SHIZUOKA, IZU PENINSULA AND IZU ISLANDS

SHIZUOKA

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Izu Peninsula
Shizuoka City (about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo) is the site of the Daidogei World Cup international street performer competition and was the location of the Human Body Science museum (now closed). Visitors to the latter enter through the open lips of Marilyn Monroe and exits with a blast of flatulence out her anus. Still open is the Izu Gokurakuen (Paradise Park), which features a replica of the Buddhist vision of hell, complete with pools of blood on the floor and dolls torn apart and made into dumplings eaten by demons. The Tokai University Marine Science Museum has a 4.2-meter-long stuffed megamoth shark that was caught in August 2003 six kilometers off the coast if Omaezeki. Websites: Shizuoka Prefecture site shizuoka-guide.com

Shizuoka Prefecture covers 7,777 square kilometers (3,002square miles), is home to about 3.7 million people and has a population density of 476 people per square kilometer. Shizuoka is the capital and largest city, with about 705,000 people. It is in Chubu in central Honshu island and has five districts and 35 municipalities.

Hamamatsu (in Shizuoka prefecture, 80 kilometers southeast of Nagoya and 235 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.) is known primarily as the home of Hamamatsu castle. It is also where the Honda Corporation was born and the first domestically-produced piano was made more than a hundred years ago. Hamamatsu is home to about 600,000 people. Historically an old castle town, it evolved into an industrial city that produced musical instruments, motorcycles, small cars, tea, and textiles. Allied forces bombed the city in May and June 1945. Today, a Yamaha piano factory there produces some of the worlds' best pianos. The Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments is worth a look. . Tours of the Yamaha piano factory can sometimes be arranged with advance reservations by calling (053)-460-2901.

Shuzenji Temple is famous for its Noh theater which can be viewed from the rooms of the temple’s inn. The temple was founded half a millennium ago by Yakuro Yukitada Asaba. At the gate he positioned monks as guards and housed them in a lodge which still exists today, albeit as one of Japan’s most exquisite hot spring resorts, featuring a small lake, a café salon with minimalist art, Harry Bertoia chairs, and a Noh theater from the 19th century. A seventh generation Asaba family member assembled the theater with parts from an old shrine that he transported all the way from Tokyo, and today the gold masks of the actors reflect in the surrounding waters while guests enjoy the Noh performances directly from their rooms. Location: 3450-1 Shuzenji, Izu-shi, Shizuoka 410-2416 +81-558-72-7000 Shizuoka

Green Tea is one of the main products of Shizuoka. Long-prized for its healthful and soothing properties, green tea is one of Japan’s greatest gifts to the world. Now, take this chance to explore the beautiful countryside of Shizuoka Prefecture, the largest tea-producing area in Japan and enjoy staying over at a traditional inn, which was once a farmhouse. You’ll learn all about how green tea is made — including traditional growing techniques recognized by the United Nations as a Globally Significant Agricultural Heritage — and can even help tea farmers in their work. Depending on the time of year, you may harvest leaves, assist at a tea factory, or cut grass to prepare for the next planting season. Just over 90 minutes or so from Tokyo, a transcendental tea experience awaits you at a place called Tabinoya. Location: 1708 Ono, Kakegawa-shi, Shizuoka,

Shimada and Japan’s Largest Tea Field

Shimada, 20 kilometers southwest of Shizuoka City) is the home of Makinohara Tea Estate is is Japan’s largest tea field. Hitomi Seki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “A 10-minute walk from JR Shimada Station brought me to the wooden Horaibashi bridge over the Oigawa River. The tea fields, called the Makinohara Tea Estate, spread across the plateau on the other side of the river.The tea plantation covers about 5,000 hectares (about 12,355 acres), which I learned accounts for 10 per cent of all tea fields in Japan. It was cultivated to grow tea after the Meiji Restoration (1868) by Kageaki Chujo, a former retainer of the Tokugawa shogunate, and other people. [Source: Hitomi Seki, Yomiuri Shimbun, June 1, 2014]

“The development of a tea processing machine by a local inventor enabled the mass production of tea here, which eventually developed the tea industry in Shimada. The World Tea Museum in the city helps visitors learn about the tea industry and tea culture both at home and abroad. The museum also has a Japanese garden and a tea ceremony room. While viewing the pond in the beautiful garden, I slowly sipped foamed matcha green tea from a tea bowl. It was a pretty tasteful event.

“In the city, an event that allowed visitors to experience tea picking was under way. A guide at the event invited me to taste a new tea leaf, which was pretty tender as I felt its pleasant flavour fill my mouth. I heard that new tea leaves also taste good as tempura, boiled and seasoned with soy sauce, or as an ingredient in fried noodles. The city has many old temples and shrines, as well as a historical site that shows what the inns were like back in the Edo period (1603-1867) .

