peninsula is covered in mountains and valleys reaching out to the ocean. On some of these steep slopes farmers are still tending their terraced paddies, or tanada in Japanese. Here are some pictures of the beautiful tanada in Matsuzaki, the west coast of Izu. Looking foward to harvest time, when the rice will be cut and hung to dry.
Here is a great little video of Kawazu’s 720 degree loop bridge. The video must have been taken during the July long weekend, because I have never seen that much traffic on Kawazu’s Loop Bridge.
The loop bridge is about a 40 minute drive from Shimoda and can be seen from Nanadaru Onsen.
This has got to be one of my favorite onsen, ever! So worth the journey up the narrow steep mountain roads (although I refuse to drive myself). When I mentioned that one of our previous guests had said, “Now this is off the beaten path.” another guest responded with “What path?”. This onsen is obviously a dream in the making and was not built as a business venture. You’ve got to see it to believe it, and when you are there you will also appreciate the alkaline waters with a PH of 9.5. That means silky water and super soft skin.
Open: 10:00 – 20:00
Adult: 700 yen
By car: About 30 minutes from tabi-tabi
By Bus: From Izukyu Shimoda take a bus to Yokokawa bus stop, from there it is a 30 minute walk (maybe 15 to get back). You can find it on our tabi-tabi map here.
The Mimami Izu Hiking Trail is know for its amazing views off the high jagged peak of Cape Tarai, or what the local people call “a fierce god”. To get to the trail we took the 20 minute bus ride from tabi-tabi to Yumi-ga-hama. From there we walked to Ogahama, a beautiful rocky beach with interesting rock formations. At the end of the beach you will find the Minami Izu (Cape Tarai) trail head. The trails are well maintained and have Japanese and English signs with maps and explanations along the way. The hike leads you through lush forests, over high jagged cliffs, and along a scenic rocky cove. We stopped many times to worship Izu’s amazing coast line, getting mystified by the sound of the crashing waves, and linger in the therapeutic aroma of the rich soil and other earthy delights. The trail ends in Toji, another beach with a real local feel, where we had ice-cream from the candy shop. From there we followed the main road past the Sand Ski Hill, The Open Cave, Goishi Beach, Ohama Beach, and back to tabi-tabi. The entire journey (from tabi-tabi and back again) only took about 3 hours, but left us feeling refreshed by nature’s divine energies.
Right next to the Sand Ski Hill, down a steep set of stairs, you will come to another one of Shimoda’s natural wonders. It is a massive cave naturally carved out by blowing wind, sand, and water. It is open on the top and has a passage out to the sea. You can also walk around the top of the cave for some mesmerising ocean views.
You can find the Open Cave on our tabi-tabi recommendation map here
Sand Ski Hill is a massive sand dune you can sled down with a toboggan. It takes about 10 minutes to ride a bike from tabi-tabi to Sand Ski Hill. You can swim there as well but the beach is rocky. There is also a massive cave next to the Sand Ski Hill, I will write about later.
We’ve got bikes and a toboggan. Come and join the fun!
You can find it on our recommendation map here
Not sure what happens at the Monkey Park when it is open but when it is closed all the monkeys come to gawk at and harass the humans in the parking lot.
Open: 8:30 – 16:30
Entry Fee: adults ¥500 / kids ¥250
Kanaya Ryokan has been welcoming guests since 1866, but is most famous for its 15 meter long “sen-nin buro” (1000-man bath) built in 1915. This beautiful wooden bath is not only long but also very deep. In fact, it’s big enough to swim in.
The women’s bath (pictured above) is much newer but probably just as nice, and although not quite as big as the main bath you can still do about 6 or 7 breast strokes in the longest part. The women’s bath has many partitions with a slightly different temperature in each one.
Women don’t have to feel left out though. The main bath (sen-nin buro) is not actually a men’s bath, it’s “konyoku” (mixed bathing). Curious women can take a key and enter the sen-nin buro through a double door from the change room. Hang onto your key or you’ll get stuck with the boys.
Both the women’s and the men’s bath has a small “rotenburo” (outdoor bath) as well. Nothing really exciting outside but still nice to get some fresh air.
Kanaya Ryokan is in Rendaiji, one stop from Shimoda by train.
You can find it on our recommendation map here
Open: 09:00 – 22:00
Price: weekdays ¥700 / weekends and holidays ¥1000
Most people only know Shimoda for its pristine beaches and emerald green sea, but there is a lot more to Shimoda you should really check out! Perry Road is a tiny street divided by a river with overhanging wheeping willows lit buy old skool gas lamps. You can spend hours at this end of town as the road is lined with cafes, restraurants, antique shops, and boutiques.
You can find it on our tabi-tabi recommendation map here
Driving through the peaceful countryside, past villages built alongside rivers, surrounded by freshly planted rice paddies, I was reminded of this beautiful documentary, Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Water Gardens”. Here is part two (of six):
The Izu Peninsula has so many many interesting places to visit. Today we were on a flower picking mission in Matsuzaki but we have been to Matsuzaki numerous times before. It’s a great town to saunter around in. There are tons of historical building with namako walls, museums, cool kuras, cute cafes, and interesting shrines.
You can find Matsuzaki on our tabi-tabi recommendation map here
Irozaki is a cape at the very bottom of the Izu Peninsula. There is a lighthouse and a shrine with amazing views of Southern Izu’s rocky coast. You can visit the shrine and buy an “omikuji” (a fortune) if you end up with “kyo” (bad luck), you can tie it to a tree branch and hope your misfortune is blown away by the strong coastal winds.
Find it on our tabi-tabi recommendation map here
At the moment we have guests from the UK, the Ukraine, Tokyo, and Osaka! It’s a long weekend here in Japan so we are enjoying a full house at the start of our season. Yesterday evening we took a family from Kawasaki to see the sunset on the other side of the peninsula.
This is also one of our favorite longboard skateboarding spots
It’s Golden Week here in Japan which means a lot of people are enjoying a whole bunch of holidays. Children’s Day is on May 5th and the Koi (carp) streamers are here to help us celebrate. Families throughout town have strung their own families of fish but the town also raises a long set of streamers over the river across the street from tabi-tabi. I love their reflections!
On March 9th we travelled from the back-side to the front-side of Japan. Hakuba to Shimoda is only about a 6 hours drive yet feels like a world apart. We run a lodge in Hakuba, Nagano, where our snow-loving guests and staff were lapping up 40 cm of fresh powder while we were in Shimoda thigh deep in spring flowers!
Those of you who have had to choose a Japan Rail-pass know that Japan is usually split into East and West Japan. Which divides the 2 rivaling cities, Osaka in the west and Tokyo in the east, and the 2 different electricity frequencies, 60 hertz in the west and 50 in the east. But in the old days when people lived in tune with nature, revered the changes of the seasons, and struggled with the differences in climate, Japanese people referred to front-side Japan as the place where the climate was mild, the summers were long, and people never saw snow, and the backside where people endured long harsh winters, and spring planting started late as farmers fields were covered with a thick white blanket of snow for a few months every year.
March in Shimoda, Izu March in Hakuba, Nagano
We love all of Japan’s sides!