Summer Weekend Getaway to Izu Peninsula
Summer is finally here! Along with the rainy season, you can count on lush hydrangea popping up, refreshingly cold beaches, and the outdoor patios and cafes. What better way to spend the weekend than a nice quick trip down to the Izu Peninsula? Shizuoka is home to stunning hikes, white sand beaches, and many spectacular waterfalls. While it may be naturally gorgeous, oftentimes heading into the inaka (Japanese countryside) is quite difficult with dietary restrictions. And Izu is certainly no different. I am going to give you some of my favorite finds to use on a getaway to this magical location!
Considering the state of pandemic I highly recommend renting a car if possible. By car, you can reach Atami or Ito in about 2 hours and even down to Shimoda where my favorite beaches are in 3 hours.
On my most recent trip to Izu, I stayed in Ito, which is quite convenient to get to Kawazu, Shirahama, and Kisami. I usually always spend the week or month before my trip feverishly googling because I know it will be quite difficult for me to find vegan options. Also, this usually entails many trips to the conbini for some vegan snacks to tide me over! Here are my favorite tips and tricks for finding bliss on the Izu Peninsula.
The first hidden gem I found in Izu was a traditional izakaya in Ito. I was walking around trying to find another place that could potentially have some options when we stopped in and asked the restaurant Komaki if they could whip up anything vegan. Much to my surprise they actually had a menu with little veggie options marked and she completely understood what veganism was! She asked if I ate dashi or cheese, both of which are kind of whimsically added sometimes, and was very careful to point out which options had no animal ingredients at all. We settled on a huge selection of veggie tempura, homemade tofu, yaki onigiri, and a daikon salad topped with fried tofu and ume dressing. It was all amazing and I was still in shock about being able to find such an accommodating spot! I would recommend every one of these dishes, but the homemade tofu and tempura were just so tasty. I also love how crispy and perfectly grilled the yaki onigiri was. Definitely stop by if you are in the area!
South Cafe is quite possibly one of the cutest cafes I have found in Japan. It sits on a river amongst the mountains in Shimoda and has a huge outdoor patio area. There is nothing explicitly marked as vegan or vegetarian on the menu, but it had at least five things I saw that I could eat. Some of them had to be modified but it was super easy to explain and ask to take off something. The items that can be ordered include a grilled veggie sandwich, three different types of pasta, and a vegetable pizza. This may not sound like a huge deal, but it’s pretty difficult in Shimoda/Izu to get anything without seafood because that is what they are known for. This means I was ecstatic to even have an option that I had to modify just slightly. I chose the grilled veggie sandwich (without cheese or mayo) and was loving the combination of grilled eggplant, lettuce, pumpkin, tomato, zucchini, pepper, and onion! Their cocktails were lovely and reasonably priced as well.
Sunnyside Cafe is a restaurant right on beautiful Kisami Beach. I actually prefer this beach to Shirahama because there are fewer people and it feels like you are surrounded more by nature. The cafe is similar to South Cafe where you can have pizza or pasta as a vegan/vegetarian. This is also the perfect place to relax after sea cave exploring to have a cocktail while you watch the sunset.
Wabi-Sabi Guesthouse is a short walk to Kisami beach and it features a cafe with many vegan options! Unfortunately, it is closed until July, but it has the most wonderful looking veggie ramen and tonkatsu sandwich. Make sure you give them a call before you head over so you know it’s open!
Vegan-Friendly Conbini Snacks
While I was lucky to find some veggie meals throughout my weekend trip, I often needed extra snacks to tide me over or to eat before we found lunch/dinner spots. Here are some of my favorite go-to’s on road trips to the countryside: puffy edamame, the new vegan taco meat, penne soy meat bolognese, apples or pineapples, and white rice onigiri.
The summertime staple in Japan, shaved ice (Kakigori), is vegan if you hold the condensed milk! You can find many shops that sell this simple yet refreshing dessert. A lot of the flavors tend to be too sweet for me, so I prefer the matcha flavored Kakigori. This grape one I tried on the side of Kawazu 7 waterfalls hike. The perfect end to a perfect excursion.
The Izu Peninsula is my favorite kind of summer getaway: easy to get to and full of beautiful beaches and amazing mountains to explore. While traveling as a vegan or vegetarian can be difficult, it is certainly not impossible. I hope these tips help you find your favorite holiday! Have you been to Izu? Is there a restaurant that deserves to be on this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy Eating! Xoxo Jackie