“Shimada is also said to be the birthplace of the Shimada topknot, a type of traditional Japanese coiffure. An annual festival held in September features a procession of women dressed in kimonos with their hair done in a Shimada topknot. The Oigawa Railway is another local attraction, fascinating even those who are not railroad fans. Steam locomotives have been operating between Shin-Kanaya Station and Senzu Station for the last 38 years, and it is very difficult to procure components for the old-fashioned steam locomotives and their passenger cars, according to the railway operator’s public relations department.

“Imagining the hardships of the operation and maintenance of the steam locomotives, I quietly opened the wooden-framed window and felt a gentle breeze on my face. I looked out at the tea fields and the grand, deep valleys along the railway track. Shimada has many more must-see places, such as Rose Hill Park, where nearly 360 species of roses are grown. It might make for a tight schedule visiting all of these places, but they are all certainly worth a visit.”

Horai Bashi: the World’s Longest Wooden Bridge

Horai Bashi (in Shimada,20 kilometers southwest of Shizuoka City) is the longest wooden walking bridge in the world (897 meters) as recognized by the Guinness World Record. Built in 1879, this toll bridge connects Shimada and Makinohara over the Oigawa River.

Hitomi Seki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The Horaibashi bridge, built for people who started working the tea fields, was repeatedly washed away when the river rose, so the bridge piers were rebuilt with cement in 1965. The bridge, 897.4 meters long (about 2,944 feet) and about seven meters (about 22 feet) high, was registered by Guinness World Records as the world’s longest wooden pedestrian bridge. It is still used by local residents walking to and from work and also often serves as a film location. As the number 8974 can be read as yakunashi, a homophone of no misfortune in Japanese, people visit the bridge for good luck, according to Yoshitsugu Haramiishi, a 71-year-old local tour guide. [Source: Hitomi Seki, Yomiuri Shimbun, June 1, 2014]

“The bridge is 2.4 meters (about 7.9 feet) wide, and the railing comes only up to the knees of the average adult. I saw people jogging or cycling on the bridge without hesitation, but I — not being a big fan of heights — made my way slowly in the middle of the bridge, trying not to look down. Since there was nothing to block my view of the surroundings, it felt like walking on air.

“After I crossed the bridge and walked up a dark slope surrounded by Japanese cedars and other trees, the landscape changed drastically. I was looking at an endless sea of tea leaves. The contrast between the blue sky and the yellowish green tea leaves shining in the bright sunlight was amazing. And from the open space where a statue of Chujo stood, with the Oigawa River in the background, I could just make out Mount Fuji lightly dusted with snow. It was well worth summoning up the courage to cross the bridge.”

IZU PENINSULA

IZU PENINSULA is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and is known for its plentiful onsens (hot springs), hotels and inn and views of Mt. Fuji. It's proximity to Tokyo makes it prime tourist destination that is geared primarily for Japanese tourists. Tourism peaked in 1988 when 73.5 million people---many as members of large company parties---visited the peninsula.. In 1998 about 52 million people visited it. Websites: Shimoda Tourist Association shimoda-city.com ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com ; JNTO PDF file JNTO ; Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ; Wikipedia Wikipedia Map: tokyo.digi-joho.com/trips-excursions/izu-

Koichi Saijo wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The Izu Peninsula is said to have been generated about 20 million years ago after undersea volcanoes located hundreds of kilometers south of Honshu drifted northward through the rising of tectonic plates and finally collided with the mainland. Rocks eroded by waves as well as large, jagged rocks may have been produced by the volcanoes. The landscape impressed upon me the long history of the peninsula. Hot springs are one amenity that go hand in hand with places famous for volcanoes.”[Source: Koichi Saijo, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 6, 2017]

Izu Peninsula Hot Springs include Atami, a touristy, crowded onsen with an art museum operated by a religious cult; Ito, an onsen with a nice garden, a guitar-shaped lake, an ocean park with scuba diving and snorkeling and a 20th century museum with works by Picasso, Matisse, Dali and others; Shuzenji; Kawazu, Matsuzakicho features pleasant seaside scenery and a number of traditional houses and storehouses with white plastered sea-cucumber walls. Minami Izu is located on the southernmost tip of the Izu Peninsula. Matsuzakicho Shimokamo Onsen has several nice hot springs.

