When we found out we were slated to move Yokosuka, Japan this past spring, it didn’t take long for me to start researching what to see & do. But despite the months of research, it wasn’t until three weeks after we arrived, that I really started to realize how much this country has to offer…and goodness it is wwaaayyyy more than I originally thought. I know the reality of it is there is absolutely no way to “see it all” in two years, but a girl can try…right?! Lucky for me, Dom and I think an awful lot alike, and since our house at the time was pretty empty (and a bit depressing) it didn’t take much for me to convince him that we needed to hit the road for the long Labor Day Weekend to start knocking some of these places off our Japan bucket list.

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TRIP ONE

[ D A Y  • 1 ] Zushi → Izu Peninsula: Shuzenji Temple, Tokko-no-yu onsen, Chikurinnokomichi Bamboo Forest, Jogasaki Coast

Early Saturday morning we commenced our first overnight Japan adventure to the Izu Peninsula (~3hour drive away). Being last minute, most everything within our travel budget had been snatched up (most likely weeks ago). We are quickly learning that the Japanese are pro-level when it comes to planning, so from here on it appears that we are going to have to up our game when it comes to trips.

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So after some deliberation on how exactly to tackle the issue, we ended up opting to stay centrally in the city of Shuzenji at the Izu Mariott and daytrip from there. Staying centrally allowed us to get a better hotel (y’all check out that view from our hotel – so tranquil). It was the perfect introduction to Japan hotels for us, clean, minimalist, yet still with western style beds (although they were set into the floor).

We filled Saturday with a visit to the Shuzenji Temple, the Tokko-no-yu onsen, a geothermal hot spring, which is the oldest one on the Peninsula (dug in 807AD), chasing our high energy toddler through Chikurinnokomichi bamboo forest, and hiking along the Jogasaki Coast. All of the above attractions (minus the Jogasaki Coast hike) were located really close together, so no need to move the car while visiting the adorable town of Shuzenji (always a bonus when you’re toting around littles).

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Shuzenji Temple:

  • Hours: Everyday, 0830 – 1630 (October – March closes @1600)
  • Admission: Free

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Tokko-no-yu Onsen:

  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Admission: Free

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Jogasaki Coast:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free

[ D A Y  • 2 ] Izu Peninsula: Kawazu Nanadaru, Cape Tarai, Ryugu Sea Cave, Kisami Omaha Beach

The next morning, we headed south to hike the Kawazu Seven Falls Trail, a trail that leads one through a series of seven waterfalls located upstream on the lush Kawazu River (along the hike you’ll pass the following falls with the last one being the largest dropping ~30m: Kamadaru, Ebidaru, Hebidaru, Shokeidaru, Kanidaru, Deaidaru and Odaru). This was a great hike as it’s mostly paved (just be prepared for a good number of stairs – holy glute workout! So yes, if you plan on doing the full hike leave the stroller in the car and baby wear). Miles was able to run ahead a good bit and explore. He enjoyed “showing” us #allthewaterfalls he had “discovered.”

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We purchased some sticks of “dango,” a Japanese sweet treat made from rice flour, at one of the many quaint shops before continuing on to the southeastern part of the Peninsula to Shimoda, a city dotted with gorgeous beaches. We parked the car and spent the next couple hours hiking out to Cape Tarai and exploring the Ryugu Sea Cave before finally sinking our toes in the sands of Kisami Ohama Beach for the evening. I mean… these sunsets tho!

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Kawazu Nanadaru:

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Cape Tarai:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free
  • Location

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Ryugu Sea Cave:

  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: There is a free lot in front of the entrance to Toji Beach and the Ryugu Sea Cave (these two spots are located next to one another).
  • Location

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Kisami Omaha Beach:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free

[ D A Y  • 3 ] Izu Peninsula → Odawara Castle → Zushi

Heading home the next morning we took a stretch break at Odawara Castle (because it’s totally normal to bypass a castle on your way back home) before heading to the grocery store to stock up for the week. Happy Labor Day!

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Odawara Castle:

  • Hours: Every day (second Wednesday of December and from December 31 – January 1), 0900 – 1700 (entry until 1630)
  • Admission: 300yen (museum only), 650yen (castle keep and museum)
  • Location

TRIP TWO

Back in July we took a weekend trip back to one of our favorite spots in Japan (funny enough, I feel like every spot is becoming one of our “favorites” these days), the Izu Peninsula. Izu was the first road trip we took when we moved here 11months ago (see “Trip 1” above for #allthedeets) and the first time we experienced traveling a good bit away from the house. With Dominic’s mom visiting, we really wanted her to be able to experience this region of Japan as well as I find it incredibly special and it’s so different from where we live. Last time we were here, we explored central/eastern/southern Izu, so this time we focused our energies on the southern/western parts of the peninsula. Although I loved our first trip, I think our favorite part of the peninsula is the western portion. Fewer tourists and some ridiculous rock formations. There is no denying though that the beaches in the south are on point and maybe that’s why that area made the cut for both trips!

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[ D A Y  • 1 ] Zushi → Izu Peninsula: Usami Kannon, Shirahama Beach, Rosenji Temple, Perry Road, Ryugu Sea Cave, Toji Sand Ski Beach

There is a solid chance we may not make it back to this Peninsula before we leave Japan (*cue tears*), so this trip I tried to cram in everything left on my “Izu List.” We (of course) didn’t get to all of it, but we did a good bit and tried to tackle the lofty list (thankful my little adventurers are up for most everything I suggest).  We left bright and early Saturday morning and headed towards the peninsula. The kids do best when we break up the drive and allow for a stretch break, so we decided to visit Usami Kannon, the largest sitting Goddess of Mercy in Japan (50m high) who was built for global peace for a short period.

