So we continue my two part series of places that you can go check out this month or early next month with another sakura hotspot. In this case I’m going to talk about one of my favorites for this time of year; the Izu Peninsula, specifically the towns of Ito and Kawazu. Ito is one of many famous onsen towns in Japan and one of the closest and most easily accessible from Tokyo. Many English speakers may be relieved to find that the hostel company K’s House had bought up an actual old Japanese ryokan in the area. While I know the brand may not be everyone’s favorite, their Ito Onsen is at the very least a great place to stay. Even more than that, it’s the best chance for anyone who doesn’t really speak Japanese to easily stay at a Japanese onsen ryokan.
Unlike many other onsen towns across Japan, it appears Ito doesn’t have any actual public onsen. It is possible to use the onsen at certain hotels, for a price, but I haven’t been successful in finding anywhere that was actually just a public onsen. If you’re going there to stay then, it should be for the entire experience of sleeping on futons, on tatami floors, wearing a yukata and using the bath in whichever hotel or ryokan you choose. Being the last brutal leg of winter, I would imagine I’m not the only person enticed by sitting in hot water for long swathes of time.
While Ito really only offers a small town with onsen and some better than usual seafood, the rest of Izu is huge and has a ton to offer. One of the main draws, are the sakura at Kawazu which should also be at their peak in the end of february and beginning of march. These are some of the earliest blooming sakura near Tokyo, so like Miura they’re your best chance at feeling like spring has finally come early. If you’re driving down to the sakura spot in Kawazu, you’ll likely pass a great deal of onsen in case you haven’t had your fill, and a great coastline which is especially good if the day happens to be warm, or you just really enjoy cold wind.
While both the sakura spot in Kawazu, which is near Kawazu Station, and Ito are accessible by train, the other big draw of Kawazu, Kawazu Seven Falls, is only accessible by car or bus. Closer to the actual center of the town of Kawazu, is a small grove with the aptly named Seven Falls. There is also apparently another onsen that overlooks the main waterfall in the area, but was something I sadly learned about after going. There also seems to be a great deal of hiking that can be done as well.
While this really only touches on the surface of what Izu has to offer, there are other well known spots like Shimoda which has an apparently popular fried fish burger as well as an amazingly dated aquarium. The rest of Izu is also well known for beer, with both Ito and Izu sporting their own labels.