Izu Photo Museum opened in 2009 to explore works of photography and film. Since then, it has organized a wide range of exhibitions addressing the many issues surrounding photography and timebased media. The interior space and garden were designed by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, and the details that belie this can be readily spotted: crystal glass, shadow and light, and tearoom-like tranquility. Plan your trip to include visits to the other museums at the Clematis no Oka art complex, such as Bernard Buffet Museum, Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum, and Yasushi Inoue Literary Museum. Be sure not to miss the restaurants either. Location: 347-1 Clematis no Oka, Higashino, Nagaizumi-cho, Shizuoka 411-0931 +81-55-989-8780 Shizuoka

Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace

Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace (in Izunokuni, Shizuoka Prefecture, 150 kilometers southwest of Tokyo) is one of the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” that were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2015. Construction of Nirayama Reverberatory Furnace started in 1853 and was completed in 1855. A reverberatory furnace is a a furnace in which the roof and walls are heated by flames and radiate heat on to material in the centre of the furnace. Designated a National Historic Site in Japan in in 1922, the Niyayama furnaces look like tall white chimneys with black matric designs on them.

The Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces are a set of four Edo period reverberatory furnaces erected by the Tokugawa shogunate in what is now the Nirayama neighborhood of Izunokuni city. In the mid 19th century, the Tokugawa shogunate was increasing alarmed by incursions by foreign warships into Japanese territorial waters and feared they would attempt the end Japanese self-imposed national isolation policy by force, or even attempt an invade Japan. Numerous feudal domains were ordered to establish fortifications along their coastlines with modern coastal artillery. To do this better metallurgical technology was needed. In in the village of Nirayama in the Izu Peninsula. a furnace to cast cannon was built based on the design of a furnace that had been developed in Saga on Dutch technology. The first cannon cast in new reverberatory furnace was made in 1858. The facility was used until 1864. [Source: Wikipedia]

Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces consists of four furnaces, each made from refractory bricks, on a stone base, with a height of 15.7 meters. The design of the furnaces was taken from a Dutch book, Het Gietwezen in's Rijks Ijzer - geschutgieterij te Luik, which the Japanese had received via the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki. The southern pair of furnaces were completed in 1855 and the northern pair in 1857.

Meiji Era Industrialization: UNESCO World Heritage Site

“Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2015. One of the sites is Nirayama proto-industrial reverberatory furnace in Izunokuni, Shizuoka Prefecture, which was construction in 1853, completed in 1855. According to UNESCO: “The site encompasses a series of twenty three component parts, mainly located in the southwest of Japan. It bears testimony to the rapid industrialization of the country from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century, through the development of the iron and steel industry, shipbuilding and coal mining. The site illustrates the process by which feudal Japan sought technology transfer from Europe and America from the middle of the 19th century and how this technology was adapted to the country’s needs and social traditions. The site testifies to what is considered to be the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation. [Source: UNESCO <+>]

“A series of industrial heritage sites, focused mainly on the Kyushu-Yamaguchi region of south-west of Japan, represent the first successful transfer of industrialization from the West to a non-Western nation. The rapid industrialization that Japan achieved from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century was founded on iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining, particularly to meet defence needs. The sites in the series reflect the three phases of this rapid industrialisation achieved over a short space of just over fifty years between 1850s and 1910. <+>

“The first phase in the pre-Meiji Bakumatsu isolation period, at the end of Shogun era in the 1850s and early 1860s, was a period of experimentation in iron making and shipbuilding. Prompted by the need to improve the defences of the nation and particularly its sea-going defences in response to foreign threats, industrialisation was developed by local clans through second hand knowledge, based mostly on Western textbooks, and copying Western examples, combined with traditional craft skills. Ultimately most were unsuccessful. Nevertheless this approach marked a substantial move from the isolationism of the Edo period, and in part prompted the Meiji Restoration. <+>

“The second phase from the 1860s accelerated by the new Meiji Era, involved the importation of Western technology and the expertise to operate it; while the third and final phase in the late Meiji period (between 1890 to 1910), was full-blown local industrialization achieved with newly-acquired Japanese expertise and through the active adaptation of Western technology to best suit Japanese needs and social traditions, on Japan’s own terms. Western technology was adapted to local needs and local materials and organised by local engineers and supervisors.<+>

”The 23 components are in 11 sites within 8 discrete areas. Six of the eight areas are in the south-west of the country, with one in the central part and one in the northern part of the central island. Collectively the sites are an outstanding reflection of the way Japan moved from a clan based society to a major industrial society with innovative approaches to adapting western technology in response to local needs and profoundly influenced the wider development of East Asia. After 1910, many sites later became fully fledged industrial complexes, some of which are still in operation or are part of operational sites. <+>

