Enjoy cycling and hiking in Izu
The Izu Peninsula sits on the Philippine sea plate and was originally a mass of submarine volcanic islands under the southern seas. While shifting north, it collided into mainland Japan and became the peninsula you see today. The volcano is still active and nourishes the region with rich hot springs, mountains, valleys and clear spring water.
Izu City is at the center of the peninsula and is made up of three major areas: the famous onsen village of Shuzenji, the sleepy port town of Toi and the mountainous Naka Izu. Shuzenji Onsen has long been a domestic travel destination attracting high-end visitors to luxury ryokan. However in the past decade, a younger demographic is flocking here, opening modern hostels, cafes and outdoor tour businesses.
“Since I was young, I used to assume Shuzenji Onsen was a place for older people to visit,” says Ryohei Yamamoto, owner of Hostel Knot. “But recently this area has become more activity based. Izu is characterized by its hilly roads and great views of Mt. Fuji, and we have views here that you won’t see elsewhere.”
Yamamoto recommends travelers to base themselves at Shuzenji Onsen, then enjoy day-hikes or cycling from there. He usually sends travelers to the 982-meter Mt. Daruma located on the Nishi Izu Skyline. It’s a 15 to 20-minute walk to the summit and an excellent place to view the sunset and Mt. Fuji on a clear day while surrounded by rolling hills of bamboo bear grass. The Nishi Izu Skyline is a ten-kilometer cyclist-friendly road weaving through the hills. It overlooks Izu’s port towns on the west coast.
One of these towns is Toi, formerly a thriving gold mine settlement in the 16th century. When Tokugawa Ieyasu came into power, gold mining in Toi reached its peak (around 1610) before closing in 1625. It continued as a popular hot spring destination as a source was discovered in a gold mine gallery near Anrakuji Temple. In 1917, the mine was revived using modern technology and produced about 40 tons of gold before closing again in 1965.
Three hundred fifty meters of the once 100-kilometer-long mine was transformed into the Toi Gold Mine Museum. The display museum nearby showcases the world’s largest gold bar, which weighs around 250 kilograms. Combine this visit with the beach (Toi has the longest beach in west Izu) and Koibito Misaki, Lover’s Cape.
Back inland, hikers can also scale the Amagi Mountains, part of the Hyakumeizan (Japan’s 100 famous mountains). The range is made up of several peaks including Bansaburodake (1,406 meters), Banjirodake (1,300 meters) and Togasayama (1,197 meters). The foot of the Amagi Mountains is blessed with fresh spring water, and you’ll find several waterfall trails including the popular Joren Falls, where you can enjoy fishing for nijimasu (rainbow trout) and amago (Biwa trout).
You can also get up close to the quieter 20-meter Banjo Falls, which is tucked away next to a campsite. Adventure Support runs canyoning tours here during the green season.
Thanks to the spring water, Izu is said to be the birthplace of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) farming, which dates back 400 years, and boasts the largest area in the world for water wasabi cultivation. Water wasabi is grown in mountain streams and spring water and you can see these terraced fields along the Omi River. Ikadaba Wasabi Field is approximately 15 hectares (around the size of three Tokyo Domes) of terraced fields. Ikadaba maintains water temperatures between 13 and 16 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Trees are planted around the perimeter of the fields to ensure the high-quality wasabi receives the right amount of sunlight. Many local restaurants and inns serve fresh wasabi, which you can grate yourself.
For those interested in agriculture and food production, there are several farm and brewery tours. Baird Brewery Gardens Shuzenji and their adjacent campsite is based on the banks of the Kano River and aims to be a zero waste craft brewery. Spent grain, hops and yeast are brought to mulch facilities. Ingredients are locally and organically grown without pesticides from neighboring farmland and orchards. Ten percent of the electricity comes from solar panels, and Baird hopes to one day run completely off the grid. They’ve also built a wastewater treatment facility.
The fancy Nakaizu Winery Chateau T.S. feels like Napa Valley. A chateau stands on the top of a hill surrounded by a ten-hectare vineyard and is a popular tourist stop and wedding venue. Sample wine in their tasting room, take a tour of the facility and enjoy a tasty lunch. Visitors can choose from an an open-air cafe, an upscale Italian restaurant or a garden barbecue area. You can even go horse riding around the vineyard.
Bandai Jozo is Izu’s sole sake brewer and dates back to the end of the 15th century when daimyo Hojo Soun defeated the Ito clan and expanded to Izu Peninsula. He toasted his victory with the local sake, calling it Banyou, which continues to be brewed here in the traditional style. Their current best seller however, is the Arabashiri, a dry and refreshing sake. The brewery is tucked behind a stone wall separating it from surrounding rice paddies.
Up the hill from this brewery is Shuzenji Shiitake no Sato where you can pick log-grown shiitake mushrooms rich in vitamin D and enjoy them over a barbecue lunch. The mushroom spores are planted in naranoki and kunugi tree logs cut from the surrounding forest and left for two years before they harvest. Local farmer Tadashi Shioya has been growing shiitake for about 50 years and started letting tourists pick the mushrooms nearly 25 years ago.
“It’s said that this log-grown method originated here in Izu back in the Edo period,” says Shioya. “About 80 of us continue growing shiitake here. We have a long spring season so it’s an ideal place for our mushrooms to grow.”
His shiitake mushrooms are available for purchase online (domestic shipments only).
Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Mishima (45-60 minutes, ¥4,070 yen one-way). From Mishima Station, it will take another half hour to Shuzenji Station. Shuzenji Onsen is a ten-minute bus or taxi ride from Shuzenji Station.
For more information, visit Explore Izu.
Enjoy cycling and hiking in Izu
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Enjoy cycling and hiking in Izu
Enjoy cycling and hiking in Izu’s adventure capital