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Tue, Oct. 17, 2017 Minami-Izu: Unspoiled seaside getaway
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The Minami-Izu area lies on the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula, in Shizuoka Prefecture. It is a popular destination for those who love marine sports, such as surfing, snorkeling and fishing.

On this edition of Journeys in Japan, Michael Keida explores this rugged coastline. He catches some waves on his surf board. He rents a snorkel, mask and fins so he can look at the subtropical fish that live in the shallow sheltered waters. He goes out angling on a fishing boat, and then enjoys the seafood he catches for dinner at his lodging.

The highlight of his trip is when he goes diving off Mikomoto-shima, an island nine kilometers off the coast of Minami-Izu. At this world-famous dive spot, he is lucky enough to see a huge group of hammerheads, a distinctive species of shark that can grow over four meters long.

Mikomoto Island - diving for hammerhead sharks
Mikomoto Island - diving for hammerhead sharks
Mikomoto Island (Mikomoto-shima) lies nine kilometers off the coast of Minami-Izu. As a dive spot, it is a world famous because large herds of hammerhead sharks gather there in late-summer and autumn. The fast currents in the ocean here make diving very difficult, so advanced diving skills are required, including familiarity with drift diving.

One company that takes out divers to view the hammerheads is Mikomoto Hammers. This dive shop only accepts people who have completed more than 30 dives. Divers are also required to carry a float. Even if there are no hammerheads to be seen, this is still a good spot to observe many other fish, including large pelagic fish.
Mikomoto Hammers
tel: +81-(0)558-62-4105
Ebisujima snorkeling spot
Ebisujima snorkeling spot
A popular location for snorkeling is the stretch of coast by Ebisujima Island, in the Suzaki district. Here, the water is a maximum of five meters deep, and the waves are gentle because the area is surrounded by rocks. The transparency is generally good, so it is usually possible to see many different types of fish. The nearby Suzaki Diving Center rents equipment for snorkels, masks and fins.
Suzaki Diving Center
tel: +81-(0)558-27-3535 (in Japanese only)
Surfing at Tatadohama Beach
Surfing at Tatadohama Beach
Minami-Izu has many good surfing spots. The beach at Tatadohama is popular as there is a constant ocean swell which creates waves year-round. National surfing contests are held here. The waves break gently, so it is also a good place for beginners, as well as experts. Parking and toilets are provided free of charge. Hot showers are also available (for a fee).
The warm Kuroshio Current runs offshore from Minami-Izu, making it a fishing point where you can expect a wide variety of fish, including several larger species. Fishing boats will take anglers to the best fishing spots. They also rent out equipment and provide instruction on fishing techniques. This means that even entry-level anglers can enjoy their experience. Choei-maru, the boat introduced in this program, also runs a guesthouse. If you are staying there, you can ask for your catch to be prepared for you.
tel: +81-(0)558-62-3536 (in Japanese only)
Shimoda Aquarium
Shimoda Aquarium
Situated in a natural inlet, this aquarium keeps various species of shark. It is a good place for observing hammerhead sharks up close.
Shimoda Aquarium
tel: +81-(0)558-22-3567 (in Japanese only)
A troop of about 300 wild macaques (Japanese monkeys) can be found living on the coast of Minami-Izu. They are not kept behind fences, so it is sometimes possible to take photos together with them. It is prohibited to eat or drink outside the buildings here, because the monkeys may steal your food or mess with your bags.
tel: +81-(0)558-67-0050 (in Japanese only)
To reach Minami-Izu from Tokyo, it takes two and a half hours to Shimoda by express train. To explore the beaches of Minami-Izu, the best way is to rent a car.
Travel Log

Traveler: Michael Keida > More Info


Occupation:TV talent, organic farmer

Length of residence in Japan:10 years

Reason:I first came to Japan for one year, before returning to America for graduate school. Arriving by chance in a cozy beach town an hour outside of Tokyo, I had finally found my home. Japan has taught me patience, appreciation for simplicity, and how to be a kid again.

Traveler's Archives:

> Nanyo, Ehime: Water for life and fun

> Odate: The Land of the Akita Inu

Minami-Izu is one of the bluest places in Japan. I was able to explore above and below one of the most beautiful oceans that I have ever seen. Although the Izu Peninsula is close to Tokyo, it's a place where you can feel far away from the grind of the city.

My first impressions of Izu came on my drive down the peninsula. The road winds along the ocean flanked by rocky cliffs, then passes through dense forests, and finally cruises alongside white beaches filled with surfers and sunbathers. The air is clean, with a light aroma of pine mixed with the salty sea breeze.

First we visited Tadatohama, where we found mellow waves meeting the shore, beckoning me to grab my longboard. The water was still warm and clear - perfect for wearing board shorts. The locals were friendly and the waves were abundant, so I was able to catch plenty of fun waves.

Next, I was able to hone my fishing skills. Although the water was a bit choppy, we were able to pull in a good haul and enjoy a succulent dinner of sashimi and grilled fish. The seafood in Minami-Izu is always fresh and delicious, with sea bream one of the most popular fish.

I also had a chance to do one of my favorite activities, snorkeling. Even in shallow waters, the abundance of fish and sea creatures was incredible. But it wasn't until we went scuba diving that I saw the true natural beauty that can be found in southern Izu. We took a short boat ride to Mikomoto Island, which lies due south of the peninsula. A warm water current flows from the south and passes on either side of the island, drawing countless schools of fish and other sea creatures.

At first, I was a bit nervous because this current is renowned for its power and speed. At first, we didn't drift so fast but as we entered the current, we picked up more and more speed. The feeling of drift diving is like no other experience in the world. With almost no exertion, your body is propelled at an amazing speed through an endless space of deep blue. We barreled through crevasses and rock formations, all the while surrounded by schools of colorful fish.

Finally, we saw what most people come there for - a giant school of hammerhead sharks. The size and number of these renowned hunters was intimidating but watching them calmly swim through the pure blue background left me in awe. As someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, this is surely one of my greatest experiences, one I will never forget.

After several days in Minami-Izu, it was time to return to my usual life. Honestly, I really wanted to stay a few more days. But knowing how close it is, I am sure I will be back again very soon to experience more of Izu's deep blue waters.

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