“The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution illustrate the process by which feudal Japan sought technology transfer from Western Europe and America from the middle of the 19th century and how this technology was adopted and progressively adapted to satisfy specific domestic needs and social traditions, thus enabling Japan to become a world-ranking industrial nation by the early 20th century. The sites collectively represents an exceptional interchange of industrial ideas, know-how and equipment, that resulted, within a short space of time, in an unprecedented emergence of autonomous industrial development in the field of heavy industry which had profound impact on East Asia. <+>

“The technological ensemble of key industrial sites of iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining is testimony to Japan’s unique achievement in world history as the first non-Western country to successfully industrialize. Viewed as an Asian cultural response to Western industrial values, the ensemble is an outstanding technological ensemble of industrial sites that reflected the rapid and distinctive industrialisation of Japan based on local innovation and adaptation of Western technology.” <+>

Shimoda

Shimoda (near southern tip of the Izu Peninsula) is regarded as the nicest of the Izu Peninsula's hot spring resorts and is where Commodore Matthew Perry's black ships arrived in Japan and the first Western diplomats took up residence after Perry's visit. It is a charming place with outdoor baths, white sand surfing beaches, picturesque inlets, teahouses, great seafood restaurants, a history museum and craft stores that sell silk dolls and mobiles, great seafood and hotels with fine views of the Pacific. .

Among the attractions are the Ryosen-ji Temple, Choraku-ji Temple, which houses its own sex museum with genitalia-shaped vegetables and stones and tragic stories of courtesans; Mt. Nesegata-yama, whose summit can be reached by cable car; and "Black Ship" cruises in the bay. The aquarium draws large crowds in the summer. A 2.6-kilometer walking trail follows the coastline and passes gardens with camellias and cherry trees.

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The train ride to Shimoda winds along a 64-kilometer section of coastline. From Shimoda you can reach Cape Irozaki, known for its ocean cliffs, lighthouse and tropical gardens; and Dogashima, located in a picturesque rural area with traditional houses and rock formations. There are beautiful beaches at Yumigahama. Shuzenji is knowns for its spectacular views of Mt. Fuji accorss Suruga Bay. The Royal Family has a house at Cape Suzuki.

Websites: Escape from Tokyo mikesblender.com ; Shimoda Tourist Association shimoda-city.info Map: JNTO japan.travel ; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Shimoda is one hour and 45 minutes and by train from Tokyo Station. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Kuroneiwaburo is a public open air mixed sex bath with stunning ocean views in Higashi-Izucho, Shizuoka Prefecture. In 2008 it welcomed about 30,000 male bathers and 17,000 females.

Suruga Bay

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Suruga Bay (110 kilometer southwest of Tokyo) is an extraordinary body of water. Bordered by Mt. Fuji to the north and the mountainous Izu Peninsula to east, this 40-mile-wide bay drops to a depth of 8,000 feet a few miles from shore. On the weekends the shore near the reefs are overrun with Japanese scuba divers in bright-colored wet suits; on the weekdays most of the people around are fishermen.

Creatures found in the depths of Sugara Bay includes 23-foot-long sleeper sharks at 4000 feet, chimaera, with wing-like fins at 1450 feet, bioluminescent lantern sharks at 3000 feet, and white eels that use their pelvic fins to locate food at 7000 feet. These creatures all tend to move slowly to conserve energy. Other fish have transparent skin with a sensitive pineal gland that helps them determine night from day in this permanently dark world.

Twelve foot crabs, living at 450 feet, are sometimes called dead man's crab after their habit of feeding on drowned humans. These crustaceans, take 10 years to mature and may live to a ripe old age of 50. [Source: David Doubilet and Eugenie Clark, National Geographic, October 1990] Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia

Futo (on the Izu Peninsula) is a popular spot with scuba divers. Divers see lionfish, large squid and sea anemones. Some 25,000 divers visit the spot every year. The Kuroshio currents keeps the waters warm and clear. Website: Marine Photographers marinelifephotography.com

Atami

Atami (80 kilometers southeast of Tokyo) is a touristy, crowded onsen a city located on the northeast coast of the Izu Peninsula with an art museum operated by a religious cult. It is near Tokyo and Hakone, and visited by thousands of tourists every year. Among the museums there are the MOA Museum of Art and the Atami Trick Art Museum. The town also has a castle, ropeway and some nice views of the coast.

Atami Adult Museum is a sex museum known in Japanese as Atsumi Hihokan. Among its attractions are many shiny, plasticy sculptures including an erotic mermaid and a turtle with a giant penis for a head. According to Japan Info: A hihokan is a Japanese sex museum that was once a major attraction and hideout for young people. A couple of hihokan sprung up in different cities around Japan in the 20th century. However, these museums are gradually starting to close down due to their unpopularity, such as Kinugawa Hihoden, which closed in 2014. Along with the inaccessibility of a lot of the hihokan, they are increasingly looked down upon by locals.

