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Ito Japan: 5 Unique Places in the Magical Seaside Onsen Hot Springs Town

Ito Japan: 5 Unique Places in the Magical Seaside Onsen Hot Springs Town

Date published: 7 March 2020
Last updated: 3 December 2020

About a two-hour train ride from Tokyo is Ito, a gorgeous coastal town located in Shizuoka Prefecture. Popular for overnights from Tokyo, this nostalgic area is filled with onsen, and is often seen as the starting point of any trip through east Izu.

This time, we took a stroll through the shopping district in front of Ito Station all the way to Roadside Station Ito Marine Town. From Izu onsen to famous sightseeing spots, as well as tasty bites, let us take you through Ito’s various charms.

Ito, Shizuoka: One of Japan’s most prominent hot springs areas

Ito, Shizuoka: One of Japan’s most prominent hot springs areas
Kaito, a hot springs town that is said to have been around since the Heian Period

First is a 2-hour long ride from Tokyo Station to Atami Station via the Tokaido Line, after which a line transfer towards the JR Ito Line’s Izukyu-Shimoda Station for an additional 25 minutes, and you’ll arrive at Ito Station.

Ito’s onsens have the biggest outputs of hot springs within the prefecture, not to mention one of the best under countrywide standards. With 713 hot spring spouts, the city has had 9 public baths since way back in the day. The main spring types are pure springs and salt springs. The transparent and odorless spring water is said to alleviate chronic rheumatism, neuralgia, women’s diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and lethargy.

1. Ito Onsen Yunohana-dori Shopping Street

1. Ito Onsen Yunohana-dori Shopping Street

This time, starting from Ito Station, we took a stroll around the above mentioned "Tokaikan" and “Roadside Station Ito Marine Town."

With a police box on our right and the station at our backs, beyond the police box is a road sign leading to this trip's first destination, Tokaikan.
When we turned in the direction of the arrow ...

The shopping district, “Ito Onsen Yunohana-Dori,” came into our view. Flanked on both sides of the narrow street by rows of shops, who wouldn’t be hyped?

God of voyages and fishing hauls, Ebisu

While walking around many shops as we looked gingerly around, we spotted a statue of one of the Seven Lucky Gods. In this shopping street, a stamp rally of the hot springs of the Seven Lucky Gods is being held.

At each station, a stamping stand and a stamp are set next to the statue of the Seven Lucky Gods, and you go around the different statues collecting the stamps. Once you collect all seven, present it to a store and get your free sticker.

After facing the road right in front of Ebisu's statue, we were greeted by an illustration of Ebisu himself, bearing a bold smile despite his super-deformed shape. We spent about 20 minutes walking and window shopping while looking for the Seven Lucky Gods. Before we realized it, we had reached the Tokaikan!

2. Tokaikan: An onsen ryokan built in the 1920s

2. Tokaikan: An onsen ryokan built in the 1920s
Gaze at the building’s majesty from along the Matsugawa River

Once boasting fame as an onsen ryokan, the “Tokaikan” opened its doors in 1928 (Showa 3). Now, it’s been registered as a cultural property belonging to the city, welcoming scores of visitors here on tour.

As we stepped into the alley, the sight was as if we time slipped back into the Showa period. Many tourists take their commemorative shots here, it seems!

To the right of the entrance is a wash basin. Bearing the insignia of a Japanese fan, you can experience a small part of Ito’s famous onsens free of charge (Weekends and Public Holidays only).

After taking a shot at the entrance, we entered the building to do a bit of research of our own. First, we passed through the gable, which emphasized the impression of a hot spring establishment. The carving on top is a work by sculptor Morita Toko, who was born here in Ito.

Glass doors greeted us at the main hall, and inside we discovered a particularly large rock.

Opening the door, we arrived at the courtyard, greeted by an arrangement of stones from various regions. A conspicuously large stone with a tail-like rock on its left and a head-like rock on its right... one can only think of a tortoise’s shell seeing this.

Looking up from the courtyard we noticed the second floor. The rooms in the first to third floors formerly used to be guestrooms.

A view of the guestrooms from the corridor

In 1928 (Showa 3), the forester Inaba Yasutaro established the Tokaikan as a ryokan. Each of the floors was designed by a different master craftsman, so they all stand out amongst each other—for example, the sliding doors for the reading alcoves.

Craftsman Tanaka, in charge of the first floor

A phoenix motif was drawn in the space between the "Aoi no Ma" on the first floor.

Craftsman Morita, in charge of the second floor and its furniture

The photo below is the “Botan no Ma" on the second floor. The motif this time is a cast net and hemp leaf.

