It’s no secret that autumn is my favorite time of year in Japan. The entirety of the countryside comes alive with vibrant hues of red, yellow and orange. As those of you who have visited Japan during this magical season can also attest, it’s truly a magnificent time to explore the prefectures. One wonder that often gets neglected in favor of the fall foliage is Japan’s susuki (tall silver grass). In an attempt to rectify this, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite spots for susuki, Izu’s Inatori Hosono Highlands.
Truth be told, I only recently stumbled across this locale as part of a media event that I was invited to by the Atagawa Prince Hotel. Until then, I had only been familiar with the likes of Nikko’s Senjogahara and Hakone’s Sengokuhara. Alas, both of these sites for susuki are far removed from the ocean. Thus, they lack the amazing combination of mountainous highland, shining susuki and sparkling sea that you’ll find at Izu’s Inatori Hosono Highlands.
As pretty as the area is, you’re going to need to do a bit of hiking to get the best views. This is because the most impressive vistas that the highlands have to offer are from above when looking down on the fields of silver grass. Set against the background of Sagami Bay and the Izu Islands, this is truly a magical sight. Luckily, you don’t need to go all the way to the top of Mt. Mitsuji just to get a glimpse of the susuki though you should still hoof it a little bit up higher.
All in all, the Inatori Hosono Highlands are one serious hidden gem that could use a lot more awareness. If you plan to visit Japan during the month of October or November, consider adding this entirely-free attraction to your itinerary. As you’ll see in the details below, it may require a bit more logistical effort than the aforementioned other susuki spots. That said, the destination is more than worth it!
How to Get There
Let’s pause for a second so that I might share some information about how to get to the Inatori Hosono Highlands. As just alluded to, there are a few more steps involved in reaching this amazing location. At the same time though, the Izu Peninsula is a very popular hot spring getaway for people living in the greater Tokyo region of Kanto. Thanks to this, access is actually far better than it would be in other parts of the countryside.
By far, the easiest and classiest way to travel down to this part of Shizuoka Prefecture is to take one of the Saphir ODORIKO trains. These posh limited expresses are the ultimate premium experience. The elegant cars come equipped with comfortable seating and a cafeteria that will serve you a light meal and some refreshments. It’s an indulgence that I would not recommend anyone skip.
The Saphir ODORIKO trains depart from both Tokyo and Shinjuku. Thus, those looking to take this train line down to the Izu Peninsula should refer to a service like Jorudan to see which of the two points of departure is more convenient for you. Alternatively, you can also take the local Ito Line down from Atami if you rather not splurge on the Saphir ODORIKO. In either case, be sure not to miss the beautiful scenery as you zoom past!
Once you’re actually on the Izu Peninsula, you’ll want to get yourself a rental car if you can. This is because, at least as far as I can tell from the available data online, there’s no good public transportation to and from the nearest station, Izu-Inatori Station. Thus, you’ll need to find a way to traverse this part of the trip. Should you not have your own international license, you may be able to hail a taxi to and from the Inatori Hosono Highlands.
Frankly speaking for the other non-drivers out there though, it might be better to instead arrange transportation wherever you spend the night. During my stint in the area, the Atagawa Prince Hotel kindly drove us over as part of the media event. While your accommodations might not go to this length, they can at least hail you a taxi. Especially on the return, having someone able to be a middleman for you with the taxi driver will greatly help getting back.
Advice for the Highland
After arriving at the Inatori Hosono Highlands, you’ll need to trek a couple of minutes up to where the susuki starts. Assuming that you’re coming during the prime season for the tall silver grass, there will likely be some tents and other infrastructure that has been set up to capitalize on the demand for susuki. In 2022, this window seemed to run from October 7th to November 4th but it might change in other years.
Assuming that you want to make the most of your journey to this hidden gem in Shizuoka, you’re going to want to budget for at least half a day. The entirety of the Inatori Hosono Highlands spans 125 hectares, making it seven times larger than Hakone’s more famous Sengokuhara. What’s more, you’re going to need to make some sort of ascent to get a good view. For reference, see the map above but the best view are around ❻.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually challenge the 821-meter-tall Mt. Mitsuji. Should you make it to the summit, you’ll have an amazing view of the fields of susuki below contrasted against the blue of Sagami Bay. Though not a hard hike, you will need to ensure that you have ample time to reach the top of the peak. I only had two hours and barely made it back. Unfortunately, the susuki all blends together into a yellow carpet from this higher vantage point.
Other Nearby Attractions
There’s a lot more to do down on the Izu Peninsula than just the Inatori Hosono Highlands. Should you be interested in history, I highly suggest that you continue on down south to the small town of Shimoda. Though extremely rural, this part of Japan played a huge role in the opening of the country to the west at the end of the Edo period (1603–1868). Seeing as you’ve already come this far south into Shizuoka, it would be a shame to miss out on Shimoda.
As noted elsewhere, the Izu Peninsula is also rife with all sorts of small hot spring towns. If you’re looking to soak away all of your worries and concerns, consider spending a few more nights at one of these many establishments. Though I am indebted to the Atagawa Prince Hotel for taking me to go see the susuki, there are many other great options out there. Dive on into the data and find one that works for you.
Lastly, should you need a bit of direction on what else to see and do on the Izu Peninsula, I suggest that you check out Japan Guide’s overview. Though it doesn’t go too in depth on any one part of the peninsula, it will give you a good sense of what types of other natural attractions can be seen in this section of Shizuoka.
Until next time travelers…