“Despite this general decrease in popularity, there are a few sex museums such as the Atami Adult Museum that have been successful in drawing enough of a crowd to sustain themselves financially. The museum is located on a small cliff just in front of the Atami Castle and is conveniently accessible via the Atami Ropeway. You can buy a combo ticket that gives you a round-trip ropeway ticket as well as entry to the museum.

“The Atami Adult Museum is probably one of the strangest places you can visit in Japan. Welcomed in by a bare-chested mermaid statue, your first step inside the museum feels like an entrance into a forbidden world. The walls are covered with paintings and holograms of naked women, with statues of fornication and the like lining the room. The museum’s naughty themes are not only found in the form of visuals but also interactive games. You’ll find 3D projections, peeping holes, dodgy lighting, a pictographic collection of fetishes, a naked Marilyn Monroe figurine and a morphing Mona Lisa. Although a lot of the displays are relatively old, there are some modern additions to the exhibition, such as holograms.

“The Atami Adult Museum is one of the most accessible spots in Atami as it is situated near to major landmarks such as Atami Castle. It is found in an area called Wadahama Minamicho and can be reached via taxi, bus or ropeway. If you take the ropeway, you’ll get the additional bonus of beautiful views over the ocean and surrounding cliffs. The museum is open every day and costs 1,700 yen to enter. As entry into the museum is strictly for adults only, a valid piece of ID to prove that you’re over 18 is required. The tour of the museum takes approximately one hour if you plan to see all the exhibits.

Ryugukutsu Caves

Ryugukutsu Sea Cave (Minami-Izu, Toji district Shimoda) was created through wave erosion of soft geological layers in cliffs.. On sunny days, the Izu island chain can be seen from a trail atop the cave.Koichi Saijo wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Among the many scenic spots along the coast in the southern part of the Izu Peninsula, the so-called “artistic landform” of Ryugukutsu stands out....a partial collapse of the huge cave’s ceiling created a space like a skylight about 50 meters in diameter. Inside the cave is a hole leading to the sea through which waves enter and repeatedly lap against a small shore. The scenery has a beauty unique to nature untouched by human hands, with the yellowish-brown surface of the rock creating a mysterious contrast with the blue seawater. The view inside the cave is said to change according to the direction from which sunlight enters as well as the ebb and flow of the tides. The cave must offer up a different type of beauty in summer or autumn, I thought. I understood why the spot draws so many repeat visitors.[Source: Koichi Saijo, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 6, 2017]

“Driving west from Shimoda to the town of Minami-Izu, I arrived at the steep cliffs and rock reefs of the Irozaki cape. The waves roared as they crashed against the cliffs with great force. I continued down the cape to the Oku-Irozaki district and finally to the Minami-Izu town geopark visitor center, which faces the so-called Aiai cape. Yoko Takahashi, 67, a guide at the center, said, “The scenery here is rare — beautiful seashores and lava-created landscapes that reveal the traces of what was once most likely a group of volcanoes that existed on the ocean floor.”

“Several ryokan inns and guesthouses dot the area of Shimogamo hot springs. The nearby Shimokamo Tropical Garden uses geothermal energy from the hot springs to raise plants. Guests can enjoy a tropical atmosphere at the garden’s greenhouses, which contain about 1,000 plants including mango, papaya, hibiscus and bougainvillea. Jade vines, a plant native to the Philippines that belongs to the pea and bean family, are popular in spring. The cluster hanging from its vine consists of comma-shaped, jade-colored flowers that lay one atop the other. Dubbed “Queen’s earrings,” the flowers retain their beauty until early May. According to the garden, many people are surprised at the mysterious colors of the flowers upon first seeing them. Botanical gardens once existed in various parts of the Izu Peninsula, but many have closed due to financial difficulties. Hirokazu Ando, manager of Simokamo Tropical Garden, 48, said: “We’ve managed the garden for more than 50 years starting with my grandfather’s generation. The garden won’t close in my generation.”

“The garden introduced free admission three years ago. Its efforts to entice visitors include such experience-based attractions as the chance to buy plants, programs for making an original potted plant using colored sand and a house plant, and tastings of a so-called “miracle fruit” that leaves a sweet taste in the mouth even when eaten after sour fruits like lemons. I hoped such efforts would help enliven the region.