The “Kujaku no Ma” on the third floor is beautifully crafted with delicate kumiko work, capturing one’s gaze before they realize it.

Each floor tries to stand out with its own uniqueness, which explains why the designs differ greatly from each other. You can see how the visiting guests visited experienced and appreciated the different atmospheres.

We then proceeded to the 3rd floor, where it used to be floored by 120 tatami mats.

The sheer expanse of the reception hall is overwhelming. The dolls on the left are intended to signify the geishas of the time.

Due to renovations necessary to make the structure more earthquake-resistant for the public, the room only fits a slightly smaller amount of 104 tatami mats, but even that is enough to reinforce how wide the space is.

The ceiling, made with wood from the Japanese cedar tree, is a coffered ceiling that implied a high social status. The alcove post is made from a precious wood called enju, which is highly prized. The lighting was unchanged since the establishment’s opening. A wonderful classic.

Opposing the alcove is the stage. It seems that it’s common for tour groups to take their commemorative shots here.

The peacock sculptures decorating both sides of the stage are wonderfully crafted. Like the entrance, this was designed by Morita Toko themselves.

Beyond the stairs at the end of the corridor from the reception hall lies the observation tower.

Climbing up the sudden flight of narrow stairs...

...and we were greeted by Hatsushima from across the numerous houses dotting Ito! When this observation tower was completed, there weren’t any tall buildings like these surrounding the Tokaikan. Besides a great view of the ocean, this was also renowned for its view of Mt. Omuro.

Returning to the first floor, it also has a large public bath. The floors and walls are covered in tiles. The black iron hot spring fountain is also a Morita Toko design.

The bath is actually open for use on weekends and public holidays and is open between 11:00am to 7:00pm while swapping between men’s bath times and women’s bath times (men: 11:00am ~ 12.45pm, 3:00pm~4:45pm. Women: 1:00pm~2:45pm, 5:00pm~7:00pm). The entry fee is 500-yen for adults and 300-yen for middle schoolers or younger (not inclusive of the establishment’s own entry fee).

After getting our fill of Showa retro vibes from the Tokaikan, we went off to our next destination: Roadside Station Ito Marine Town!

  • Tokaikan Former Ryokan
    • Address 12-10 Higashimatsubaracho, Itō, Shizuoka 414-0022
    • Phone Number 0557-36-2004
    • Open 9AM - 9PM

3. Ocean Bazaar: Get a taste of Ito's gourmet seafood!

3. Ocean Bazaar: Get a taste of Ito's gourmet seafood!

From the Tokaikan, we passed National Highway No. 135 and walked along the seaside for 20 minutes.

As the sea breeze caressed our bodies, we ended up in front of a building with a very colorful storefront.

This building was precisely our destination: Ito Marine Town. They first opened their doors in 2001 (Heisei 13), receiving about 2.4 million visitors annually.

Ito Marine Town comprises of 3 buildings.

Facing the building from the parking lot and on that left is the “Ocean Bazaar” building. Here are restaurants with a variety of souvenirs and gourmet seafood.

Next to the Ocean Bazaar is a pink and yellow building called the Spa Building. Other than the “Seaside Spa”, a hot spring establishment suitable for those on day trips, they also serve sweets and meals to make your time here even more enjoyable.

Here, we have the “Port Center Building”. Here, you can find the reception for pleasure cruises.

First off, we headed to the front of the Spa building, where we healed our tired feet at the foot bath (usable between 9:00am to 4:00pm *timings may differ based on season *not usable on rainy days)

Not only is the footbath free, but there’s also no need to bring your own towel!

Right next to the bath is a vending machine that sells the establishment’s own original towers at 100-yen a sheet (tax inclusive).

The 43cm long foot bath!

This loooong long bathtub is warmest in the middle, and the temperature tapers off near the ends.

There’s also a thermometer near the center of the tub as well, and according to it, the temperature is kept around 40 degrees Celsius give and take.

We dipped our feet in and found the water temperature to be just right! Glistening under the sun’s rays, the water felt pleasant and gentle, it’s warmth gradually spreading through our body. Comfortably soothing both body and soul, the view of the ocean adds to the experience as we gazed at the fish-like silhouettes of boats sailing across the sea.

Pleasure cruiser “Haruhiramaru Iruka” is open for boarding from 9:40am to 3:40pm every 40 minutes (opens till 4:40pm on days with exceptionally large crowds)

In front of the foot baths, there was a boarding area for pleasure cruises. Just looking at the petite boats tempted us to try going for a ride! We quickly made our way to the Port Center Building, paid for our tickets and headed to the boarding area.