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When we rolled up I had doubts that it was even open as there were no other cars in the parking lot and there wasn’t another soul to be found. We explored the grounds freely and then made our way up to the temple where we eventually encountered someone and I had my goushin book stamped.

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We piled back into the car and headed south to Shirahama Beach to spend some time playing in the clear water. This beach is also where we scored free parking…a rarity in Japan! I felt like we had won the lottery! We looked for sea creatures here, built sand castles, watched the surfers, explored little alcoves, swam, and strolled up and down the 800m of white sand.

Although I am incredibly thankful to have beaches so close to our home, but the beaches of Izu blow all our local ones out of the water. It was hard to pry the kids away from the sands, but we still wanted to see a few more things before the day’s end. Next stop was a visit to Ryosenji Temple and then a short walk along Perry Road (close to the spot where Commodore Perry landed in 1854, opening Japan to worldwide trade for the first time). Holy hydrangeas here! If you haven’t caught on yet, Japan doesn’t really have season seasons…its seasons are more floral in nature… “wisteria season,” “roses season,” and as luck would have it we were hitting “hydrangea season” during our visit!

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Final stops for the day included Ryugu Sea Cave (we also visited this cave on our first trip), and lots of slides (as well as wipe outs!) down the sand slopes of Toji Sand Ski Beach (the slope was created by seasonal winds pushing up sand naturally). Science is so flippin’ cool! Lots of sand in the van, worn out kids, 7-11 dinner in our room at Izu Imaihama Tokyu Hotel… it was a pretty rad (+ exhausting) day!

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Usami Kannon:

  • Hours: Every day, March 1 – October 31, 0900 – 1700 and November 1 – end of February, 0900 – 1600
  • Admission: 300yen/Adults, 100yen/elementary, middle & high school students
  • Parking: Free

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Shirahama Beach:

  • Info:
  • Hours: Every day
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free in “view point” lot close to the end of the end of the beach (it’s a very short walk to the beach from this point
  • Location

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Ryosenji Temple:

  • Hours: 0830 – 1700, closed August 1 – 3 and December 24 – 26
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free (in official designated lot; limited spaces)
  • Location

Perry Road:

  • Hours: Every day
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free parking available @Ryosenji
  • Location

 

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Ryugu Sea Cave:

  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: There is a free lot in front of the entrance to Toji Beach and the Ryugu Sea Cave (these two spots are located next to one another).
  • Location

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Toji Beach:

  • Hours: Everyday, 0800 – sunset
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: There is a free lot in front of the entrance to Toji Beach and the Ryugu Sea Cave (these two spots are located next to one another).
  • Location

Toji Beach Tip:  In order to slide down these sandy slopes you’ll need a sled (not the same type of sled as those used for roller slides). You can easily rent one from the shop, “Healing Dragon,” right across the street from the entrance to Ryugu Sea Cave. 1 sled/500yen + security deposit 500yen per sled. You will get back your security deposit when the sled is returned.

[ D A Y  • 2 ] Izu Peninsula: Ishibu Rice Terraces, Dogashima Geopark, Futo Coast, Joren Falls  →Zushi

The other day a dear friend of mine coined the term “permasweaty” and I think that perfectly sums up how I feel about most days of parenthood (especially when we are out adventuring). Getting the kids up, out, dressed, moved, etc. … all of it takes so much effort, but there has yet to be an evening when I have sat down and thought, “boy, that wasn’t worth it.”

Day 2 we checked out of at Izu Imaihama Tokyu Hotel after enjoying a true traditional Japanese Buffet Breakfast and tying some of our wishes onto the trees in the hotel. Wishes??? Tanabata (or the star festival), a celebration that was introduced to the Japanese by the Chinese around the year 755 is celebrated this month! It celebrates two deities who are in love (represented by the stars Vega and Altair), but are separated by the Milky Way. Once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (July 7th), they are allowed to meet…hence the celebration. As part of the festivities, wishes are written on small pieces of paper which are hung up. The wishes are eventually burned, so they can travel up to heaven in the smoke to be granted. So of course we couldn’t miss an opportunity to jot some of our own down before departing.

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Post-breakfast, we headed out on a wild-goose chase to find the beautiful Ishibu Rice Terraces (something not so common in Eastern Japan) which proved to a bit difficult to find (make sure to use the Google Map pin below to make life easier). There is no “real” parking area here, so we just pulled over to the side and then explored. We meandered for a bit and met some of the kindest people. We changed the scenery up a bit afterwards seeing the stone formations + sea-side cliffs of Dogashima Geopark via boat (hold on to your hat here as the wind has a tendency to snatch things up rather quickly – sorry Nancy!).

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Then hopped back in the car for a quick (~6min drive) to the Futo Coast to complete a short hike to view some ridiculous volcanic formations. With it nearing 1530 we piled back in and drove an ~1hour to visit Joren Falls, noted as 1 of the top 100 scenic waterfalls in Japan… all followed by a 5 hour drive back home (yay traffic!). Was it exhausting? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Completely.

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Ishibu Rice Terraces:

  • Hours: Every day
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Location

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Izu Peninsula Geopark:

  • Hours: 0800-1700
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Pay lot street side, approx 1200yen
  • Location

Izu Peninsula Geopark Cave Cruise: The cave cruise is offered from 0815 – 1630 and lasts approximately 20 – 25min. The cost is 1200yen/Adult

Izu Peninsula Geopark’s Nishiizu Trail (Dogashima Course) Tip: Very short, easy hike. Sandals are more than fine.

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Futo Coast:

  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Location

Joren Falls:

  • Hours: 0830 – 1700
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Location

Joren Falls Tip: Be prepared to hike down ~175 – 200 steps to reach the falls

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