“The town of Minami-Izu is known as a treasure trove of seafood, including alfonsino, but strawberries have recently become another local specialty. Izu often calls to mind a warm climate, but when I visited in late March the mornings and nights were often cold. Strawberries are said to become sweeter when they grow in a place where temperatures differ widely between daytime and nighttime. During an overnight stay at Kyukamura resort in Minami-Izu I ate fresh strawberries picked that morning. I was surprised at the amazing sweetness of the fruit.

Getting There: The JR Odoriko express train from Tokyo Station to Izukyu Shimoda Station takes about 2½ hours. The local bus from Izukyu Shimoda Station to a bus stop at Kyukamura resort in the Yumigahama district of the town of Minami-Izu takes about 25 minutes. From the bus stop to the Irozaki cape it takes about 15 minutes. Website: Check the websites of the Minami-Izu town tourism association .minami-izu and the Shimoda Tourist Association shimoda-city.com

Kozushima Island

Kozushima Island (50 kilometers off the Izu Peninsula) is where Jomon people who lived in the Jomon period (10,000-300 B.C.) got obsidian. Yoshitaka Tsujimoto wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Obsidian — a dark natural glass formed by cooling molten lava — is found in only a handful of places in Japan. During the Jomon period, the rock was used for knives and the points of spears. Kozushima island, located south of the Izu Peninsula, has some of the highest-grade obsidian in the nation, and the useful, beautiful glass has been traded on the mainland since the Paleolithic age more than 20,000 years ago. Even so, it seems foolhardy to travel 50 kilometers over rough seas in a dugout canoe from the Izu Peninsula just to get it. [Source: Yoshitaka Tsujimoto, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 13, 2012]

“I boarded the ship from Takeshiba dock in Minato Ward, Tokyo, to figure out why the Jomon people were so passionate about the obsidians on the island. Upon approaching Tako Bay on Kozushima island, I saw a cliff comprising layers of obsidian several meters tall. I visited the village’s history museum, which displays huge chunks of obsidian mined from a seabed near Onbasejima island about five kilometers off Kozushima. The color of a cross-section of the block was as black as the inside of a well. Another thin cracked piece was transparent. I really coveted the piece.

“The ship did not sail to Onbasejima because of bad weather. However, on Kozushima, stones in five colors, including obsidian, are spread out on the Nagahama beach. "The beach is located in front of Awanomikoto Shrine. So you'll bring a curse on yourself if you take those stones home," said Misayo Shiga, 65, a part-time staffer at the museum. Some tourists have sent back stones they took after falling ill once they returned home, she said.

“I rode to the beach on a rented bicycle. This tiny island, which has a circumference of 22 kilometers, has many rolling hills--so a bicycle comes in handy for getting around. The 572-meter-high Mt. Tenjo sits at the center of the island. When I picked up one of the black stones on the beach, I was warned by an islander: "No one on this island takes stones from the beach. The one enshrined [in Awanomikoto Shrine] is a goddess, and she is greedy." OK, I gave up. According to a village legend, the island is known as "kami atsume no shima," or an island where the gods who created the Izu Islands gather. I have to respect them, especially since so many get together and stay on the island.

“I biked up north to arrive at the Akasaki promenade. The walkway made of white wood snakes along the cliff, a strange sight to behold. The waves here are calm as rocks form a kind of breakwater. In its long history, the island once admired by the Jomon people was also a penal colony. Early the next morning, I visited a huge white cross on a hill overlooking the village. The cross is a monument to a Korean woman with the Christian name Julia. She was exiled to this island for refusing to convert at a time when Christianity was banned in Japan. Getting There: From Takeshiba dock in Minato Ward, Tokyo, it takes 3 hours 45 minutes by high-speed jet boat or about 12 hours by large passenger ferry to reach Kozushima island. Ships also leave regularly for the island from Yokohama and Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture. By air, it takes about 35 minutes from Chofu Airport in Chofu, western Tokyo, to Kozushima island. For more information, call the Kozushima village tourism department at (04992) 8-0011.

IZU ISLANDS

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THE IZU ISLANDS is a group of seven main volcanic islands---Oshima, Hachijojima, Miyakejma. Kozushima. Mikurajima and Toshima---about 163 kilometers (100 miles south of Tokyo). All of them are essentially the peaks of submerged volcanos. They have a relatively warm, dry climate the entire year and were used for penal colonies in the Edo period (1603-1868).

The islands are administratively part of Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis contains over 100 islands, 11 of which are permanently inhabited. The Izu Islands, a group of nine, are abundant in nature, with wild coastal hot springs. The largest islands---Oshima and Hachijojima---are regarded as “towns” while the smaller islands---Miyakejma. Kozushima. Mikurajima and Toshima---are considered “villages.”

