SHUZEN JI ONSEN – Beautiful ONSEN town with historical temples

SHUZEN JI which has impressive red bridge and blue bamboo forest.


修善寺 (SHUZEN JI) is an ONSEN town where has prospered around 修禅寺 (SHUZEN JI Temple) which 弘法大師空海 (KOBO DAISHI, KUKAI) established in 800’s. The town, having 桂川 (KATSURA GAWA River) in the center, has a lot of unpopularized shops and restaurants which you cannot see at anywhere else.


I have decided to visit this SHUZEN JI ONSEN with impressive red bridge and blue bamboo forest to relax.


The center of SHUZEN JI ONSEN is “修禅寺 (SHUZEN JI Temple)” and “独鈷の湯 (TOKKO NO YU)”


“独鈷の湯 (TOKKO NO YU)” is located at the center of SHUZEN JI ONSEN, and it is the spring source of SHUZEN JI ONSEN which is springing out in the stream of KATSURA GAWA River.


According to the ancient story, when KOBO DAISHI, KUKAI (Great teacher of the Buddhism / Founder of 真言宗 SHINGON sect) visited this place in 807, he found a boy washing the body of his father who was ill at KATSURA GAWA River. KOBO DAISHI was very touched by this boy’s filial affection and said to him “It must be cold to wash his body by this cold river water”. Then he hit the rock at the river bottom with his 独鈷 (TOKKO / Buddhist object called single-pronged vajra) and ONSEN started springing out from there. KOBO DAISHI taught this boy and father the ONSEN treatment (TOUJI) and that made his father get well pretty soon. Since then, this legendary story has been handed down, and ONSEN treatment has prospered around here. This is where “独鈷の湯 (TOKKO NO YU)”, the origin of SHUZEN JI ONSEN came from, and this is said to be the oldest ONSEN in IZU Peninsula where has a lot of ONSEN places. It is really unfortunate, but this TOKKO NO YU can only be viewed and it is not allowed to bathe in it now.



Another major spot is “修禅寺 (SHUZEN JI Temple)”. Although the pronunciation of “修禅寺”and “修善寺” are exactly same “SHUZEN JI”, but only Chinese character is a little different. “修善寺” is the name of this ONSEN town, and “修禅寺”is the name of the temple in this town.


As mentioned above, SHUZEN JI Temple was established by KOBO DAISHI, KUKAI in 807, and it was initially the temple of 真言宗 (SHINGON Sect) of the Buddhism. However, it was changed to 臨済宗 (RINZAI Sect) in 1200, and changed to 曹洞宗 (SOTO Sect) in 1489. Since then, this temple has been SOTO Sect for more than 500 years.


禅宗 (ZEN SHU / ZEN Buddhism) means both 臨済宗 (RINZAI Sect) and 曹洞宗 (SOTO Sect), and at both of them, ascetic practices through 座禅 (ZEN Meditation) is required. However, the detail of ZEN Meditation differs between those 2 sects. For RINZAI Sect, ZEN Meditation is to concentrate on one thing and keep thinking of one thing. On the other hand, for SOTO Sect, doing ZEN Meditation without thinking anything. ZEN Meditation is not something that you do it to achieve a certain purpose, but doing ZEN Meditation itself is the figure of Buddha and the figure of spiritual enlightenment. We, people at the present day, tend to be easily swayed by our own selfishness, desire, and surface of the things in our daily lives, but what is important about ZEN Meditation is to release those feelings and desires. At SHUZEN JI Temple, they are irregularly holding a class to experience ZEN Meditation as well as prayer and special admission. Would recommend to contact them in detail when you visit.





I visited this place in summer and saw a lot of Japanese maple trees (MOMIJI) which would change to beautiful color in autumn. I personally like fresh green leaves of MOMIJI in summer. In November, SHUZEN JI MOMIJI Festival is held every year, and you can enjoy its colorful and beautiful leaves which is said to be one of the most beautiful 紅葉 (KOYO / Autumn leaves) spots in Japan. Although the best season to visit SHUZEN JI is autumn, I would like to recommend you to visit here in May to June, the same season I visited. Since this season is 梅雨 (TSUYU / rainy season) in Japan, you can stay calmly and peacefully, and you can see a lot of beautiful AJISAI (Hydrangea) and SHOBU (Iris) bloomed. The tender green in rain is the most beautiful green.





There’s also a great 鐘楼 (SHORO / Bell tower) at this SHUZEN JI Temple. The wooden framework of the roof is amazing and worth seeing.



“HIE JINJA (HIE Shrine)” next to SHUZEN JI Temple.


Although I had only planned to visit SHUZEN JI Temple, something brought me to HIE Shrine which is next to SHUZEN JI Temple. I passed TORII (gate of shrine) which stood in the middle of staircase. This TORII has a big SHIMENAWA (holy straw rope) which is quite rare. This HIE Shrine is one of the 3800 shrines throughout Japan which were branched from 日吉大社 (HIYOSHI TAISHA Grand Shrine) based on the belief in the mountain deity, which is called 山王信仰 (SANNO SHINKO belief), and this HIE Shrine was built as 山王社 (SANNO SHA / SANNO Shrine) of SHUZEN JI Temple.



