Mt. Fuji might be the most popular tourist destination in Shizuoka, Japan, but most people do not know that this prefecture has a lot more to offer. In this article, I will give you a visual tour of Shizuoka’s Ito City (伊東市), a city in the coastal area of Japan that is just two hours away from Tokyo via local train.
Ito City is located in the northeast corner of the Izu Peninsula, the part of Japan that faces the Pacific Ocean. The city has a very small population yet is very tourist friendly. And in spite of the efforts of the local government to make it more known to tourists, the city is yet to gain its fame. With that, here are some of the interesting spots that you can see and things that you can do within the city!
Just a 15-minute walk away from Izukogen Station (伊豆高原駅) is Ooyodo-koyodo. Here you can see a clear view of the ocean waves hitting the rock formation on the coast. On your path towards this area, you will pass a very scenic view of trees enveloping the paved road for tourists. It is a wonderful escape from everyday life and a really nice way to relax and enjoy nature.
In the same area is a suspension bridge that gives you a clearer view of the ocean and the shore. Considering that Ito City is on the coast, you will definitely see a lot of suspension bridges. I have been to three different suspension bridges, however, I would not recommend you to travel far just to experience the other ones. The experience of crossing the suspension bridge in Ooyodo-koyodo is more than enough.
You can also climb down the suspension bridge if you are a thrillseeker and wish to feel and see the waves up close. However, I do not recommend you to go too near because the water current and waves change abruptly. The area is pretty empty so if ever you get into an accident, no one will be able to help and rescue you. Be sure to be at least a few meters away from the water marks so you do not get hit by the tides.
Once you’ve enjoyed the beauty of nature, you can go to the Izu Teddy Bear Museum and/or the Antique Jewellery Museum, which are located close to each other. Entrance for the Izu Teddy Bear Museum costs 1,080 yen, while entrance for the Antique Jewellery Museum costs 900 yen. Both museums also offer discount coupons on their respective websites here (Japanese only) and here (Japanese only).
The Izu Teddy Bear Museum is filled with cuteness and life-size teddy bears! If you are a fan of all things fluffy, you will surely like this museum. On the second floor, there is also a Ghibli exhibition. It is not as big as the one that you can see in the Ghibli Museum located in Mitaka, Tokyo, but having it there provides you a bonus attraction. You can even ride a cat bus similar to the one you can see in the movie, My Neighbor Totoro.
If you would like to unwind after all the walking, you can visit KENNY’S HOUSE CAFE, which is just near the museum. The sweets in this shop are relatively cheap and are pretty tasty.
Unfortunately, I was not able to visit the Antique Jewellery Museum for I ran out of time, so be extra mindful of the closing hours of these places!
Another interesting place to check out in Ito City is Mt. Omuro, just a 20-minute bus ride from Izukogen Station. It is worth visiting because you get to walk and circle the top of the mountain, where you can see a panoramic view of Eastern Shizuoka – you can see the cities nearby, the Pacific Ocean, and the majestic Mt. Fuji. The path is approximately 600 meters and if you go during autumn, winter, or spring, it will surely be cold, so be prepared and wear a jacket.
Also, if you are a cat lover, not far from this mountain is a cat park (cafe). It is just a bus stop away from Mt. Omuro. Unfortunately, the park does not have an official website. However, if you wish to visit it, you can find it in the brochure that you can get from the train station.
Another interesting place to visit from Mt. Omuro is Lake Ippeki, a small crater lake located to the north of the mountain. The place is popular for boat rides, especially during autumn and spring. However, I went to Ito during winter so I did not pay it a visit as suggested by the tourist guide in the station.
After all the walking and exploring, it is best to relax. And what better way to do this than to take a dip in a hot spring? After returning to the station, you can visit Izukogen no Yu. This hot spring is pretty interesting because it has mud baths and you can use a special mud mask to give your skin a treat. The mask is actually free and you can use it all over your body if you want to.
Ukiyama Hot Spring (浮山温泉) is also a good alternative if you wish to bathe in a hot spring from where you can see the ocean. However, unlike Izukogen no Yu which is roughly eight minutes away from the station, Ukiyama takes approximately 15 minutes by bus. The hot spring has a shuttle service from the station, and I believe that most people who go to Ukiyama spend their night there.
These are just some of the things that you can do in Ito City, Shizuoka. If you go down south, you can go snorkeling and scuba diving. If you go west, you can do some trekking and mountain climbing. If you go north, you can go hot spring hopping.
Indeed, Ito City is an unknown gem overlooked by most foreigners. I suggest that you give it at least a day so that you get to see more of what Shizuoka has to offer. The best part about traveling in this area is that most spots are very accessible from the station and all guidebooks are very easy to follow. You can even go there without a plan and just check out places at the tourism center upon arrival. That is how tourist friendly this underrated city is!