One travel er wrote “Time slows down on these peaceful islands, with the hot springs, desert, and views of Mt. Fuji all showcasing that Tokyo has much more to offer than just the bright lights and bustle of the city. nI bloom here, and if you make your way to the top of the hill, you get a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji standing tall in the distance across the ocean.

Getting There: The islands can be reached by ferry or plane. Ferries depart for the Izu Islands from Tokyo Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal. Direct flights from Chofu Airport and Haneda Airport are also available. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Websites: Tokyo Islands tokyo-islands.com ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Wikitravel Wikitravel

Mikurashima (30 kilometers south of Miyakejima) is known as the "island of the dolphins." About 270 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are known to inhabit the waters around Mikurajima. Dolphin-viewing trips are popular. Website: Tokyo Islands tokyo-islands.com ;

Hachijo-jima Island (290 kilometers south of Tokyo) is the second largest and southernmost of the Izu islands (68 square kilometers). The site of a penal colony from the 17th and 19th century, it boasts spectacular volcanic scenery, thick subtropical greenery and deep blue waters. Attractions include a dormant volcano, shrines and temples. Bicycles and cars can be rented. Bull-versus-bull fights are frequently held here. Scuba divers can observe underwater lava formation, spot turtles dolphins and see schools of tuna. The lack of beaches doesn’t keep surfers away. Website: Tokyo Islands tokyo-islands.com

Shikinejima

Shikinejima (3 hrs by highspeed boat, 10 hrs by ferry from Tokyo ) is one of the easiest Izu islands to get to. One traveler wrote: “I boarded a large Tokai Kisen passenger ship at Takeshiba Pier. Our destination would be Shikinejima, 160 kilometers south of Tokyo. As we departed at 10pm, I savored the view of Tokyo’s glistening skyline. Upon reaching the open sea, the only light still visible were the stars in the night sky. I made my way down to my cabin to sleep, arriving in Shikinejima at 9amthe next day.

“The hot springs of Shikinejima are extremely wild, the high-quality spring water often mixing directly with the ocean. This has led to a number of top onsen critics to name them as some of east Japan’s finest. You’ll find three open air seaside baths out here: Jinata Onsen, Ashitsuki Onsen, and Matsugashita-miyabi-yu. All three can be used free of charge, you just need your swimwear. I dropped my luggage off at my accommodation for the night and started my tour of the coastal hot springs. All three are close enough to each other to be done in a day on foot.

“I arrived at Jinata Onsen on the south coast after walking through a V-shaped valley that looks like a rocky mountain split by a hatchet. Here the rock pools act as natural baths, and you can see the hot water bubbling up inside them. I placed my feet where the temperature was just right, thanks to the incoming waves of seawater mixing with the boiling hot springs. My body gradually warmed up, while the added sea breeze kept me feeling fresh.

“After that, I ventured to Matsugashita-miyabi-yu, which is used by locals throughout the day. Its water is adjusted to be just the right temperature 24 hours a day. The hot springs here can be a little hard to find as they are hidden away amongst the coastal rocks, but it does mean you can have some fun exploring all the rock pools in a quest to find your favorite bath.

“In the evening, I had a go at gyotaku fish rubbing print at Minshuku Suzutoyo, an inn where fishing lovers like to gather. Gyotaku is a form of art that involves painting fish with ink before pressing them on to cloth to make a detailed print of the fish. This old Japanese custom has become a rarity in modern Japanese culture. Around the inn, you can see gyotaku demonstrating the sizes of fish that can be caught around Shikinejima. The next morning I went fishing on the pier. Fish can be easily spotted in the highly transparent coastal waters, and despite only catching one fish, I found it to be a relaxing experience.”

Oshima

Oshima Island (1 hr 45 mins by high-speed boat, 8 hrs by ferry from Tokyo) can be reached in less than two hours on 300-seat catamaran from Tokyo. The largest island in the Izu group (91 square kilometers). It is a charming laid-back place with 10,000 people, small fishing villages and large camellia fields. Many of the local people like to hang out at public outdoor onsen near Motomachi Port. The ferry services does not take vehicles, which means there are few cars on the island. Mt Mihara is a barren volcano. It takes about an hour of hiking to reach the crater. It last erupted in 1986, when all the residents were evacuated to Tokyo. Websites: Oshima Town site town.oshima.tokyo.jp ; Wikipedia Wikipedia

One traveler wrote: That afternoon I left for Izu Oshima on the high-speed jet ferry. The island, an hour away to the north, is registered as a Japan Geopark due to its natural beauty, shaped by a series of volcanic eruptions. When I arrived, I drove from the port to the Tsubaki-hana Garden. More than 400 different types of tsubaki (camellia) flowers come to part of the island. An old-fashioned townscape still remains, and I visited a popular taiyaki confectionery shop called Bonten. As I ate the delicious fish-shaped cakes that are filled with red bean paste or custard, I reminisced about times gone by. The homely family run-shop, now such a rarity in modern Japan, reminded me of a long-gone era.

