Futo is considered one of the best diving spots in mainland Japan. It is a small town hedging a rocky coastline at the base of a small green mountain. Futo lies on the east coast of the Izu Peninsular, an area south-west of Tokyo known for its thickly forested mountains, natural hot springs, stretching beaches and blue seas cut with jagged islands.

Small shoals mixing near the harbour

Small shoals mixing near the harbour

Transport The main road winding along the eastern Izu Coast becomes very busy at weekends, especially during the summer when the diving is at its peak. We travelled easy and expensive by shinkansen  from central Tokyo via Atami for about 40 minutes, then on a local train for another 40 minutes or so, altogether this was around  4,800 yen. If you’re happy to take it slow, going all the way by local trains would be less than half of that, but the journey could be over 3 hours. Alternatively, take trains to Ito and then catch the bus (stop number 5 outside the station) which travels over a narrow winding mountain road around the back of Kawana port, which is another beautiful place to dive. The journey takes around 40 minutes, there is only 1 bus every hour and at over 600yen it isn’t cheap… but it will save you a long walk uphill from the diving spots at Futo to the train station.

When Futo is extremely busy with snorkellers and scuba divers on weekends in mid summer. Strangely, Japanese beaches have an `open season`, from mid July to the end of August, during which times they are packed. Travel a fortnight before or after the main season and it’s almost deserted.

Vivid fish swarm near rusting iron pillars

Vivid fish swarm near rusting iron pillars

Where to stay It may sound extreme but there is nothing to eat in Futo. There are a few ryokans  but no restaurants, supermarkets or convenience stores. This means the scenery isn’t spoilt by imposing hotels or glaring neon signs, but it means there is nothing to eat around lunchtime, or at any other time unless your hotel provides food. Plan ahead and bring sandwiches… or, as some more adventurous snorkellers were doing just up the beach, bring a barbecue and a spear and eat what you catch.

There are some excellent restaurants and several hostels or guesthouses in Ito, a larger town just up the coast, so it may be easier to stay there if you aren’t self catering. Just expect to be walking up steep hills if you’re traveling from Ito to Futo by train.

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 Futo Diving is the main reason to come. The water around Futo is very clear, the shorelines rocky and patched with weeds and corals; perfect for finding fish. Even in water less than half a metre deep you can find vivid green and blue fish. Head out a little deeper to around 10 metres and you might find sea cucumbers, starfish, Morey eels, shoals of tiny darting silver ones, flying fish and my personal favourite; the threadfin butterfly fish. Scuba divers may spot dolphins, turtles and octopi.

Futo is not a tourist spot. It is a fishing town with a few facilities provided for divers, who support the economy by renting gear or getting a 1000y beach pass, which allows you to use the changing rooms, showers, and take a hot bath right next to the sea in a modified boat. After a day of swimming this can be seriously relaxing, if a little bizarre. If a shower and privacy isn’t too important to you then you don’t have to pay this charge.

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Things to do near Futo To the south of Futo 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 diving if you don’t mind a long walk with all the gear.

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 in just 1 stop from Futo Station, the trains are every 20 minutes on the Izu Kyuko line.

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.

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

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