Shuzenji Onsen – A Secret Hot Spring Town in Shizuoka Prefecture
The quaint onsen town of Shuzenji has long stayed off the path of popularity and tourist crowds, but if you’re looking for a short and wholesome getaway to get away from the noise, leisurely explore on foot, and get lost in Japan’s nature, Shuzenji Onsen might be a great option. Located in the hillier district of Izu Peninsula, don’t expect to see vast ocean views here; instead, you will be blessed with historic buildings and stunning forests.
It’s a town where there is not an extensive list of activities to do, but that is the beauty of it: you can explore the town on your own terms, and whatever activity you do want to do, you know has not been altered by the commercial touch. Shuzenji Onsen is a pure and authentic Japanese experience that goes hand in hand with rest and relaxation.
One of the reasons why people choose to visit this small town is because its appeal has, in the past, helped creatives get in touch with themselves and come out on the other side more inspired and refreshed. It’s also got a history that involves a monk creating an onsen bath out of his own tool, the death of a famous intelligent shogun, and is the birthplace of one of the most quintessential Japanese ingredients ever to grace the face of this earth: wasabi.
How To Get To Shuzenji Onsen?
From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo bullet train to Mishima station, and alight here to change for the Sunzu line for Shuzenji station. Both train rides will take roughly 90-minutes and they are covered by your JR Pass. From Shuzenji station, you will need to catch the Izu Hakone bus to Shuzenji Onsen (10-minutes).
Where To Stay in Shuzenji Onsen?
Hostel in Shuzenji Onsen – Hostel Knot
This conveniently located, wallet-friendly hostel is impeccably clean and maintained to the highest degree of quality by some very attentive and passionate staff. Whilst the rooms are smaller than average (standard for Japan, really), they’re comfortable and guarantee a good night’s rest. The interior of the hostel is relatively grand, reminiscent of a traditional Japanese ryokan. This place is just a stone throw away from Shuzen-ji Temple, being only 200m down the road. It offers air-conditioned rooms, free WIFI, a cozy shared lounge, and private parking options.
Guest Tips: Ask the staff for tips to explore the local area, they really know their stuff. The Japanese-style futon rooms were actually amazing, don’t diss it (for western bedding) until you try it!
Book It Now: Hostel Knot
Ryokan in Shuzenji Onsen – Taizanso
This stylish ryokan located close to Shuzenji Station is one of the most popular accommodation options in Shuzenji Onsen. It boasts incredibly stunning Japanese architecture, private onsen right in the comfort of the guestrooms, free Wi-Fi throughout the property, and the option to book additional massages for that full-on R&R experience. Its convenient location means that you can leisurely head to Shuzen-ji Temple, Shuzenji Niji-no-Sato, Mount Daruma, and even the Numazu Deep Sea Aquarium.
Guest Tips: Look past the price tag, because the Zen experience you’ll get here is like no other. Try and include the dinner option as well because you’ll unlikely find kaiseki meals as great as they are here. Go for a morning walk to the bamboo forest and Shuzenji temple when there’s less people.
Book It Now: Taizanso
The Best Things To Do in Shuzenji Onsen
Here are our list of the best activities you need to try in Shuzenji Onsen:
- Explore The Tranquil Bamboo Rainforest, Chikurin no Komichi
- Partake in Onsen Bathing at Hakoyu
- Try some Wasabi-Flavoured Food and Drinks
- Visit During April for their Yukumi Shiki Matsuri
- Soak your feet at Tokko-no-Yu
- Visit the Legendary Shuzenji Temple
- Hike Mount Daruma
Explore The Tranquil Bamboo Rainforest, Chikurin no Komichi
This is one of the most popular activities to do in Shuzenji Onsen, and for good reason. This bamboo forest is part of the reason why Shuzenji Onsen has been nicknamed ‘Little Kyoto’ by many. The path that you can take which winds through the forest is infinitely quieter than its western counterpart, although its beauty is comparable. It runs along the Katsura River that flows through the centre of the town, past the famous Tokko-no-Yu hot spring, towards Katsura and Kaede Bridge, and up to Takishita Bridge. It’s great for a leisurely stroll or if you’re looking for a particularly picturesque spot to play around with your camera.
- Address: 1031-1 Shuzenji, Izu, Shizuoka 410-2416, Japan
- Access: From Shuzenji Onsen Bus Stop, it is a 5-minute walk.
Partake in Onsen Bathing at Hakoyu
Whilst there are plenty of onsen bathing choices to choose from in Shuzenji, the easiest and most popular way to do so (if you’re only visiting for one day and would just like a few hours of the experience) is at Hakoyu. Hakoyu is unofficially the town’s public bath service, and has been around for a very long time. It’s been renovated drastically so that its amenities are clean and suitable for the modern-day visitor, however there are many aspects that are still reminiscent of the old onsen that once sat there. A defining feature of the onsen is the 12-metre tall observation tower called Gyokuro which sits right at the entrance of the onsen.