Our ride: the “Youmin Hook”

Here at Ito Marine Town, the boats in service include the “Haruhira Iruka” as well as the “Youmin Hook”. The latter is available for rides from 9:10am to 3:10pm at every 10-minute interval (opens till 4:40pm on days with exceptionally large crowds).

Regardless of the vessel, you can board up to 10-minutes before departure and seats are free without requiring any reservations.

Once we boarded the boat, we were greeted by a sign that said, “this way to the sea-viewing platform”. The truth is both vessels are half submerged into the water, and thus both have a viewing deck to look into the ocean where you can enjoy the aquatic sights.

Youmin Hook’s sea observation deck

What appears to be a television monitor is actually a small window. Outside these 16 small panels is a gorgeous view straight into Ito’s sea. Throughout the entire ride you can enjoy the beautiful scenery hidden in the sea as the ridge moves past your eyes.

Soon after we departed, we were greeted by a school of fish fluttering about. The harbor in Ito is home to many blackfish, beak fish and damselfish, just to name a few of the 17 different species living here, so visitors get to encounter a large variety of marine life.

Once we departed from the shoal, an announcement rang calling us to the deck. Here, we got to feed the birds!

The feed provided are prawn crackers at 100-yen a pack. Toss the bait into the ocean and watch them dive.

The white birds are hooded gulls, while the black ones are black-tailed gulls.

As soon as we let the feed drop into the sea, the birds swooped in to seize their rewards. Seeing birds doing that up close was truly a heart-thumping eye-opening experience!

As we were getting overwhelmed by the flock, Hatsushima came into view from a distance.

In order to make its way back to port, the vessel swerved, and this time Mt. Omuro came into view on our left. The sea tour ended as quickly as it began. It was a 45-minute ride of satisfaction.

  • Ito Marine Town
    • Address 571-19 Yukawa, Itō, Shizuoka 414-0002
    • Phone Number 0557-38-3811

4. Ito’s local fish, a great hit for the lips!

4. Ito’s local fish, a great hit for the lips!

After satisfying ourselves with the walks and boat rides, our stomachs were rather empty. However, Ito just so happens to be home to the largest ports in the Izu Peninsula. What better option than to try the local catch!

And so, we headed back to the Ocean Bazaar Building, and we caught sight of a sign boasting “Ito’s local fish” in big bold characters. We decided to have lunch at a local favorite restaurant: Izutaro.

Izutaro, located on the first floor of the Ocean Bazaar Building

The establishment was spacious, with both tables and bar counter seats.

The window-side seats boasted a great panoramic view of the marina. The seats at the terrace allow for pets as well, so you can enjoy your meal with your beloved pet.

Izutaro is a restaurant run by a broker who sells and bids at the Ito Fishing Market. Be it from Kawana, Fudo, Ajiro Inadori or Shimoda, the establishment boasts many buys from morning catches from all over the Izu Peninsula. One particular dish you should not miss is the “Izu Local Catch Kaisendon” (2,280-yen, tax inclusive).

Because it uses fish caught in the morning fixed net’s haul, its contents change daily. The ingredients we had for our visit were barracuda, mackerel, grunt, raw and fried silver bait, sakura ebi and salmon roe. Packed to the brim to the point it almost spills over, the fresh tender flavors were deeply moving.

Ito Marine Town’s Ocean Bazaar has a couple of other famous eateries too, such as the “Izukogen Beer Seaside Restaurant” and the “Izuchu Banban Shokudo”, a total of 6 different restaurants to choose from. It’s fun trying to find your favorite pick out of the restaurants in itself!

  • Izutaro
    伊豆太郎 伊東マリンタウン店
    • Address 571-19 Yukawa, Itō, Shizuoka 414-0002
    • Phone Number 0557-35-5550

5. Ito Marine Town: Don't forget to pick up souvenirs!

5. Ito Marine Town: Don't forget to pick up souvenirs!

Here, we’ll be introducing some souvenirs from 12 different shops around Ito Marine Town.

First up, located at the first floor of the Spa Building beside the ice cream store is Izukogen Pudding, a new shop that opened its doors in July 2018.

At the shopfront, they have about 10 different varieties of pudding for sale, including seasonal flavors. We especially recommend the standard but top in the rankings Izukogen Pudding Basic (380-yen tax inclusive).

In the middle of this pudding with its addictive texture are vanilla beans, which add another layer of sweetness and flavor. Unlike other puddings, this one doesn’t use caramel so you can enjoy a simple yet ample flavor of pudding.

Next, we’ll be showcasing 3 Japanese-styled souvenirs.

