The picture of a beautiful waterfall could be the visual highlight of any trip.
If you combine friends and family and a visit to the Seven Waterfalls above Kawazu town in southeastern Izu Peninsula, you could end up with many great memories. I've made not just one trip but three in the past few months to the area southwest of Tokyo.
My first visit was arranged through a tour out of Yokosuka Naval Base with my visiting aunt and uncle. It included a visit to the nearby Joren Falls.
I drove to the Kawazu Nanadaru, or the Seven Waterfalls, for my past two excursions and brought along friends to share in the beauty of the site.
All of the trips provided plenty of photo opportunities in front of the waterfalls. But the best part for me was the real sense of calm and relaxation I enjoyed.
Visitors to the Kawazu Nanadaru can take a novice-level walking trail to view the seven falls in the area.
The falls differ in size. There is a very small waterfall called the Kanidaru, which is just 3 feet wide and 6 feet tall. The largest waterfall, the Odaru, is about 20 feet wide and 100 feet high. A tour of all the waterfalls -- those two and the Kamadaru, Ebidaru, Hebidaru, Shokeidaru and Deaidaru -- takes at least an hour.
Some people might want to take a little longer at the Odaru Falls, as it features what might be the jewel of the entire experience in Kawazu. It offers an inspiring view, and visitors can combine it with the relaxing onsen, or hot springs, experience.
This amazing onsen/falls package isn't free, though. Visitors wanting to experience both the waterfall and the hot-springs bath will have to purchase a ticket for the Amagiso Onsen -- a mixed-gender onsen requiring bathing suits next to Odaru Falls. Enjoy a pleasant soak in the onsen's outdoor and cave baths for about 1,000 yen (less than $11). The viewing of the Seven Waterfalls, however, is free.
The drive along the coast through the mountainous peninsula of Izu is just as pleasant as seeing the marvelous waterfalls. Be prepared for a long drive, because Izu is quite a distance from the Kanto Plain bases. The travel time by car is close to four hours from Yokota Air Base or Yokosuka.
There's so much to see in Izu, and Kawazu is but one of the many wonderful stops to make during your trip there. If you have time left over, take a 30-minute drive along the southern coast of Izu to Shimoda and enjoy some of Japan's best white sand beaches.
Note: This story was originally published in Stars and Stripes Pacific, Aug. 19, 2010.