As soon as we stepped off the Shinkansen from Tokyo, I knew we were in a different world. The local Izu-Hakone Railway train line resembled something closer to a classic locomotive than the sleek bullet train we rode in on. The only telltale sign of more modern times was the anime characters plastered all over the sides of it. This was a big deal, to my surprise, based off of the constant photo snapping and gawking by locals, young and old alike. As it turns out, Izu, specifically the town of Shuzenji, would be full of surprises.
This is part 5 of my Japan series. Read more here:
With roots going back to 807 BC, Shuzenji town in the center of Japan’s Izu peninsula feels like a step back in time. Named after Shuzenji Temple, founded by noted Buddhist teacher Kobo Daishi, the area is known for its onsen (hot springs) and quaint riverside town. Little known by foreigners, the Japanese consider Shuzenji one of the best onsen resort towns in the region.
I had no expectations for Shuzenji and I’m sure that played into what would become my adoration for the charming town. We visited in April during cherry blossoms season, and while Tokyo and Kyoto were crazy crowded, in Shuzenji we could enjoy the blossoms slowly and in what seemed to be almost desolation. It felt we stepped into a ghost town lost in time. We loved it.
Experiencing an onsen ryokan was our main reason for visiting Izu, and our stay at Marukyu Ryokan became one of the most beloved and memorable parts of our trip. The inn staff, and pretty much everyone in town, spoke little or no English yet were so patient with us when we couldn’t communicate with them in Japanese. I actually think we became entertainment for them as they smiled watching us fumble with confusion over how to wear a yukata or how to eat their beautiful breakfast spread.
The Shuzenji area is popular for day trippers as well. If you’re not staying at a ryokan, there are public onsen available as well as onsen footbaths, including the one that made the city famous—Tokko Hot Spring.
Speaking of other things to do, if you have time to explore the entire Izu peninsula you’ll find beaches, mountains, waterfalls, farms, a brewery, a winery, more small towns and bigger resort areas. We only stayed for two nights, so we stayed close to Shuzenji and still found plenty to do and see.
If you’re looking to visit somewhere off the beaten path in Japan, you have to check out what Shuzenji and the larger surrounding Izu City have to offer. The town seemed nearly empty when we were there, especially at night. It was hard to find restaurants or cafes that were open, and those that were open closed pretty early. So if you’re looking for a jam-packed, high-energy spot, it’s not the place for you. But if you’re looking for a charming and peaceful hidden gem near Tokyo, look no further than Shuzenji.
How to get to Shuzenji from Tokyo
Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Mishima Station. From Mishima station, transfer to the local Izu-Hakone Railway and take it to Shuzenji Station. You can use a JR pass for the Shinkansen, but not the Izu-Hakone Railway, which costs 510 yen one way. From there you can take a quick 10-minute taxi or bus ride to the Shuzenji onsen area. This map is really useful. The whole journey takes a little more than two hours.
Where to stay
What to do and see
Stroll by the river and walk over the red bridges.
Visit Shuzenji Temple and Hie Shrine.
Walk through the bamboo forest path.
Taste local craft brews and get a tour at Baird Brewery.
Sneek a peek at Mt. Fuji from the train station.
And of course, soak in an onsen!
Have you ever fallen in love with an unexpected hidden gem? Tell me where so I can add it to my list!
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