- Address: 925 Shuzenji, Izu, Shizuoka 410-2416, Japan
- Access: From Shuzenji Onsen bus stop, it is a 3-minute walk.
- Price: 350 yen (they also provide towel rental, soap, and shampoo)
- Hours: 12:00pm – 9:00pm
Try some Wasabi-Flavoured Food and Drinks
Did you know that Shuzenji Onsen is actually the home region of wasabi? That distinct spicy hot condiment that you sometimes accidentally find on your food one bite too late is, in fact, grown in this onsen town’s backyard! With a reputation like that, you can bet that you’ll be able to find some really unique foods and drinks to try here.
For example, you really can’t leave this place until you’ve tasted wasabi ice cream. Sometimes it’s smeared on top of the scoop, sometimes it’s mixed in with the ice cream, however, every single time, you know you’re in for a hit. There are plenty of dessert stores sprinkled across the small town for you to duck your head into and request a scoop.
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, look out for the famous bottles of Wasabi Sochu, brewed by the popular Bandai Brewery (you can find them at the souvenir stores at Shuzenji Station). When you’re eating a meal in Shuzenji , make sure you don’t throw away that plant on your tray that looks like it’s just been dug out of the garden, because chances are, it probably has been recently! Often restaurants in Shuzenji will serve you with your food alongside a wasabi plant, complete with the stem and all, with a grater mechanism on the side for you to grate your own wasabi. It doesn’t get any fresher than this.
Visit During April for their Yukumi Shiki Matsuri
This relatively smaller scale festival that is held annually during spring to express gratitude and thanks to the founder of Shuzenji Onsen, Kobo Daishi, is no less magnificent than any of its larger neighbouring festivals. The Yukumi Shiki is one of the most aesthetically pleasing matsuris in Shizuoka, where 30 local women are dressed up in colourful and extravagant kimonos, get given pails of water sourced from the hot spring, and parade around the Suzenji Onsen town centre along with 200 other people.
This happens every year on April 21st, from 1:30pm.
Soak your feet at Tokko-no-Yu
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According to legends, the Tokko-no-Yu hot spring which sits right in the middle of Katsura River within Shuzenji Onsen was created out of thin air. The famous Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi struck at a rock with his ritual instrument whilst he was standing at the river, forcing a fountain of water to gush out and thus creating Tokko-no-Yu.
Whilst throughout history it was renowned as a famous bathing site, these days bathing is prohibited. However, it has been transformed into an ashi-yu, or an open-air foot bath, for those wanting to rest their feet after a full day of exploring.
- Address: Shuzenji, Izu, Shizuoka 410-2416, Japan
- Access: From Shuzenji Onsen bus stop, it is a 3-minute walk.
Visit the Legendary Shuzenji Temple
For a day of peace and serenity, a visit to Shuzenji Temple is a must. It was founded in the early 800s by none other than Kobo Daishi, and it’s such a prominent fixture throughout the history of Shuzenji Onsen that it goes hand in hand with a visit to this awesome little town nowadays. You can visit the exhibition which displays artefacts that have been passed down from generations, marvel at the relatively newly erected temple gate, and explore the new nio-do temple area which now houses the Kongo Rikishi statues.
- Address: Japan, 〒410-2416 Shizuoka, Izu, Shuzenji, 964
- Access: From Shuzenji Onsen bus stop, it is a 4-minute walk.
Hike Mount Daruma
Whilst this activity is not exactly located in Shuzenji Onsen town, it’s definitely an activity that can be incorporated during a day visit and/or an overnight stay at the town. The hike up Mount Daruma to its summit is not exactly difficult, nor is it too long; at 3.5 hours (return) with only a moderate incline, even a family with kids should be able to complete it. Towards the end, you will be required to climb some steep stairs to get to the very top, however, we’d say it’s worth it as on a good day, you’ll be rewarded with views of Mount Fuji and Suruga Bay (the deepest body of water in all of Japan). We recommend commencing this hike early in the morning so that you can end up back at the onsen town in the afternoon for a long hot soak in an onsen.
It’s been advised that this trail can be hiked throughout the year, even in winter as they usually only experience little snowfall that barely cover the ground, however please exercise caution during the more extreme seasons.
- Address: Heda, Izu, Shizuoka 410-3402, Japan
- Access: From Shuzenji Onsen bus station, there are buses which will take you to the trailhead at the Heda Toge bus stop in just under 30 minutes.
The gorgeous onsen town of Shuzenji is almost like a breath of fresh air. You’ll likely only come across local domestic tourists here, and crowds will be few and far between, so you probably won’t be experiencing any lines for any activities here! For the optimum amount of rest and relaxation, and for enough time to truly experience this wonderfully historic onsen town, we recommend at least two nights here. No point rushing through a place that you’re visiting for the slow pace and R&R!