TRIP TWO

In July (2018) 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” Eastern Izu Peninsula for #allthedeets) and the first time we experienced traveling in Japan farther than just our local area. With Dom’s mom visiting, we really wanted her to be able to experience this region as well, as despite being only a few hours away it is completely different from where we live.

Last time we visited, we explored central/eastern/southern Izu, so this time we focused 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. There are far fewer tourists and some out of this world rock formations jutting out from the crystal clear water. 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 we tried to cram in everything left on our “Izu List.” Of course we didn’t get to all of it, but we did a good bit and I think that deserves some kudos! I continuously find myself grateful that our little adventurers are up for most everything we 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.

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When we rolled up I had doubts that the site was open, as there were no other cars in the parking lot and there wasn’t another soul to be found. We explored the grounds for some time and then made our way up slowly to the temple where we eventually encountered someone and I had my “goshuin-chō” (goushin book) stamped.

If you’re curious what exactly a “goshuin-chō” is it’s quite possibly the best souvenir! Essentially, it’s a book that you can bring to temples and shrines around Japan where you can then purchase a stamp that is specific to that temple/shrine. The seal essentially serves as proof that you visited the site and includes the temple/shrine’s name as well as the date you were there. Note: Neither Dom or I can read Japanese, so after I receive a seal from a temple/shrine I label the page with a sticky tab with the name of the place written in English. Over the past two years, I have filled four goshuin-chō and they serve as a wonderful memory of many of the religious sites we have visited! It even includes the two sites atop Mt. Fuji!

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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. Although this beach beyond beautiful and I would forever remember it for that; it is also where we scored free parking (a rarity in Japan) and because of that it is seared into my memory! Totally not joking. Honestly, I felt like we had won the lottery when we pulled into the space!

We unloaded everyone and then made the short stroll down to the beach. The kids immediately made themselves busy looking for sea creatures, building sand castles, watching the surfers, exploring the little alcoves, swimming, and running up and down the 800m of white sand…yep, they were gonna be worn out later that night! YAAASSS!!!

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 sandyslope looks very out of sitting on the very rocky beach, but believe it or not it is a natural phenomenon in which the strong seasonal winds push up sand, making for a very steep 30 degree slope 70 meters long and over 100 meters high . Science is so flippin’ cool! Lots of sand in the van, worn out kids, and a 7-11 dinner in our room at Izu Imaihama Tokyu Hotel polished the day off.  Overall it made for 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:

  • 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).

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 (do yourself a favor and 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 locals. 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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