About the Izu Peninsula
Izu 101: An introduction
What kind of place is Izu?
Izu is a peninsula located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Tokyo on Japan’s Pacific Ocean side. Izu occupies the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture, which surrounds the Suruga Bay. Mount Fuji is 30 kilmeters northeast of Izu.
Because it can be reached by shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo in about an hour, has two of Japan’s top three most abundant onsen cities, and has many resorts and vacation homes, Izu is one of the most popular domestic destinations.
Most of the tourism areas are concentrated on Izu’s east side because of the Izukyu railroad, which runs from Atami in the north to Shimoda in the south. Izu’s west side is more rugged, but rich in beautiful scenery. The central part of the peninsula is steeped in mountains and agricultural valleys.
While tourism is the main idustry, fishing and agriculture are important to local economies. The Izu Peninsula takes advantage of a mild winter climate to grow many specialty crops, including mid and late season citrus, flowering plants, as well as fruits and vegetables, including its famous wasabi.
What makes Izu different from other places in Japan?
The most unique feature of Izu is its geology, or the story of how Izu came to be. Like Hawaii, Izu was a series of oceanic volcanoes. The difference is that Izu’s volcanoes floated along the Philippine Sea Plate until they collided with Japan. As the Philippine plate slides under the Eurasian Plate, where Japan sits, Izu’s volcanoes stacked up and formed the peninsula that we have today. Izu is the only part of the Japan that sits on the Philippine Sea Plate.
If geology is not your favorite subject, Izu’s culture is also very unique to Japan. It’s one of the few places in the country that you can call a cultural melting pot. After resorts and vacation communities were developed along the railroad, people moved here from Tokyo and Yokohama. Among these people are artists, celebrities, and the wealthy. Museums, cafes, music venues, and community organizations began to appear, and people actively sought ought new ways to interact. Izu is known for its very creative and friendly atmosphere.
For history buffs, Izu played an important role in Japanese history with many firsts. Japan’s first shogun, Minamoto Yoritomo, was exiled here in his youth.
Japan’s first US consulate was here, William Adams – the first European granted the title of samurai – built Japan’s first Western ship here, and much more.
There are many sites to visit and many left to be discovered.
Of course Izu would not have been developed into what it is today without the vision, support and hard work of the local communities. While Izu suffers from the same population drain common throughout Japan, communities work hard to maintain the values and traditions that have helped them survive here for thousands of years. They work hard to make Izu an attractive place to visit. This harmonious blend of the old and new Izu is one of its most charming features.
Beautiful scenery, vacation resorts, hot springs, delicious food, friendly people, history, and culture – Izu has it all!
What to do in Izu?
For Japanese people, traveling means eating delicious food. Izu has many restaurants, and seafood gets top billing. If you get bored of delcious seafood, the alternatives are endless. In the mountain areas, wild boar is a popular dish, and you must try freshly grated wasabi. Izu is the center of wasabi production in the world and grows the highest quality.
If you are the adventurous type who loves trying to communicate with people who don’t speak the same language, you will not be disappointed. Japanese kindness and eagerness to help makes the language barrier easier to deal with.
Of course, with a guide who can speak the language and understand the cultural nuances, you can discover experiences difficult to find on your own. There are many Japanese guides and tours available in Izu, but English is limited.
With Jimmy’s Izu English, fluid communication will provide you with a thorough understanding of your environment and the people you encounter. We’ll even teach you some Japanese and give you ample opportunities to try it with the locals.
After a day of eating great food and enjoying Izu’s beautiful natural scenery, most people unwind by soaking in hot springs and watching the boats in the Sagami and Suruga Bays.
Ocean, mountains, fresh air, charming people and endless opportunities to experience the unique character of Izu casts a spell on visitors. You’ll leave feeling changed, for the better. Once you visit Izu, you’ll want to come back again and again.
Planning your Izu itinerary
The two most commonly used self travel sites in Japan are Rakuten Travel and Jalan.net
If you’d rather leave the planning to someone else, Japan’s JTB travel agency is the big one. In addition to local guide experiences that can only be found with a local, Jimmy’s Izu English can also connect with local travel agents. If you prefer a one stop shop, we recommend JTB. If you prefer truly unique experiences and have time to plan ahead, we recommend Jimmy’s Izu English.
Transportation: Getting to and around Izu
Atami Station on the Tokyo/Yokohama side and Mishima Station on the Osaka/Kyoto side, are the gateways to Izu. Once you arrive in Izu, you can easily get around by train, bus or taxi, but a rental car will allow you more freedom and places to visit.
For rental cars. the main roads are easy to navigate, but there are many narrow roads once you get off the main highways, especially in the mountains. Try to arrive early in the day so you have time to practice with GPS navigation like Google Maps.
The most convenient way to get to the east side of Izu by train is the JR Odoriko train route. You can board the train in Tokyo and never have to transfer until you arrive in Izu. The shinkansen from Tokyo to Atami is faster, but you’ll need to transfer at Atami and then again at Ito. For getting to west Izu from Osaka/Kyoto, taking the shinkansen to Mishima station is your best bet. The Izu Hakone Railroad will get you as far as Shuzenji, a historical area of beautiful mountains and hotsprings.
Once here, you can get around Izu by: rental car (go anywhere, anytime), taxi/private transportation (anywhere, anytime), bus (can get most places on a limited schedule), and train (between Atami-Shimoda in the east and Mishima-Shuzenji in the west). Check the Izukyu website for speacial passes. Currently, the best offer for getting around without a car is the Izu Dream Pass – 3 days free access to train, bus, and the ferry from Izu to Shizuoka City. You can see Mt. Fuji from the Suruga Bay!
The shinkansen between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka runs along the Tokaido route.