Archives for category: surfing

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. Usami is a small town on the eastern coast surrounded by small mountains that open up to a curving beach with some of the best surfing in Izu.

Transport There are several ways to get there: easy and expensive (shinkansen bullet train from Central Tokyo, about 4,000 – 6,000 yen),  or slow and with a lot of changes (local trains, about 3,000 yen).We took a shinkansen for the first time, before I was put off by the price but it was travelling at its finest – relaxing, easy, and watching the scenery roll past while enjoying the extra leg room. 

When Usami can be surf paradise when the weather and tides are right – July through to mid-September is warm enough in regular swimming gear. Outside that you`d be better with a wetsuit. Also, after late August there`s a chance of jellyfish being swept into the bay. Some of these, like the box jellyfish native to Australia, can be dangerous. I visited in mid September during peak jellyfish season – they kept us out of the water for a day before they finally got swept out to sea. I was stung by a `safe` one and it felt like an electric shock. I also saw Portugese Man of War jellies about a week before along the coast nearer to Tokyo, but if there`s lots of people in the water then you should be fine.

Where to stay There are a few small hotels and guesthouses in Usami, some right next to the beach. Its a small town so don`t expect an overwhelming choice. Also restaurants are few and far between, you`d get more choice in the bigger towns of Atami (to the north) or Ito (one stop down on the train line to the south) if your hotel doesn`t offer any meals. Or just rough it on convenience store food.

Things to Do In Usami Get in the ocean. Take an onsen. Drink beer on the beach. Simple, but a pretty good mix for a relaxing beach trip. Theres a 50 foot Buddha statue you can see from the town if you fancy a hike up into the mountains to explore some temples. I havent tried this yet as the beach/bath/beer combination was just too compelling, but it looks impressive even from the coast

Things to do near Usami To the south of Usami 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 25-35 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.

Snorkelling or scuba diving can be done in Kawazu. Expect to pay 1,500yen to rent a snorkel, mask and flippers, then pay an extra 1,500 yen if you want to dive on the beach near the harbour. This money is demanded by the fishermans union so they can earn cash `when they can`t go in the water because of divers`. Thats one way to translate it. The other is frankly `We want to rip off tourists.Also we own the ocean. Because we say so, thats why`. Follow the road that goes along the beach to the south, it goes around a couple of bends and you`ll see a tiny unspoiled tranquil beach where you will see a ton of fish and show the fishermen exactly where they can stick their tax

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 Usami.

More information

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

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Rocky slops of Nasudake

Nasu – Tochigi Prefecture

  Nasu is a hot spring area at the edge of the Kanto plain where the utterly flat and heavily built up land rises and arches into green mountains. The tallest of these, Mt Nasudake, is actually an active volcano with several hiking courses leading around the crater in the centre past steaming vents, which are locally and optimistically known as Eternal Hell. The small town of Yumoto is the nearest to the summit of Nasudake, with several onsen, including one at a scalding 53 degrees C.
Transport

Bus from Tokyo you can take the JR Kanto bus from Shinjuku to Yumoto. It has several stops in and around Yumoto, but you will need to take a seperate bus if your hotel is beyond here.

Bullet train The Yamabiko Shinkansen connects Omiya and Nasushiobara, then change to the Utsunomiya line. The full journey from central Tokyo takes about 2 hours and costs around 5500 yen

Local train The Utsunomiya line runs via Akabane and Utsunomiya to Kuroiso station. It’ll cost around 3000 from central Tokyo, and takes 160 minutes… so take a book.

Although a lot of people drive to Nasu or rent a car there, a good way to travel around the Nasu area by public transport is to take a bus that goes from Kuroiso to the Nasu Ropeway. Its uphill all the way from Kuroiso so I wouldn’t recommend cycling it! A 2 day pass was about 2000yen. Their website hasn’t been updated for a while so all the times were about 40 minutes out.

Small shrine near the Nasudake crater

When? 

Theres a few ski slopes and lifts so it might be popular for snow sports in winter. North of Yumoto is an area called Tsutsujio, azalea flower. Take a trip there in late May and you`ll find out why – a large park dedicated to azalea bushes are in full bloom around then, with vivid pinks and purples stretching as far as you can see. It is also popular to visit in autumn to see the leaves change colour. The Nasudake Ropeway is closed in winter, but is a great place to start hikes from the rest of the year.

We visited in late May and saw azaleas in bloom in the valley, caught some sunshine on the slopes of Nasudake, and found some lingering snow from the previous winter too

Where to stay

Yumoto has several hotels and onsens you can stay at but they don’t come cheap. Smaller hostels lie outside Yumoto but be prepared for a bit of a walk to bus stops or attractions.

We stayed at a very cheap hotel in the south of Yumoto.The area was extremely quiet, with no drinking places and only a couple of restaurants. Luckily the steak restaurant was really good and not too expensive. Some roads are not illuminated and go through think forest, so take a torch if you’re going out at night

Last traces of snow near Nasudake

Things to do
Mt Nasudake (1915 metres)

Ropeway This takes you up near the summit of Mt. Nasudake in 5 minutes, although at weekends you might be queuing for 40minutes to get in the car. From the top of the ropeway its a short but steep climb over uneven rocks to the top, we took about 40 minutes with some breaks to admire the views. There are several routes around and from the summit of Nasudake to other ridges or down into the valley. These are well marked with yellow paint so its hard to get lost but the rocks can be loose so tread carefully. One path spirals down from the summit past several steam vents, where the sulphurous gas pouring from the dormant volcano and strange rock colours earned it the name `Eternal Hell`. The ropeway costs 650yen for a single trip, or about 1000 for a return ticket. It’s just opposite the final  bus stop and a car park
The cars can get very crowded – not good if you’re scared of small spaces and heights!

To avoid queues at the ropeway stations, you can hike all the way from the bus stop. It’s about 3km and half of that is pretty heavy going, although it levels out nearer the summit. Again the paths are clearly marked in yellow paint

Volcanic gas clouds

History and Legends – Murder stone

This large rock vents poisonous volcanic gases. A legend says it is the body of an evil 9 tailed fox spirit, who transformed into a beautiful woman and caused chaos while she travelled from China to Japan. She was eventually killed here, with her body transforming into a huge rock. A monk prayed for days to calm her spirit, and the rock shattered.

There are also legends of monks disappearing or being sucked down into Hell in this area.

The murder stone is at the edge of Yumoto, you can walk up from the town or take a bus for a few minutes

Azalea garden

Azalea garden

Also on the bus route and easily accessible from Yumoto, this large garden of narrow winding paths and full-grown azalea bushes is beautiful in late Spring when the flowers are in full bloom. There are viewing platforms to get a bird’s eye view of the garden or to the distant mountains

Heisei no Mori

Walking trails lead through forest that was once owned by the Japanese royal family. Particularly good to visit in autumn, when the leaves are changing colour.

Nearby –  Shiobara Onsen

This small town has several onsen, including some mixed or open-air baths. If you’re feeling more active there`s a popular walk which goes past 3 waterfalls. Shiobara is hard to access by publ;ic transport directly from Nasu, but  you can take a train from Kuroiso down to Nishi-Nasuno, then a bus to Shiobara.

Food 

During my trip there wasnt a lot of choice. It seemed most places were closed, I’m not sure whether they are closed over summer and open during the ski season, or simply closed down. I`d recommend finding out whether your hotel offers meals, and bring some snacks with you just in case

Links

Train Times – http://www.hyperdia.com

Accommodation – http://www.hostelworld.com

General information – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6300.html

Shimoda – Izu Peninsular

View over Shimoda from ropeway

Shimoda is popular for its beaches – long stretches of white sand, or small coves with waves perfect for surfing. It is also important historically as the landing place of Commander Perry, an American who came to open Japan’s borders in the 19th century and ended the Edo Era.
 

Transport Shimoda lies on the southern tip of the Izu Peninsular, about 200km from Tokyo. Although there are major roads connecting Shimoda with Tokyo, these are often very busy at weekends or during public holidays so expect long traffic jams and delays.

Trains run from several major stations in Tokyo. It can be a little confusing planning trips to Shimoda, as the station’s full name is Izukyushimoda.

The Kodama Shinkansen travels from Tokyo and Shinagawa stations to Atami in about 40 minutes, where you have to change to the Odoriko Ltd Express. The journey costs around 7,000 one way but is the fastest option.

Alternatively, travel to Yokohama and catch the Odoriku Express from there, which takes about an hour and a half but will take you directly to Izukyushimoda for 4,500 yen.

The cheapest option is to travel by local trains , but this can be gratingly slow. Take the Shonan Shinjuku line to Ofuna and the Tokaido line to Atami, the Ito line to Ito, then finally the Izu Kyuku line to Izukyushimoda. If you make all the connections on time (good luck!) this should take about 3 and a half hours, but set you back a measly 3,800 yen.

Boat travel to Izu may take longer than trains but could be more exciting. They travel via Oshima island near Tokyo, you could try the night boat from Tokyo to Oshima which takes around 8 hours and leaves at 11.45 nightly, or splurge on a jet boat which gets you there in about 2 hours.

 

When? For surfing aim for summer, the sea should be warm enough to surf or swim without a wetsuit between late June and mid September. During August (especially the last 2 weeks when most people are on holiday) the beaches become extremely busy. Typhoons sometimes come near the Izu Peninsular, mostly during early September and make the sea very unpredictable and dangerous.
If you would prefer to explore the harbour and museums then any time of year should be fine.

 

Where to stay Shimoda itself has a huge amount of hotels and hostels, which fill quickly at busy times. There are also hotels or guest houses in smaller towns around Shimoda, clustered around the coastline and boasting easy access to a more secluded and private beach.

These smaller towns may have minimal facilities, no shops and little public transport, but compensate for it with quiet beaches and beautiful scenery.
If you are staying outside Shimoda some roads are not illuminated, so plan your route carefully if you want to go to the city at night

 

Things to do
Beaches Shirahama Beach is a long stretch of white sand and gentle waves that is extremely busy in summer – with people sunbathing by day or drinking and watching small fireworks by night. Get there by bus from next to Shimoda station in about 10 minutes.

Tatado beach is a bay slight south-west of Shimoda, about 30 minutes walk from the station with excellent waves for surfing. There are surf and body boards for hire for the day, and the beach showers are open in the summer. Look for stalls selling food or cold drinks, as the nearest shop is the Lawsons on the edge of Shimoda!
Further along the road to Tatahama is another small beach, with no stalls or stores nearby but bigger waves. I think it is called Iritahama beach.

History There are several museums concerning Commander Perry’s landing in Shimoda. You could visit the Shimoda Museum, or the collection of artifacts in the small museum near Ryosenji temple. Both are south of the train station.

Ropeway This takes you up Mt. Nesugatayama where you can see over a lot of Shimoda city and harbour, past the small islands dotted in the bay all the way to the Izu islands on the horizon. On top of the mountain are viewpoints, a small temple and some relics related to the Perry landing, such as the watch-house built to keep track of his ships in the harbour.
It goes from behind the train station, costs about 1,000yen and takes a few minutes to ascend. The cable cars come every 15 minutes or so
The cars can get very crowded – not good if you’re scared of small spaces and heights!

Food , always an important part of travelling in Japan, is especially good here. Wasabi a spicy horseradish-like plant used to season sushi , is grown here and added to several dishes – the best, or most unusual anyway, is the wasabi-flavoured ice-cream available at the top of the ropeway. As you’d expect from a seaside town, a lot of the fish dishes are exceptionally good.
Shimoda is a very small city by Japanese standards so most restaurants close earlier than those in the major cities. Don’t plan on finding a restaurant after midnight!

 

Links

Train Times – http://www.hyperdia.com

Accommodation – http://www.hostelworld.com

General information – http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6300.html