Hiking the Jogasaki Coast: Picnical Course

The Izu Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo. The northeast portion of the peninsula is called the Jogasaki Coast (城ヶ崎海岸 – Jogasaki Kaigan), and it’s home to a pair of excellent hiking courses that run through portions of the Izu Peninsula Geopark. It’s a great hike at any time of year, but particularly in the summer, when the coastal breeze helps mitigate the heat and humidity.

Oshima, largest of the Izu Islands, as seen from Cape Kadowaki

Last weekend, I walked both courses in a single day, but I’m posting them separately, partially because they are two separate trails and partially because I shot so many photos that they really merit separate space.

The northernmost, and shorter, of the trails is the “Picnical Course,” which ends at the Cape Kadowaki lighthouse. After leaving the train at Jogasaki-Kaigan Station, the “trail” follows a suburban street for about a kilometer before reaching the Izu Geotrail near Futo Harbor.

Futo was formerly a center of mullet fishing; the village built several of these “mullet watch houses,” which were manned by crews of four men at a time, who watched the sea in shifts for schools of mullet. When they saw a school of the prized fish passing by, they alerted the village, and the fishing boats put to sea.

The trail near Futo

The trail weaves in and out of the forest near Futo–always close enough to the sea that you can smell the waves and hear the surf, but with short stretches (like the one above) where you might almost think you were walking in the forest if you didn’t know better. The trail also passes by an old, 19th century shore battery, once used to defend Japan against invasion.

Lava Flow on the Jogasaki Coast

The Izu Geopark celebrates the unique history of the Jogasaki Coast, which was created 4,000 years ago by volcanic flows from Omuroyama, a now-dormant volcano near the coast (though not as near as it once was…).

Cape Kadowaki and Toshima

On a clear day, it’s possible to see a few of the Izu Islands from the trail–including Toshima, pictured above on the horizon.

Kadowaki Lighthouse and Suspension Bridge

Cape Kadowaki is also home to an excellent lighthouse and a suspension bridge–which makes it very popular with visitors on sunny days. There’s parking near the lighthouse, and a bus that runs directly to this end of the hiking trail, so while the trail itself is often almost empty, it’s not unusual to find a crowd when you reach the lighthouse.

Cape Kadowaki and Oshima

This is the view from the suspension bridge. (You don’t want to know how many shots I took, hoping to catch the seabirds in an ideal spot.)

Kadowaki Lighthouse

The Kadowaki Lighthouse is 24.9 meters high, and has two observation decks (one at the very top, and one lower down). I haven’t gone inside it yet, but probably will on a future trip.

Lava Necks South of Cape Kadowaki

Just south of Cape Kadowaki, at the end of the Picnical Hiking Course, it’s possible to see some great examples of lava plugs (also called lava necks) near the shore. The two large massifs in the surf above are not boulders; they’re a geological feature created when lava surges up the mouth of a volcanic vent and hardens there. Over time, the surrounding earth erodes, leaving the freestanding lava plug.

Japanese Five-Lined Skink

The Jogasaki Coast is home to a large population of Five-Lined Skinks–an invasive species, introduced from China centuries ago. I saw more than a dozen of them during last week’s hike. I also saw a half-meter-long mamushi (Japanese pit viper) sunning on the trail, but I’d gotten close enough before I noticed him that I didn’t try to get a photo–the encounter startled us both, so I simply watched, and gave him the space he needed to vacate the trail and let me pass.

South of Cape Kadowaki, the trail becomes the Jogasaki Nature Study Course. Signboards along the trail share information about the geology, history, flora and fauna of the area, and the trail itself weaves in and out of the woods and along the shore, with side trails that lead to numerous interesting overlooks, rock formations, hidden coves, and tide pools. I like to hike the courses back to back, as a single hike, which can easily be done in an afternoon.

Hike Info: 

Access/Trailhead: Jogasaki-Kaigan Station (Izukyuko Line). Return: Izu-Kōgen Station* (Izukyuko Line) [*This is the return station if you hike both the Picnical and Nature Study Courses back to back; if you hike only the Picnical, the return is also from Jogasaki-Kaigan Station]

Total distance: 3.2 km (Picnical); 4.8 km (Nature Study) [Total for both: 8km]

Elevation Gain/Loss: Picnical: 69m ascent / 124m descent (i.e., “mostly flat”) / Nature Study: 143m ascent / 106m descent (i.e., “also mostly flat, but not quite as flat.”)

Time Spent: Picnical: 2 hours; Nature Study: 4hr. 40min. (Total 6:40; this was my time…YMMV)