The arrival of summer means the coastal areas of Japan are ripe for discovery. Unbeknownst to many, Japan does boast beautiful seaside destinations in some parts with refreshingly cool ocean water to dip one’s toes in. The Izu Peninsula is a favorite destination for many and Shimoda, one of the southern-most points, is great for a gentle stroll through sleepy towns, some cave exploration and to sample some freshly caught seafood.
A car is the preferred method of transportation to Shimoda. Not only is the drive quite a scenic journey along the coast, but many of Shimoda’s natural attractions are also spread out far and away from the city. If driving isn’t an option, the next quickest way is by catching a fast train out of town. For those hailing from Tokyo, make your way to either Shinagawa Station or Yokohama Station. From there the JR Odoriko Limited Express will whisk you away to Izukyu Shimoda Station, the main station in central Shimoda, in about an hour and twenty minutes.
1. Perry Road
This section of Shimoda has historic roots as it is named after Commodore Matthew C. Perry and his arrival into Shimoda’s port around 1854. It is now a major tourist attraction that features a quaint canal-lined street that starts at Shimoda Park and ends at Ryosenji Temple. Along these streets are cafes, ice cream shops and little boutiques to purchase souvenirs from. In the summertime, the canals are also adorned with blooming ajisai (hydrangeas), creating the perfect backdrop for memorable travel photos.
2. Kawazu Seven Waterfalls
A short drive away in neighboring Kawazu lies a picturesque walking trail through seven different waterfalls. The walk which takes travelers through lush and leafy forest areas features waterfalls ranging from the 30-meter high Odaru (large waterfall) all the way to the 2-meter mini-sized Kanidaru (crab waterfall). Along the way are interesting statues showcasing scenes from Izu no Odoriko (The Izu Dancer). There’s also a short story by Yasunari Kawabata, a prolific novelist from the 19th century. This attraction is perfect even on a hot day as the walk has quite a lot of shade and the proximity to the flowing river does help one cool off.
3. Shirahama Beach
Located about five kilometers away from Izukyu Shimoda Station is the peninsula’s most celebrated beach, Shirahama. This 800-meter-long coastline is famous for its sparkling white sand and consistently good surfing conditions. Due to its popularity, the main road has plenty of shops and restaurants catering to your eating and drinking needs. Depending on how early it is into the season, the beach can get quite crowded, so it’s best to arrive early in the day to claim your spot or towards the evening for a pleasant walk while enjoying the sunset.
4. Iritahama Beach
Iritahama Beach is often lauded as one of Japan’s best beaches. It’s located just 15 minutes away by bus, down south from Shimoda City. It is one of the few beaches in Japan to have achieved accreditation for the quality of its water. Surrounded by the very best of nature, it feels like you’re in paradise. Sometimes compared to beaches in Hawaii, the brilliant blue waters of Iritahama will certainly have you reminiscing of other beach trips you had overseas.
5. Ryugu Sea Cave
Ryugu Sea Cave is officially marked as a ‘must-see’ attraction within the southern area of the Izu Peninsula Geopark. The cave is naturally occurring as the sediment eroded through the ebb and flow of waves since time immemorial. The cave is free to explore (although a vehicle fee is incurred if you are utilizing the parking lot) and one can trek along a path that takes you around the cave to view from different vantage points. From above, it resembles a big heart, hence why Ryugu Sea Cave has become a known wishing spot for romance.
6. Toji Beach
Right next door to Ryugu Sea Cave is Toji Beach. Though secluded, Toji Beach is preferred by some people as it offers more privacy compared to the bigger beaches. A unique feature of the area is the Toji Sand Skiing Field where travelers can ski down a low incline that ends facing the ocean. Utilizing this area is free of charge while sandboards, skis and goggles can be rented at the shop across the field for a small fee.
7. Tsumekizaki Park
This stunning seaside park plays host to several nice walking paths as well as a beautiful and diverse flower garden and an old lighthouse. What’s more, it’s surrounded by breathtaking views of the ocean. If you happen to visit during the off-peak months of December to January, you can bear witness to the Tsumekizaki Narcissus Festival that celebrates over 3 million white daffodils in full bloom.
Where to Stay
There are a few big hotel chains in Shimoda. This includes the likes of Shimoda Prince Hotel facing Shirahama Beach and Shimoda Tokyu Hotel near Nabetahama Beach. In general, though, you won’t find many. We recommend scouring the Airbnb map for some great beach house finds, especially if you go by car. There are some stunning and spacious rental homes located just a little further inland. These also usually come at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room when split between a few friends.