There are two 800-year-old sacred trees called “子宝の杉 (KODAKARA NO SUGI / Cedars for children)” here. The roots of these 2 big trees are combined, and tradition says that if you pass between these 2 trees, you will be blessed with children.



手水舎 (CHOZU SHA / place for cleansing hands and rinsing mouth) is also beautiful with its hollowed out stone. It’s a calm shrine in the forest. I took a deep breath.



指月殿 (SHIGETSU DEN) located on a hill across the river.


指月殿 (SHIGETSU DEN) is the family temple which 北条政子 (MASAKO HOJO) built to pray for the death of her son 源頼朝 (YORITOMO MINAMOTO) who had been assassinated at SHUZEN JI in 1200’s. It is said to be the oldest wooden building in IZU Peninsula and looks really atmospheric. “指月 (SHIGETSU)” means the Buddhist Scripture and this SHIGETSU DEN used to have 5000 to 6000 Buddhist Scriptures which most of them have been already lost. It is very nice to take a walk from SHUZEN JI Temple to here, and watching this 800-year-old wooden building.



竹林の小径 (Path of bamboo forest)


竹林の小径 (Path of bamboo forest) is a small path but it makes you really refresh. There’s a circular bench in the middle of this straight path, and I would recommend you to lie down on it. Then you will see bamboo trees extending to the sky which really amazing and make you relax and refresh.




There’s a famous and popular SOBA noodle restaurant named “朴念仁 (BOKU NEN JIN)” right next to this Path of bamboo forest. The building looks perfectly like KOMINKA (Japanese old traditional house) and they open only for lunch. It is really tasteful to view these beautiful bamboo trees over the window with sitting at the peaceful Japanese TATAMI room. “朴念仁 (BOKU NEN JIN)” means the person who doesn’t talk much. Let’s not talk much, but be quiet and relax, and you can feel the taste SOBA better.





Here at SHUZEN JI town, there are 5 red bridges crossing KATSURA GAWA River. This red color is really beautiful. I found a cafe where you can enjoy coffee with viewing this beautiful bridge. Outside terrace seat along the river is really amazing. The taste of coffee mixes with murmur of the stream and scenery of people slowly walking through the bridge. There are many nice cafes around here, and you can surely find your favorite one.



Then, I started to be curious about this KATSURA GAWA River and finally went down to the river. Since 足湯 (ASHIYU / Foot bath) was not allowed at “独鈷の湯 (TOKKO NO YU)” and also I wanted to cool down a bit, I bathed my feet in the river.



Finally, bathing in ONSEN!


Once I cooled down at the river, I became to want to bathe in ONSEN.

This time, I have been to 外湯 (SOTO YU) named “筥湯 (HAKO YU)”. SOTO YU is the general term meaning public ONSEN (not ONSEN at hotel) where local people come in their daily lives.


Here 筥湯 (HAKO YU), which opened in 2000, replicated the original HAKO YU with a big bathtub made of traditional cypress where 源頼家 (YORIIE MINAMOTO), the 2nd SHOGUN of KAMAKURA BAKUFU, bathed in. This bathtub has a capacity for 10 people and it is really spacious thanks to this bathroom’s high ceiling as well. ONSEN here is colorless and transparent, Alkaline simple hot spring, and water temperature is adjusted around 42°C. There’s an observation tower called “仰空楼 (GYO KU ROU)” right next to this HAKO YU, and the panoramic view of SHUZEN JI town can be seen from here.



  • Spring quality: Alkaline simple spring
  • Effects: Neuralgia, muscle pain, arthralgia
  • Open everyday from 12:00 to 21:00
  • Entrance fee: 350 yen
  • No parking lot, but there’s a toll parking lot next to the building.
  • Well known hot spring which YORIIE MINAMOTO, 2nd SHOGUN of KAMAKURA BAKUFU bathed.
  • Inside bath (Cypress)
  • Tel: 0558 72 5282
  • Address: 925, Shuzenji, Izu-shi, Shizuoka Prefecture


In addition to this HAKO YU, there are many other hotels and facilities where you can enjoy 日帰り温泉 (HIGAERI ONSEN / One day ONSEN). For this HIGAERI ONSEN, you can just stop by there and bathe in. That’s it. You don’t have to stay one night. So you can try various ONSEN at one day.


  • ホテルラフォーレ修善寺 (Hotel Laforet Shuzenji)
  • 伊豆温泉村・百笑の湯 (Izu ONSEN Mura, Hyakuwarai no Yu)
  • ブリーズベイ修善寺ホテル (Breeze Bay Shuzenji Hotel)
  • ねの湯 対山荘 (Nenoyu Taizanso)
  • 宙SORA渡月荘金龍 (SORA Togetsuso Kinryu)
  • 瑞の里 ○久旅館 (Mizunosato Marukyu)
  • 新井旅館 (Arai Ryokan)
  • サイクル温泉ゆ~サロン (Cycle ONSEN Yu Salon)


If you rent a car, you can drive around IZU Peninsula which inspires you a lot. Not only SHUZEN JI, but also many other nice ONSEN places and great nature are around IZU Peninsula.

Related article: Driving around IZU Peninsula – Full of attractiveness with ONSEN, foods, and landscape



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