On the first floor of the Ocean Bazaar is “Sosaku Kashi Isshin”, which makes wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) out of high-quality ingredients carefully selected from the whole of Japan.

Our personal recommendation are these three (from the left): the Mochabo, Guribo, and Uribo.

The Mochabo is a sweet that uses coffee in the batter. Meanwhile, the Guribo blends Guri tea leaves, full of flavor, into the batter. Lastly, the Uribo uses 5 different colored chocolate and meringue in the jam to produce a fluffy sweetness different from the previous two. Each costs 150-yen (tax inclusive), and many buy the trio together as a set.

Opposite Sosaku Kashi Isshin is the store “Isomaru”, stocked with glass bottles that contain delicacies blessed by the sea.

The most popular item is the “Iso Kimchi” (780-yen tax inclusive): Akanishi shellfish dressed in their original kimchi sauce.

Mildly spicy, the Akanishi shellfish has a nice bite to it, in addition to the aroma of the sea harmonizes with the strong taste of kimchi. Other than being a perfect topping with rice, it serves as a great snack to go with alcohol.

Lastly, we have “Dolphin Izu” right in front of the Izutaro restaurant. The “Sakura Ebi Senbei” here (540-yen tax inclusive) is our recommendation.

The snack contains Suruga Bay Sakura Ebi from Shizuoka. Crisp and fragrant, the combination makes you keep grabbing for another bite.

The snack comes in both box or sack form and while they cost the same, the boxed version has 12 pieces, while the sack comes with 14 instead. If you’re buying this for yourself, you should definitely go for the sack option for more value!

  • Ito Marine Town
    • Address 571-19 Yukawa, Itō, Shizuoka 414-0002
    • Phone Number 0557-35-3060

6. Refresh yourself in the oceanside hot spring!

6. Refresh yourself in the oceanside hot spring!
The female bath

At the final lap of our journey, we end it off at the Seaside Spa. Drawing hot spring water from 1000 meters below ground level, this large public bath also boasts an unbroken view of the sea. The hot spring here consists of calcium and sodium chloride, which is said to heal neuralgia and muscle pains, not to mention alleviate cold sensitivity and fatigue. The public bath is on the second floor, while the third floor is where the private jacuzzi and massage rooms are.

The indoor public bath has an upper and lower section, with the lower one having a milder temperature. Warming yourself up in the upper part, then heading to the lower one to soak in both the bath and the view, heading back up to the upper part again to heat yourself back up is one of the best ways to enjoy this hot spring. The tender surface of the water is refreshing to the touch.

The female side’s open-air bath

The place also has an open-air bath, where you can enjoy the sea breeze as you overlook the ocean in the warmth of the onsen.

Above depicts the private jacuzzi, which can be booked for an additional 2,160-yen (tax inclusive) per hour on top of the basic entry fee. Up to 5 people can fit, and while you need to make a reservation before your visit, they’ll let you reserve it even if your call is on the same day so long as they have slots available.

Watching the sunrise from the open-air bath

What’s unique at the Seaside Spa is that they start business operations as early as 5am in the morning, where you can actually catch the sunrise climbing up the horizon from across the sea! If you’re one to appreciate such views, you’d definitely want to come back for the early morning experience!

  • Ito Marine Town Seaside Spa
    伊東マリンタウン シーサイドスパ&マリーナ展望レストラン
    • Address 571-19 Yukawa, Itō, Shizuoka 414-0002
    • Phone Number 0557-38-1811

While the trip denoted here was on foot, if you take the bus, you can visit even more places like the “Izu Saboten Zoo” and “Jogasaki Beach”, some of East Izu’s well-loved tourist spots.

In that case, you should get the “Ito Tourist Free Pass" (1,300-yen for adults, 650-yen for elementary schoolers or younger, both tax inclusive) which allows unlimited bus rides on services provided by the Tokai Bus group. You can purchase it at their information counter at Ito Station. Of course, the bus services are also accessible at Ito Station and Ito Marine Town too.

Ito, a hot spring town not only easily accessible from Tokyo but boasting plenty of sights even around the station. While many might think driving a car is necessary to tour Izu, there’s plenty of merits to taking one’s time to walk around the station and enjoy the various gourmet dishes and hot springs, all of which part of Izu’s charm that can be experienced within a day.

Written by: Rieko Nagai

Recommended Hotels Near Ito

  • Yokikan
    • Address Suehiromachi 2-24 , Ito, Shizuoka, 414-0015
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Ito Station (JR Ito Line / JR Ueno Tokyo Line / Izukyu Line)
      33 minutes on foot

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*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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