Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture is a famed hot-spot for onsen (hot spring baths) and every time I`ve been to the area I`ve been asked by students if I had a hot spring bath. More times than not the answer is a flat no and I almost feel guilty for not meeting their expectations. However, on our trip to Izu in September I set out on a mission to see a couple of small outdoor ones along the coast.
They are both located within ten minutes walk of each other on the east coast of the peninsula between Izu Hokkawa and Izu-Ōkawa Stations on the Izu Kyūkō Line. As I approached the first one I had already decided that one onsen would be enough so I just bypassed Hokkawa Onsen and headed on up the main road of Route 135. I`m sure I`ll try that hot spring one day as the views from the baths look pretty nice and better than the one I went to.
As the title of this post suggests though the one I did go to had a very interesting and incredibly unique access point. Getting between the two of them on foot wasn`t so easy as I first had to walk on a quite busy road without any footpaths and then I was able to see the public bath but wondered how I could get to it as the parking spot for it is on the other side of the highway.
This was the most exciting part of it all as some stone steps led down to a stream of cascading fresh, clean water flowing quickly through a narrow tunnel beneath the road and running in to the ocean.
The steps descend to a kind of short wooden platform bridge which takes you to a wet concrete plank-like walkway going through the tunnel but what is at the end of it all?
Unable to stand up fully straight I carefully walked the path like a tightrope-walker with my head down aiming for the daylight at the end of it. This is the view at the end of the tunnel (below) and a short distance on the right as you exit is a rather shabby hut housing two hot spring baths; one for men and one for women.
Turning around on my exit provided some nice shots of the tunnel I`d just come through. Admittedly, there`s nothing too adventurous about it but there was an ever-so-slight feeling of having earned the chance to relax in secret unknown hot waters at the end of it all.
Entrance to Okawa Beachside Hot Springs Isonoyu was 500 yen ($4.40) which is reasonable but could be considered a little expensive for what you get when compared with some of the onsen complex style places. This is a very local place and amenities are very basic. There are no lockers, just a small changing area with baskets on the shelves to place your belongings in. No soap, shower gel or shampoo is provided either for the pre-bathing ritual, and you`ll need to bring your own towel too.
It`s a very small bath and can only fit about five people. Presumably the female side is very similar! It is a big shame that you can`t really see the ocean whilst soaking your bones in the hot water, and the metallic fence on either side does make it feel more enclosed than it really should be.
There is a bit more sense of openness when you wash yourself before bathing, and you can see fisherman dipping their tackle in very nearby too so be wary of that. The onsen waters are very hot and relaxing of course but the main interest for me was the method of entry.
- Okawa Beachside Hot Springs Isonoyu is located at Okawa, Higashiizu-cho, Kamo-gun 413-0301 Shizuoka-ken. It is open from 11am till 6pm but is closed on Tuesdays.
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