Peter Sidell

Imai-So Onsen Hotel in Izu

Rest and relax at this classy beachside onsen resort

Peter Sidell
Peter Sidell   - 3 min read

One time in the gap between Christmas and New Year, I got cabin fever from staying in my apartment, and decided I wanted a night away, somewhere close, relaxing and inexpensive. A tall ask, but a look online led to a late booking discount at Imai-So, an onsen hotel on the east coast of Izu that ticked all the boxes.

The curtains across the entrance tell you that it's a Japanese inn, and straight away as I walked in, I could see the understated elegance I'd imagined. The large, open first floor features a lounge with a view of the ocean, a gift shop selling local souvenirs, and a display of traditionally decorated room, with tatami mats and an alcove for a hanging scroll. Check-in was brisk and efficient, as at least one of the staff speaks capable English; she actually called and left a message after a late lunch in Kawazu led to my missing the shuttle back to the hotel, which just showed me the amount of care they show to the guests.

Even though I knew the dimensions of the room from the online description, I was still struck by quite how spacious it was: my whole apartment would fit inside comfortably, with still enough room to swing a pretty big cat, if it were sufficiently tame. As well as the main sleeping area, I had a little changing room, and a sitting room by the window with a view out over the sea. Here there was a pair of binoculars provided, along with an information sheet telling me which islands I was looking at.

It was decorated with traditional charm: a futon on tatami mat floors, fittings of wood, wicker and bamboo, and sliding screen doors, all creating a peaceful air enhanced by the sound of the sea. There were also modern amenities, of course; I had my little TV and fridge, a closet full of extra bedding in case of need, and a teaset to brew up with in the room.

The main draw is the onsen baths, of course; I was lucky that there weren't many people traveling around this time, so I had the bathroom mostly to myself. The sauna was satisfyingly steamy, and there were indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, all with ocean views, and I found the slightly rough stone walls of the outdoor bath to be pleasantly abrasive. After emerging from the baths, I took advantage of the rest area and the foot massagers just outside.

Imai-so is really a destination in its own right, and it's assumed most guests will be eating in-house, as there are very few dining options (or anything else) nearby; if you want to eat out, it's better to take the train one stop to Kawazu. This town is also the centre for local sightseeing; you can set off for the Nanaderu (Seven Waterfalls) hike, stroll round the Bagatelle French rose garden, or take in some Buddhist history at the Heian Buddha Statues Pavilion.

Getting there

It's just two minutes' walk from Imaihama Kaigan station, on the Izu Kyuko train line between Ito and Shimoda. The hotel also provides a free shuttle bus to and from Kawazu, the next station. If you have a JR Pass, you can cut the journey time by taking the shinkansen bullet train to Atami, then changing to the regular train.

There's one VIP Suite, which has an internal rock garden, private outdoor bath, and floor space of 190 square meters! The other rooms come in standard and deluxe varieties. The cost will vary with the number of guests, the season and day of the week, and whether meals are included.

Peter Sidell

Peter Sidell @peter.sidell

I came to Japan from Manchester, England in 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I'm not working, I write satire and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check YouTube for a taste.