I arrived at Shuzenji Onsen in late October, before the fall leaves had completely turned. I had come to the area to stay at Kikuya, a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) that was renowned for its old-world architecture and distinctly Japanese baths. Roughly located at the center of the Izu Peninsula, the Shuzenji Onsen area is home to three spots that captured a coveted two-star rating (three being the maximum) in the 2009 edition of the respected French guidebook, Michelin Green Guide Japon: Shuzenji (the central shrine), Chikurin no Komichi (a wooded pathway) and Shigetsuden (a temple).
Built in 1890 (the 23rd year of the Meiji Era), the venerable Fukuzumiro's entire complex is a registered cultural landmark. The area I will be specifically detailing is a Japanese-style room located on the mountain stream side of the building. Outside its window, the view of luxuriant greenery and the rushing river unfolds before my very eyes.
Investigating popular hot springs around the Tokyo area tends to turn up the usual suspects: Hakone, Nikko, locations holed up in the mountains like some curmudgeony hermit. But what about the traveler that longs for the fresh ocean air? The sound of waves gently lapping at the shore? The sight of a boundless blue vista, glistening waters melding into a cerulean sky as their body melts away into the hot spring and their mind drifts off into the horizon?
For that discerning traveler, there is the Izu Penninsula.
Whether it's from the bullet train traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto, from Hakone's cable cars and cruise ships, or simply from a Tokyo skyscraper on an exceptionally clear day, catching a glimpse of Mt. Fuji never fails to inspire. Even better then is spending an entire weekend with Mt. Fuji as your backdrop, as I did when I stayed at Sunnide Resort in Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture.