201503 Tokyo-Izu Trip Day 5 (Izu Peninsula Road Trip Day 1) – 29 Mar 2015, Sunday
SY and I checked out early from Keikyu EX Hotel Shinagawa and left our bigger luggage at the hotel. Keikyu EX Hotel Shinagawa was just across JR Shinagawa station, making it a convenient place to stay. There were lots of food stores at JR Shinagawa Station and we bought some bentos and snacks for the day.
We needed to travel from Shinagawa Station to Atami Station where we had a rental car waiting for us. The direct train journey on the local line took about 100 minutes. Quite a long journey, but when you have a good friend travelling with you and a yummy apple dessert, time passed by quite quickly. (Yes, you’re allowed to eat and drink on the trains in Japan. Just ensure you take the trash with you and don’t dirty the train.)
Upon arrival at Atami Station, SY and I walked over to Nissan Car Rental to pick up our car. To rent a car in Japan, you’d need to have your country’s driver’s license and an International Driving Permit. Our car came with English GPS so that helped and the car rental company provided some basic information on road signs and what to look out for.
I started the drive nervously as it was the first time I drove in Japan and in over a year. Izu Peninsula was a good place for me to do my first drive in Japan as speed limits were lower and there were fewer cars.
Sawada Seiko Memorial Museum
We drove toward Atami Plum Garden, hoping to catch some Plum Blossoms as it was towards the end of the season. When we arrived at the carpark, we saw Sawada Seiko Memorial Museum 熱海市立澤田政廣記念美術館 and decided to visit before heading over to Atami Plum Garden.
Sawada Seiko Memorial Museum showcased the works of Sawada Seiko, a Japanese painter and sculptor who was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit. It was a very interesting museum; I especially like his stained-glass art.
Atami Plum Garden
Leaving our car in the same parking lot, SY and I headed over to Atami Plum Garden. Though the Plum Blossoms were gone and the trees looked bare, it was still a very beautiful garden. Very tranquil and peaceful as the crowds were gone since season was over.
We were lucky to see a few remaining Plum Blossoms turning into plums and some new plums! There were other flowers blooming in Atami Plum Garden, so that kept us happy.
As it was almost lunch time, SY and I decided to have our bento lunch at Atami Plum Garden and enjoy the beautiful and calming environment. We bought the pork bento that morning at JR Shinagawa Station. It was such a delicious bento as the pork fats were so juicy and the seasoning was tasty. SY and I were enjoying our lunch, admiring the view and chatting away.
After lunch, we continued sightseeing around Atami Plum Garden till it was time to move on to our next stop, Lake Ippeki. We were looking forward to the crater lake as its shores had one of the best places for Cherry Blossom viewing on Izu Peninsula. Lake Ippeki was also famous for its inverted reflected image of the Amagi Mountains.
Along the way, we stopped at a Roadside rest area and discovered the joy of shopping at such rest stops. That was the first time SY and I came across a Rest Area Service Centre and we started shopping for local produces. Having a car made us forget we still needed to carry the shopping from Atami to Tokyo. (Do be careful and plan for extra time when you drive and stop at Rest Area Service Centres in Japan. They are very dangerous places for your wallet and tummy!)
As we left the rest stop and headed toward Lake Ippeki, the weather unfortunately turned and started to rain. When we reached Lake Ippeki, it was still raining. We decided not to stop and drove on towards our lodging for the night.
Initially, we were planning to visit Jogasaki Coast in the afternoon but the rest stop ate into our timing. We didn’t think we had enough time to hike around the Jogasaki Course before the sun set. It was already 4pm when we checked into Hotel Izu Kogen Monogatari for the night. We decided to explore around the area instead.
SY and I were feeling peckish and ate the Sakura leaf mochi we bought earlier. There was an ice cream shop nearby and we bought soft serve cones topped with lots of matcha powder. Yummy!
Near our lodging was a home improvement store (Cainz Izukogenカインズ 伊豆高原店). We had nothing to do but time to kill, so went in to check it out for fun. One of our interesting finds was whiskey sold in giant PET bottles at very affordable prices! It was very tempting but unfortunately or fortunately, both SY and I were not drinkers, so we gave up the idea of lugging the bottles back to Singapore (we would probably be taxed a lot for going over the liquor limits!).
I had planned different places for lunch, tea and dinner that day, but we ended up not going to any of them. We saw this big poster of a Kaisen Don (Seafood Bowl) topped with lots of seafood and Ikura (Salmon Eggs) while driving around. It was quite enticing and we decided to dine at that restaurant instead.
Besides the Kaisen Don, we ordered raw Awabi (Abalone) sashimi and Mackerel sashimi to share. The Kaisen Don was really big portion, as tall as my hand.
SY and I both discovered that we didn’t like raw Awabi sashimi that much (raw Awabi sashimi is crunchy and harder in texture). If I remember correctly, the Kaisen Don wasn’t that great either, quite disappointing. Maybe it should be eaten with a glass of cold beer like on the poster. We ate up as much as we could, but left some rice as it was a lot. With a full tummy, we returned to Hotel Izu Kogen Monogatari for the night as we had a full itinerary the next day and needed to start early.