I explored the Shuzenji Onsen on the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. It is a region famous for hot springs and wasabi.
The bath in the middle of the river is the oldest in the area and was apparently first built by a famous zen monk over 1000 years ago.
Shuzenji Onsen is near the last train stop on the Izu Hakone Train Line. This is where mountain biking and cycling will take place during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
I visited there to look at the old ryokan inn and onsen hot springs. I also went to a modern onsen and had a look around the nice little river.
This is a tourist region. The tourist brochure said it is a little Kyoto, but having been to the real Kyoto I didn't feel it. Besides, Kyoto was the capital of Japan for a long time and it is world-famous.
Shuzenji is a popular regional resort area and has been popular for a few hundred years, but Kyoto has more temples than I can count and thousands of tourists. Shuzenji was much, much more peaceful which is a good thing.
You can easily get to this place from Tokyo in a day and just transfer at Mishima station to the Izu line. When you get here, it is obvious because it is the last stop. Then hop on a short bus ride to the old spa area.
When I arrived at the old spa area, first I noticed an old shrine with huge trees. I didn't really want to go in there because people were busy chanting and Shinto is not my religion.
After I noticed a large temple. This was not busy with worshippers worshipping.there were nice zen gardens, a bamboo grove, small ponds, and plants. It looked quite nice.
As for the area's history, the bath in the middle of the river is the oldest in the area. It is called Tokk no yu and the river is called the Katsura River which flows into the Kano River. The town is famous for the tomb of Minamoto no Yoriie, he was the second shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate. He was exiled here and probably murdered. The area is named after the temple which was founded by Kobo Daishi who is a famous Zen Buddist Scholar who lived around 1200 years ago. He also made the first bath. Here is some info.
After I walked along the river. There were many nice bridges, small foot baths, old ryokan inns, gardens, and shops. It was very scenic and the natural setting was quite spectacular. There was a little bit of everything. However, I only spent two hours here and half that time was soaking my feet in the many pubic foot baths.
This is a volcanic region so the water is naturally hot even near the surface. It was summer so I couldn't see the clouds of steam since the weather outside was like a sauna anyway, but I'm sure in the winter there are streams of steam coming out everywhere.
I did visit an actual Onsen after for a bath. They are all over the place. You need to pay to get in and for some of them, you must spend the night, too. Unfortunately, you cannot take pictures in the bathhouse because it is rude and an extreme violation of the other people's privacy.
If you are in the area, I definitely recommend visiting here. It can easily be done in a morning or an afternoon and there are lots of other places to explore on the Izu Peninsula.