Tag Archives: driving

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Beppu, Yufuin and Oita

Having previously visited Oita Prefecture a couple of years ago and really enjoying myself; I decided that the time was right to re-visit Oita, taking a familiar route but stopping off at some new places along the way.

After flying in from Kita-Kyushu and having good intentions to visit the Fujien Kawachi Wisteria Gardens (which wasn’t open in late April 2017 for good reason, the Wisteria wasn’t even in bloom yet) we decided to take a slightly different route and head to the Kunisaki Peninsula instead. The roads in northern Kyushu, much like the rest of Kyushu, are excellent for driving. Clean, safe and relatively quiet during the April season.

The first port of call on our trip traveling from Kita-kyushu airport was to the Usa-Jingu shrine in Oita, Usi; this stunning little complex of beautiful shrines and buildings is a must do in the area. Prepare to drive for at least 2 hours to reach the Kunisaki Peninsula. Once at Usa-Jingu – which is the main shrine for hachimangu jingu in Japan – you will find some wonderful scenery for strolling around. You should allocate at least an hour of your day for visiting this stunning area.

From there, you may choose to visit Makiodo or other areas of the Kunisaki Peninsula – the Rokugo Manzien temples are some of Japan’s most famous – before heading on to your next destination. Our next stop was to the world famous onsen town of Beppu.

Beppu has so much to do and to enjoy. You can find several “hells”, known as Jigoku in Japanese. These are naturally occurring hot springs that are often with different colour water, smells and/or nature surrounding them. Parking is very easy to find in this area, so when driving around Beppu you should find stopping your vehicle relatively simple and cheap.

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After enjoying a wonderful meal and evening in Beppu, the following day saw us drive for a wonderful breakfast at Jigokumushi Kōbō Kannawa (Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center), where you will be able to cook your food on the heat of the onsen. A great side trip is a short drive away, to Takasakiyama Monkey Park where you can find hundreds of cheeky monkeys (macaques) on top of their own mountain. A wonderful day out!

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A recommended itinerary from there is to drive to the pretty town of Yufuin and set up camp there. You will find it tricky to get around by car around Mount Yufu/Yufuin and so keep this in mind if you are reliant on your vehicle.

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After Yufuin, you may choose to head to Oita City, the main city in Oita prefecture. There are plenty of shops and restaurants here.

After Oita City, we decided to stop by Kitsuki town; a delightful little village on the way to Oita Airport. From there you will find many shops and a pretty little castle to explore.

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A day trip to Chiba, Tateyama

The journey from Tokyo to Chiba can be a nice and quick one, over the famous Tokyo Aqualine; or for those who feel like being a bit more adventurous, travellers can travel around the whole Tokyo Bay before reaching Chiba.

aqualine
Tokyo Aqualine

One Saturday in the summer, we decided to head off for the Tateyama area, using the Tokyo Aqualine to get there. The Aqualine is a wonder of modern engineering. The first part of the Aqualine sees you go up a small bridge, before heading down into the sea for a 10km tunnel, which is straight and is indeed a lot of fun. It’s also incredibly convenient. Once you come out at the other end, you’ve the option of stopping off at the outlet store in Kisarazu, which is a popular one for the ladies looking to do a bit of shopping.

Route
Route

As you’ll see from the route above, there are multiple ways to get to Tateyama. The shortest route can be achieved in 1 hour and 35 minutes, whilst the long route around the bay can take about 2 hours and 5 minutes. All depends if you want to go scenic and country, whilst also being a little easier on the pocket with less tolls; or if you want to go for the big boy route over the Aqualine.

Once in Tateyama, there is plenty to see. Being at the very southern tip of Chiba, there is an excellent array of beaches and the weather has a very humid tropical climate, which means the summer can be incredibly hot.

For those who just want a nice day trip out of Tokyo, this is a great way to experience some good driving and good sights. The fish in Chiba is also highly recommended, with some delicious sushi at numerous service areas along the way.

Izu Peninsula

A side trip to the Izu Peninsula

The Izu Peninsula is a popular side trip away from Tokyo for the day, or even for a weekend. A town full of beautiful onsens and ryokans, you are sure to find both enjoyment and a chance to relax amongst Japanese countryside. The area is well served by local train and direct from Tokyo, whilst driving there is also an excellent experience. A journey from Tokyo to Izu (part of the Shizuoka prefecture) will normally take over 2 hours. Depending on which part of Izu you are staying, this could take as long as 3 hours, however. The peninsula is a very large place.

Tokyo to Izu
Tokyo to Izu

Directions can be found on Google Maps.

There are numerous options for getting to Tokyo. The first, and perhaps the longest route, is to drive from Tokyo into Yokohama, and then follow the route around Sagami Bay. This will then show you some of the beautiful scenery from around this lovely bay overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This also goes through Odawara, a good spot to stop off and have a light snack before you head on into Izu peninsula. Alternatively, and perhaps the fastest route, sees you drive through the highways on an approximate journey of around 142 kilometres, passing through Gotenba. This town is famous for its unparalleled view of Mount Fuji from distance, as you drive through the Yamanashi Prefecture. Gotemba is also famous for being a hot spot for shopping, with Tokyoites taking a weekend trip to the Gotemba Premium Outlets.

Gotemba Premium Outlets
Gotemba Premium Outlets

As the locals swarm to this area on a weekend, be sure to be well prepared for traffic. The road into Izu is sure to be busy and full of tourists and local Japanese people alike, looking for a quick break away from the city.

Izu

In Izu, there are numerous places to enjoy and to stop by. On the east coast, you have the beautiful Jogasaki. Overlooking Sagami Bay this truly offers some wonderful driving around the coastal lines.

Sagami Bay
Sagami Bay

At the southern tip of Izu you have the beautiful Irozaki. This is very close to Kawazu, which is beautiful during the months of March and April for cherry blossom. The sakura is not just the most famous thing from the area though, as you may have heard that Shimoda, just in between Kawazu and Irozaki, is where Commodore Perry’s black ships landed in 1854. Commodore Perry is of course famous for helping Japan break free from their period of isolation; a time when no foreigner was allowed into Japan or to engage with Japanese people.

Further around the west coast of Izu is the delightful Dogashima and Matsuzaki. This unique and scene coastline is famous for its stunning views of stone formations and cliffs. You can even venture into some of the caves along the coast. Driving around this area will give you a good general feel for the area, but the best way to approach this is via boat, which can be found nearby.

In central Izu, and finally, you have the main town of Shuzenji, most famous for its onsen. This resort is named after the local temple of the same name. Many say that Izu hosts Japan’s oldest hot spring.

Shuzenji Onsen
Shuzenji Onsen

If you are planning a trip to Tokyo, do consider a trip around Izu. Nowadays, you can hire a car for around 5000 to 6000 yen, it is also worth shopping around using the excellent Tocoo website.

Izu Map