Travel Destinations: Izu-Hanto, Japan
Japan is one of the most popular East Asian countries to visit, with Tokyo being the number one destination. However, there is so much more to Japan than just Tokyo.
Located around 100km to the southwest of Tokyo you will find the peninsular, Izu-Hanto. With numerous onsen and its stunning natural beauty, this is one of the most popular destinations in the country. You will need at least three days to tour around this region before heading back to the capital.
With a population of around 43,000 people, Atami is a gorgeous hot springs resort on the coast. It may not have the big cultural attractions to draw the attention of visitors, but this is a stunning place to spend a few hours. The MOA Museum of Art overlooks the coastline and showscases a fascinating array of Japanese and Chinese art, spanning over 1000 years. There are paintings, sculptures, calligraphy and ceramics here.
Another gorgeous hot springs resort, it is famous for being the location where Anijin-san (also known as William Adams) built a ship for the Tokugawa shogunate in the famous book Shogun by James Clavell. There are no real cultural or historical attractions here, but you can relax in one of the onsen baths and take in the rugged beauty of the coastline. There are some good hiking trails along the cliffs at the Jogasaki coast which were formed from lava.
If you only have the time for one place in Izu Hanto, then you need to come to Shimoda; this is the loveliest out of the region’s onsen towns. It is famous for being the residence of the first Western diplomat to live in Japan, the American Townsend Harris.
Ryosen-ji and Choraku-ji are visited for being the place where the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed by the Tokugawa shogunate and Commodore Perry. Next to the temple you will find a small but interesting museum. The main theme here is the Western arrival in Japan. There are some fascinating photos of the tragic life of the courtesan Okichisan who had to give up the man she loved to serve the needs of the Western barbarian Harris. When Perry left Japan five years later, she was stigmatised for having been in a relationship with a foreigner and eventually committed suicide.
Other great places to visit here the Shimoda Koen park which overlooks the bay; in June it bursts into colour when the hydrangeas bloom. In addition to this, there are some great beaches and the opportunity to take a cruise around the bay.