Teen's take: Things to do on the way to Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula

Teen's take: Things to do on the way to Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula

by James O'Leary
Yokota Air Base

Shimoda, a coastal town located on Japan’s Izu Peninsula, offers sandy white beaches and many must-see attractions, a perfect place for a family vacation. But, getting there can be a pain. Expect lots of traffic and it’ll take hours to get there from Yokota Air Base. For some people, it might not be worth it. But, I’m here to tell you about the many cool things you can see and do on your way to and from Shimoda, making it well worth the trip.   

The first place to stop is Manazuru, a small peninsula at the start of Izu. Manazuru has lots of great views of Tokyo, Sagami Bay and some little islands. You can take a short hike at Cape Manazuru to stretch your legs. There's a shop and restaurant that has great mango ice cream. 

Also, Manazuru has Yugawara Beach. Unlike in Shimoda, Yugawara is a black sand beach, but it's still cool. Going to Manazuru also saves a few hundred yen, as there's a new road that takes you around the peninsula. One thing that we really liked here was the lack of crowds. Everyone takes the new road, so people rarely stop here. 

An hour and a half drive down the road is Jogasaki. There's gorgeous views of cliffs, islands and the ocean. The Jogasaki coast reminded us of Portugal’s Algarve Coast, with cool rock formations and crashing waves. This is one of the most beautiful coastlines we’ve seen. Along a trail here are the Kadowaki Suspension Bridge and Kadowaki Lighthouse. You can park at Kadowaki parking lot, or you can hike along the coast a few miles. And once you continue your drive to Shimoda, you only have an hour to go. 

There were some great things to do on the way to Shimoda, but on the way back it’s usually quicker to take the inland route. But there’s still many neat things to see taking this route. Only 30 minutes north are the Kawazu Water Falls, a group of seven falls located in a one-kilometer area. Tall waterfalls, short waterfalls, powerful waterfalls, and more. Even if you’ve seen great waterfalls before, seven in a row is hard to beat. This area also has really good local food, including wild boar in a hot pot. 

Another 20 minutes down the road is Joren Falls. Why stop at another water fall, you ask? The main reason to go to Joren is for the wasabi. Near the falls (same parking lot) are some really cool wasabi fields. You can learn how they grow wasabi and buy some for home. There’s a shop selling fresh wasabi for a really great price. There’s all sorts of wasabi related food, even wasabi ice cream, which was actually pretty good. Of course, if you want, you can also check out the falls, which is the largest in Izu.

As with many places, getting to Shimoda is half the fun. Shimoda is like a Japanese version of Hawaii, (yes, that's also true for Okinawa) and instead of having to fly on a plane (in seats that are getting smaller each year) you get to drive through rural Japan.  Izu Peninsula is very different from Tokyo, but really not that far away. These little side trips on the way there can really make a good trip a great one.

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