May 11, 2019
Gallery - Shirahama, Cape Irozaki, Shimoda: Tokyo to the Izu road trip
On the road for the long Golden Week in 2019 making the drive from Tokyo to the tip of the Izu Peninsula and back.
See Day 1 here: Road trip from Tokyo to the Izu
Day 2 - Wednesday May 1
6:00 am - Shirahama
Having hit the sack early doors the previous day we were up and at them on Day two of our Tokyo to the Izu and back road trip. Well, this traveler was up at least, so I stole out of the B&B (but without the breakfast “B”) to take a look at the beach just over the road.
Conditions are still blown out from the previous day although the wind has subsided. A couple of surfers are out but seem to be getting little joy from the chunky and choppy surf.
At the northern end of the beach at Shirahama is a shrine of the same name. Shirahama Jinja sits on a rocky and forested headland and can be identified from the beach by a small torii perched on a rocky bluff that gets pounded by waves. The shrine proper is buried in the trees.
This is the first morning of the Reiwa era. I don’t care that much but padding around the quiet (and quite beautiful shrine grounds) seems like a nice way to start a new era while everyone else is still asleep or frantically firing off socials to max out the 怜和 (Reiwa) hashtag.
Heading out of the shrine through the main torii and onto the road through town (annoyingly busy for most of the day but quiet now) I take a right and walk north past the large, “Welcome to Shirahama,” mural emblazoned with hibiscus and bright colors that lets passersby know this is a bohemian kind of a place.
Shirahama is really yet to wake up though, so breakfast will have to be the convenience store bread and coffee purchased the previous day.
10:30 am - Surfing
Between breakfast and catching up on the news of the new era, the winds have dropped significantly. Reiwa is going to let us get into some surf after all.
Board waxed (a 6.0 -- a good all-round board for Japan), 3mm wetsuit on, clean 4 - 6 ft swells with plenty of kick rolling into the beach, and Golden Week crowds subdued by the gloomy conditions mean we get a good couple of hours of wave riding in before lunch. No more though. Further rain is forecast and we can see it lingering ominously over the rich greens of the hills beyond town. We want to drive over to Cape Irozaki before the views are totally spoiled.
13:30 - Shirahama to Cape Irozaki
Cape Irozaki is the southernmost point of the Izu Peninsula. The drive there from Shirahama is a pleasant one -- through central Shimoda then heading out of town on Route 136 to skirt past the beach town of Kisami before getting onto coastal Route 16 near Yuigahama Beach for the approach to the cape.
These days there is bus service all the way to a visitors center at the cape but those with the legs can make a walk of it by parking up at the tight cove at the foot of the headland, from which the Irozaki Cape cliffs ferry services depart. (There are two parking lots here, one is free the other commands a fee, although it’s not abundantly clear what you’re getting for your money, despite the enthusiastic appeals of the old lady at the entrance.)
The visitors center at Cape Irozaki is shiny and new having opened as recently as April. Perhaps the primary appeal here is toward the peninsula’s status as a UNESCO Global Geopark (designated in 2018).
(UNESCO Global Geoparks: “... single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development,” according to UNESCO.)
You don’t need a visitors center or much in the way of geological schooling (although information at the center can give you the basics) though to appreciate this as dramatic part of the world. Just head down to the cape itself, about a 10-minute walk from the center.
Tucked in below the cape’s lighthouse a diminutive shrine has been clawed out of the rugged cliff face. It does the typical shrine thing of encouraging visitors to throw away any loose change but otherwise there’s little to see at the shrine (it is very little). Better to shuffle (clockwise) around the cape and take in the view north of Cape Washiga, across the water, where a jagged coastline faces off with the ocean.
The visitors center does food. One item on the menu is soft ice cream served with salt made from the waters of a local hot-spring. It’s a gimmick, surely, but the elderly lady serving me is enthusiastic about it as she bangs the salt shaker against to counter to make sure that plenty gets out and onto my ice cream.
“Take it back to the table with you, and apply as needed,” she tells me like she’s dispensing fungal cream.
Turns out I only need it for some photos though. The ice cream tastes better without it.
15:00 - Cape Irozaki to Shimoda
In weather like this an hour or so will do at the cape so we make our way back down to the go-kart waiting patiently down in the cove under the idle gaze of the old-timers who run the handful of stores around the parking lots.
Route 16 swings northeast around the tip of the Izu. After around 1 km we make a stop at Cape Aiai, an exposed, windswept spot boasting of spectacular views to the west. We’d linger but the gusts are posing a serious threat to the umbrella and we have already lost one set of clothes each to a soaking from the previous day’s rain.
The road heads inland from Cape Aiai snaking through the hills and trees to rejoin 136 after the town of Iruma and eventually looping us back to Shimoda.
I’d bought visiting family from back home to Shimoda almost exactly a year ago, so there’s an accompanying pang of homesickness as we stroll through the town.
At a damp 4pm it’s quiet in town. Fishing boats line the sides of the Inouzawa River enjoying the Golden-Week rest, the bust of Admiral Perry though continues its task of posing for photos. Along the street named after him -- Perry Road -- most of the cafes have shut up shop for the day including the place that sells amazing gluten-free pancakes that I ate at with the family last time around.
At streets end the roof of Ryosenji Temple and the surrounding foliage fair drips with the afternoon’s rain.
17:30 - Dinner
Shimoda suffers the affliction of many small holiday spots and resort towns across Japan, that of having little in the way of life and entertainment in the evenings -- most people are ensconced in resorts and ryokan enjoying all-inclusive dinners and post-onsen booze.
This leaves the traveler on a room-only deal having to seek out places that are A, open, and B, in the case of foreigners like us, look like somewhere with an interpretable menu.
We consult the numbered Shimoda Guide Map and end up at the counter of eatery Ryoma (料磨) which serves up, quite frankly, amazing tendon (bowls of tempura on rice). They have an English-language menu detailing their classic dishes only. We’re not the only foreigners at the time of dining.
Dinner is a wrap and it’s back in the go-kart for the journey around the headland to Shirahama with a stop at the beachfront convenience store for dessert and beers to keep us company in front of the TV and news of Emperor Naruhito’s first day at the office.
Entrance to both capes visited on this day is free and the Perry Road area of Shimoda has plenty to please the eye without having to hand over coin. The day’s expenses were limited then to food and drink, and another night of accommodation (twin room, shared bathroom / toilet, no meals). Gas for the car covered in the previous post.
Costs detailed below are per person.
(convenience-store bread / coffee)
|Ice cream (and salt at Cape Irozaki)||350 yen|
|Tendon dinner||1,600 yen|
dessert and beer
for days 1 and 3 of our tokyo to Izu road trip
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