Izu Peninsular is an area south-west of Tokyo known for its thickly forested mountains, natural hot springs, stretching beaches and blue seas cut with jagged islands. Ito is a medium sized town on the coast surrounded by small mountains with several good seafood restaurants, onsen (natural hot springs) and a gently sloping bay.

Transport There are several ways to get there: easy and expensive (shinkansen bullet train from Central Tokyo, about 4,000 – 6,000 yen), exhilarating and expensive (Jet Boat from Tokyo via Oshima island, about 5,700), slow by sea (overnight ferry from Tokyo via Oshima, 3,500) or slow by land (local trains, about 2,000 yen).

We opted for local trains and set off early hoping to get there by midday, and although we typically missed all the connecting trains we had planned to catch, we still managed to get there in 2 and a half hours. 

When Ito is popular with travellers from Japan and abroad, and gets busy on weekends in mid summer. if you are more into hiking or onsen than sunbathing on the beach then anytime between early May and late September should be temperate enough.

I visited in late June when the weather was sunny enough for a beach holiday but without the crowds that will pour in during July and August. 

Where to stay There are some large hotels and several hostels or guesthouses in Ito, and others further from the town centre. I would recommend checking the location of hotels carefully, the train station, beach and most of the restaurants are on the eastern side of the town. The western side climbs up into the mountains, so expect to be walking up steep hills if you stay near there.

I stayed at K`s House Ito , a beautifully restored traditional hotel with its own onsen which is free for guests to use. The hostel was large, very clean and reasonably priced, about 3,000yen per person per night.

Things to Do In Ito Ito is well known for its hot springs and seafood, especially aji,a fish specialty of the region. Orange Beach is a part of the bay perfect for swimming or sunbathing, with some barriers to prevent large waves entering this area, so the sea here is usually calm and very clear. Near the harbour the sea floor is rocky so you can see fish and crabs, and there are several shops selling Japanese dried fish delicacies or souvenirs for tourists. There are boat tours of the coast* and during high season there are scuba diving tours too. Next to Orange Beach is Nagisa Sculpture Park which you can wander around for free. North of the station are several parks, gardens and shrines. The onsen are mostly in the town and some people wear yukata (a lightweight robe) on the streets when they are travelling in between different hot springs.

Plaza in Ito Harbour

*Avoid the glass-bottomed boat with an orange dolphin on the top, it is a waste of money. We spent 1,600 yen each thinking we would get to stop at various small islands near Ito and see fish – it didnt stop at any islands and the only time you could see fish was when it docked in the habour… these are the same fish you can see for free by looking in the water from the street. 

Things to do near Ito To the south of Ito are some of the most popular spots in the Izu Peninsular.

Jogasaki Coast is a walk along the cliffs with spectacular views of cliffs, small islands and waterfalls. It passes through thick forest, a mix of tough Japanese pines clinging to sheer clifftops or perched on tiny isles in the ocean, and semi-tropical rainforest. At both ends of the walk there are suspension bridges which offer views over coves and cliffs, and along the way there are temples, shrines and Izu Oceanic Park, where you can go swimming or try scuba diving.

The full walk is over 12 kms and surprising tough going because it follows the natural line of the cliffs, so the path meanders along all the inlets and small bays, and rises or falls steeply in some places. Although it is not an easy walk it is extremely rewarding – the meandering coastline means the view is always changing, and there are over 30 famous viewpoints signposted that include waterfalls, tiny valleys full of hydrangea flowers or cherry blossom at the right time of year, statues and temples, as well as the staggering natural beauty of the coast itself.

Walking along Hashidate Bridge

If you do not want to do the full walk then the bridges at either end can be accessed easily from local train stations. Jogasaki Kaigen Station at the north east end is just over 1km from the Kawowaki Suspension Bridge and lighthouse, and Izu Kogen Station in the south west is 1km from Hashidate Suspension Bridge.There are bus tours to visit Renchakuji Temple and Izu Oceanic Park too.

Jogasaki can be reached by train from Ito Station, the trains are every 20 minutes on the Izu Kyuko line and the ride takes around 20-30 minutes.

Personally I would recommend trying the full walk because of the amazing scenery and fascinating sights along the way, but wearing loose comfortable clothes and taking a lot of water is a good idea, as between Renchakuji Temple and Hiashidate Bridge there are no water fountains and on a humid day you will get hot walking on the steep parts. I would also suggest wearing practical shoes like walking boots or trainers after watching a girl in stilettos stumble around on the rocky parts at Kawowaki Bridge.

Izukogen Station offers several museums, many of them pretty unusual, as well as the Jogasaki walk. These include the Music Box Museum, the Teddy Bear Museum, the Doll House Museum and the Museum of Interesting Things.               I have not visited any of these, although the Museum of Interesting Things sounded… interesting.

Seven Waterfalls is another well-known walk near Kawazu Station through forest in the centre of Izu. It is about 1km, and can be reached by bus from Kawazu Station on the Izu Kyuku line.

Shirahama Beach is the most famous beach on the peninsular and is a long stretch of white sand near Shimoda. There are areas near here for snorkelling or scuba diving. You can get there on the Izu Kyuko line from Ito.

More information

Trains http://www.hyperdia.com lists train times in English or Japanese

Ito Tourist Association http://www.itospa.com for maps and more information on the area

Western side of Orange Beach