“Driving north in a clockwise direction, I came across a significant section of tephra layers in a rock face, which extends for 600 m along the roadside. Repeated volcanic eruptions during the last 20,000 years have formed a beautiful pattern, and I was fascinated by this natural work of art. The following day I stopped by the Akappage volcanic vent near Motomachi Port before my ship set sail. Red scoria is deposited around the quay, making a stark contrast with the blue of the sea. Again I could see the iconic Mt. Fuji filling up the horizon.

“Next, I went east, stopping off at Senzu-no-kiritoshi, a popular photo spot. A narrow staircase runs between two giant trees with thick roots. It is a mysterious place that resembles an entrance to another world. I then walked around Ura-sabaku, the only desert in Japan, at the foot of Mt. Mihara. Dark brown scoria spread out in front of me, making the place look like a lunar surface. It was very quiet, almost silent even, except for the sound of the wind and my footsteps. From Ura-sabaku, I went to a village called Habu in the southern Shikinejima has a long history as an island for therapeutic bathing. Fishing and swimming in the beautiful turquoise sea are also popular. Visit unusual inns to practice ‘gyotaku’ fish printing. The soil on Izu Oshima varies in color, including red and black. From Akappage, Mt. Fuji looks stunning beyond the sea. Senzu-no-kiritoshi is a popular photo spot.”

Near Oshima

Toshima Island (18 miles southwest of Oshima) is the smallest of the main Izu islands, with a circumference of only eight kilometers. The island is mountainous and there are no swimming beaches.

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Niijima (35 miles south of Oshima) is pleasant island that covers 27 square miles. Among its attractions are quaint fishing villages, mountain scenery, flowers, hot springs with ocean views, beaches, friendly guesthouses, houses made of volcanic rocks, bird rookeries and a museums with artwork from imprisoned artists and a collection of surfboards.

The islands has also long been a favored destination of Japanese surfers. There are also some good roads for cycling and mountain bikes. Several bike shops rent bicycles. There are over 200 minshukas and guest houses on the island. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Tokyo Islands tokyo-islands.com

Shikine-Jima Island (4 miles south of Niijima) is small, covering only 3.8 square miles. It boasts swimming beaches, hot springs and lots of guest houses.

Kozu-Shima Island (7 miles south of Shikine-Jima Island) is a small 18-square-kilometer island. It has nice beaches and is dominated by an extinct volcano, Mt. Tenjo.

Miyakejima Island

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Miyakejima Island (120 miles south of Tokyo) is a volcanic island with 240 species of wild bird and dolphin swimming tours. The island has a circumference of 36 kilometers and is the third largest of the Izu islands. "Kusaya," horse mackerel dipped in salt water and dried in the sun, is a specialty of the island

My. Hyotan last erupted in 1983, destroying 400 houses with reddish-black lava. In July 2000, 813-meter-high Mt. Oyoma began erupting. One explosion sent smoke 15,000 meters in the air. All the 3,800 residents on the island was evacuated. Eleven million cubic meters of volcanic ash fell on the island. For several years island remained evacuated. See Volcanoes Websites: Tokyo Islands tokyo-islands.com

Miyakejima is 55.5 square kilometers in size, It is trying to attract visitors as a volcano tourism destination. Among the attractions are building and landscapes scarred and damaged by ash fall, pryoclastic floes and lava. Mt. Oya, is 775 meter high. The island’s airport and museum are off limits, Although the amounts of dangerous sulfur dioxide has has fallen to 1,000 tons a day from 50,000 tons a day in 2000 the areas where they are located are still considered dangerous. Residents were not allowed to return to the island until 2005 when the evacuation order was lifted. The final residence ban on Miyakejima was lifted in January 2011. The last evacuees returned in April 2011 but were not allowed to move into their original homes but had to live somewhere else on the island.

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck Miyakejima in April 2013. Most damage was concentrated in the western half of the island. Landslides also occurred on 14 mountain slopes and 10 meters of a brick wall at a private house collapsed.. The quake brought back terrifying memories among residents of a major volcanic eruption in 2000 that forced the evacuation of the entire island.

Image Sources: 1) 6) 9) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 2) 3) 7) Wikipedia 4) 5) Kamakura Today site 8) NASA 10) Okinawa Tourism 11) 12) 13) Tokyo Islands site

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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