Formed by Mount Fuji’s ancient lava flows, Izu Hantō protrudes like an arrowhead into the ocean southwest of Tokyo, a mountainous spine whose tortured coastline features some superb scenery and a couple of decent beaches. It takes at least two days to make a complete circuit of this region, taking in some intriguing historical sights and stopping at a few of the peninsula’s estimated 2300 hot springs.
Direct train services from Tokyo run down Izu’s more developed east coast, passing through Atami, with its stylish art museum, to the harbour town of Shimoda, a good base for exploring southern Izu and one of the places Commodore Perry parked his “Black Ships” in 1854, as well as the site of Japan’s first American consulate. Over on west Izu, Dōgashima is another famous beauty spot, with a crop of picturesque islands set in clear, tropical-blue water. The only settlement of any size in central Izu is Shuzenji, whose nearby onsen resort has long been associated with novelists such as Kawabata and Natsume Sōseki.
Izu’s mild climate makes it a possible excursion even in winter, though it’s close enough to Tokyo to be crowded at weekends, and is best avoided during the summer holidays. If you haven’t got a JR pass and want to explore the whole peninsula, check out the various discount tickets available, of which the most useful is the four-day “Izu Free Q Kippu”, which covers the Shinkansen from Tokyo as well as local transport by train and bus. Renting a car is a good idea, as public transport is slow and only really covers the main coastal settlements.