Driving along Route 414
Having spent the day prior at the Floating Aquarium and a little cove near Shimoda we had decided to explore the beauty of the Izu Peninsular a bit further away from the coast. The Kawazu Waterfalls looked rather promising and after breakfast we jumped into our car to drive into the mountains above Kawazu Town. Route 414 took us there directly from Rendaiji, where our ryokan was located. The road up from Rendaji first winds itself along the river below Mount Ohira, past little villages and farmland before it turns into a bendy mountain road.
Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge
After about half an hour we reached the outskirts of Kawazu Town and crossed the river that flows down the hills from the waterfalls. We turned left, deeper into the green mountains and were surprised when we suddenly saw a circular bridge made up of two looping curves above each other in front of our car. The Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge is a wonder of Japanese engineering and I thoroughly enjoyed driving the car up the spiralling road. Jerome wanted to go fast like a fair ground ride but it paid to drive slowly as we enjoyed some stunning panoramic views of the valley and the hills beyond on the way up.
Our Arrival at Kawazu Nanadaru
Shortly after the exciting ride up the bridge we arrived at the Kawazu waterfalls. Walking towards the entrance of the trail that runs along the stream, we crossed a bridge and could see the clear mountain water running beneath us. Shops and restaurants lined the entrance to the entrance path, however we skipped the temptation of a cool ice cream for now and only bought some drinks for the walk – as we did not know if there were going to be any vending machines or other shops along the way.
The Seven Waterfalls
The Kawazu waterfalls contain seven waterfalls in total over a distance of about one kilometer. The trail is not very steep and can be managed by little ones, there are some steps along the way though and therefore I would not recommend to bring a pushchair. Jerome was excited when he saw the first of the seven waterfalls, albeit a rather small one. The water was a beautiful turquoise shade and looked rather inviting. There were a few natural pools every now and then and the boys kept an eye out for one large and deep enough for a swim.
Walking Along the Stream
It was a pleasant walk to the sound of furins (wind chimes) hanging in the trees. I am not sure if the cooling effect from the furin wind worked some magic or if it was the cold water in the stream that made the air seem somewhat cooler and made it easier for walking in the stifling summer heat.
Despite it being summer holiday season we passed only a few other visitors. Several statues along the way depict the heroine of the short story “The Izu Dancer” which was set in the area of the Izu Peninsular. When we finally reached the last of the seven waterfalls, the “Odaru”, with a height of 30 meters, we were happy to have made the excursion. The waterfalls were certainly not the most spectacular ones in the world but they were an interesting alternative to the beach. (Please note that Odaru is now apparently only officially accessible to guests of a nearby ryokan!).
Wild Swimming in a Natural Pool
On the return walk the boys decided to go for a swim in the pool of one of the waterfalls on our way back down the track. Chris tried to swim right up to the water gushing down from the waterfall, but the pressure of the fast flowing water prevented him from doing so…
After the refreshing swim we returned to the entrance of the trail and had lunch in one of the restaurants. We enjoyed the local specialty, a hot noodle soup with wild bore meat and treated ourselves to a soft ice cream afterwards.
Shirahama Ohama Beach
We still had the afternoon ahead of us and decided to drive to Kawazuhama and along the coast on the hunt for a good beach, instead of heading straight back to Shimoda. Once again we enjoyed the twisting ride across the Kawazu Bridge. Sadly, Kawazuhama Beach was a big disappointment and we chose to drive on towards Shimoda, to find a nicer beach instead. A few kilometers further on we found Shirahama Ohama Beach. This beach was covered in beautiful, fine sand and was not crowded with other sun seekers and families. Jerome took his body board and attempted to bodysurf in the shallow waves.
Dinner in Shimoda
Refreshed by the surf and a laze on the beach we headed back into Shimoda for a quick supper at a local Italian restaurant. It is always interesting to see how the Japanese adapt classic international dishes to their local tastes (Chicken teryaki pizza anyone?), but I am sure they would say the same if they visited some Asian restaurants in Europe!