Shuzenji Onsen | One of Shizuoka’s Best Hot Spring Towns

A Japanese bridge crosses a river in the center of Shuzenji, one of the most famous and oldest hot springs in Japan.

There are a lot of great hot spring towns within the vicinity of Tokyo. Both for day trips and overnight stays alike, you’ll find a wide host of options on offer nearby Japan’s capital. For those looking for something a little more quaint and mature, a more famous onsen resort like Hakone can be a little bit too lively. Luckily, Shizuoka Prefecture’s Shuzenji Onsen is just what the doctor ordered. Located on the Izu Peninsula, this hot spring can be easily reached from Tokyo and is definitely a place to consider next time you’re in Japan.

As a town, Shuzenji Onsen has a ton of history to it. The hot spring haven allegedly dates back to the 800s. According to a local legend, it was founded by the legendary monk Kukai on one of his adventures across Japan. Seeing a man bathing in a cold river, the benevolent Buddhist struck a rock with a ritualistic instrument that’s used in religious ceremonies. From the resulting hole, hot water gushed forth. In honor and in thanks of this new geothermal source that he had created, Kukai created a temple nearby and this was the start of the town of Shuzenji Onsen. Since then, the village has had an unbroken history of soothing soakers’ worries.

Geologically speaking, Shuzenji Onsen is a hamlet that is part of the Amagi volcanic mountain range. Located in the heart of Shizuoka Prefecture’s Izu Peninsula, Shuzenji Onsen lacks the ocean views that you might find at other hot spring towns down in this part of Japan. Thankfully, the river that runs through Shuzenji Onsen coupled with its secluded vibe more than makes up for this. Trust me when I say that my recommendation today can easily compete with any of the Izu Peninsula’s seaside options. In fact, Atami aside, I might go as far as saying that it is my favorite hot spring in the prefecture.

By the way, the astute readers and fellow temple fans out there will notice that I am opting to write the name of today’s topic as “Shuzenji.” Normally, when it comes to Buddhist establishments, I like to hyphenate the “-ji” suffix but it seems that the whole English speaking world has already settled on using Shuzenji instead of Shuzen-ji. To not confuse the search engine algorithms, I’ll maintain the status quo despite it somewhat getting on my nerves.

How to Get There

I am going to assume that you’re going to access Shuzenji Onsen via train. In the “Other Nearby Attractions” section, I’ll detail how you, the reader, can actually make your way over here by ferry from Shizuoka City. To get to Shuzenji Onsen, you’ll want to start by first making your way to Mishima Station via the Tokaido Shinkansen. Luckily for the JR Rail Pass holders out there, this part of the journey can be done for free on one of the Kodama bullet trains. After arriving at Mishima Station, you’ll thereafter need to transfer to the Izuhakone Tetsudo-Sunzu Railway and take this to Shuzenji Station.

Another way to get to Shuzenji Onsen is to take one of the ODORIKO Limited Express trains that service the Izu Peninsula. To ride one of these posh trains, you’ll need to pay a bit extra but the upside is that it will take you all the way to Shuzenji Station without the need to transfer at Mishima. All things considered, this would be my recommended method for those looking for easy logistics from Tokyo. At the same time though, this method does mean you need to skip out on seeing Mishima Taisha and/or any other stops en route.

In either case, whether you take the Tokaido Shinkansen or the ODORIKO Limited Express, refer to a service like Jorudan to help calculate the departure times. Frankly, I don’t know how I would manage my travels without these platforms calculating the train schedules for me. Just plug in your destination (in this case Shuzenji Station) and let the program do the rest.

Have a Soak at Tokko-no-Yu

Tokko-no-Yu is an open free foot bath that is located in the center of Shuzenji Izu and is one of the most famous oldest natural hot springs nearby Tokyo

Like with most other hot spring towns in Japan, Shuzenji Onsen is a place that you go to relax. Rather than rush from sightseeing spot to sightseeing spot, this secluded spot is somewhere that you enjoy at leisure. That said, there are a few spots in this hot spring town that you ought to check out. The first of these is Tokko-no-Yu. Located here along the Katsura River, Tokko-no-Yu is supposedly the site where Kukai struck the ground 1,200 years ago.

Today, Tokko-no-Yu can be enjoyed as a foot bath while exploring the town of Shuzenji Onsen. You’ll know that you’ve come across it when you see the wooden gazebo pictured above out on Katsura River. Seeing as the history of Shuzenji Onsen begins with Tokko-no-Yu, you absolutely ought to at least give your feet a quick soak here, if only to honor the long legacy that Kukai started over a millennia ago.

The Shuzenji Temple Complex

Founded by Kobo Daishi, the Shuzenji temple complex is deeply important to the Japanese resort in Izu and has ties to the shogun Minamoto Yoriie

No trip to this heavenly hot spring would be complete without also visiting Shuzenji itself. The temple is literally the namesake of the entire town and was established by what is quite possibly Japan’s most well known adherent of Buddhism, Kukai. What’s more, the Shuzenji temple grounds are quite picturesque, especially during the months of autumn when the fall foliage is at its peak. Seeing as Shuzenji is located right by Tokko-no-Yu, you’d be silly to not swing by while meandering around the town.

Though Shuzenji can be enjoyed by those with no knowledge of Japanese history, travelers who have an interest in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) will be pleased to know that Shuzenji has all sorts of ties to the shogunate and its regents from the Hojo clan. In the interest of brevity, I won’t bore the non-history buffs out there with the details but suffice to say, if you’re a lover of samurai tales, you should do some reading on the temple’s official site to learn more.

Enjoy the Bamboo Forest

A peaceful bamboo grove that is located only minutes walk away from the central resort areas of Shuzenji in Izu City

Though it’s by no means Kyoto’s Arashiyama, Shuzenji Onsen does have its own bamboo forest to check out. You’ll find the grove here, a few minutes walk away from Tokko-no-Yu and the Shuzenji temple compound. Though picturesque during the day, the small collection of bamboo is especially charming at night when it is lit up. Should you be staying at one of the more conveniently located ryokan in Shuzenji Onsen, definitely consider swinging by here at night while wearing a yukata.

Like with many other places in the Japanese archipelago, Shuzenji actually bears the name of “Little Kyoto.” When you visit, try to keep this in mind as you wander around the various shops and luxury ryokan that can be found in the peaceful area. Unlike Kyoto, this part of Izu City only has one temple of note. That said, you can really feel the years of history all throughout this onsen town of legend.

Other Nearby Attractions

An epic view of Mt. Fuji along the rock beach coast of Miho-no-Matsubara in Shizuoka City is a great add on for those who have visited Shuzenji

As amazing as Shuzenji Onsen is, there’s even more things to do in the nearby area. While a trip to the hot spring town alone is sufficient to justify the journey, you’ll have a much better time if you also take a half a day to explore some more of Shizuoka Prefecture. Seeing as Shuzenji Station is the terminus for the Izuhakone Tetsudo-Sunzu Railway, you’re going to need to first backtrack to Mishima. From there, you can check out the aforementioned Mishima Taisha. Alternatively, you could also elect to visit Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha, the main shrine to Mt. Fuji, and the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Center.

During my stint in Shuzenji Onsen, my group and I took a bus over to Toi Onsen. At this small hot spring town, we were able to catch a ferry over to Shimizu Port in Shizuoka’s capital city. From here, we were able to eat some great seafood and visit some of the local allures like Nihondaira and Miho-no-Matsubara (pictured above). From what I could gather while waiting for the ferry, it seems that there is a bus that runs from Shuzenji meaning that you could potentially do this route via public transportation. Of course, the reverse is also possible too.

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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