We didn't know much else about the place, other than it was located pretty centrally in Izu so we could drive around the peninsula and get back to it easily. We discovered that the "Winery Hills" part is due to it's being co-located (nearby) to an actual winery! There was a free bus and tour, so Kerri and I checked it out. The winery itself is lovely, though it was dark and rainy, so I had to take some slightly doctored pictures to make it look pretty:
We did some tasting and found a couple that we think we liked and took home some bottles.
Earlier, we started out from Yokosuka and took the coast road all the way down, avoiding the toll roads, so we could take in the view. We weren't expecting Izu to look much different from our area, but we had the extra fun of an incredible downpour most of the way. "So bad it makes everyone slow down" kind of rain. Then we found our directions taking us up what looked like a major road (the 80) but turned out to be a little used pass over the mountains in the middle of the peninsula. This road narrowed down frequently to one lane, and was very twisty and turny. Combined with the rain, it made for some harrowing experiences. As we lost cell phone signal, we began to wonder what would happen if we got stuck up in the mountains with no way to get help! But we made it fine.
Izu is super green right now, and very mountainous. It frequently reminded us of driving roads in Oregon near the coast and the coast mountain range. But if we opened the windows the relative humidity and temperature felt very different (much higher and warmer). Our first destination was an old gold mine in Toi. It was kind of cool, but only Rowan and I could do it as Kerri's ankle was sprained the other day during roller derby. We had the place to ourselves and hardly saw anyone else. It was mostly just an old tunnel with little animatronic scenes of people working in the mines. There were some small English signs to explain things which was nice. Then there was a museum where you could touch gold and look at dioramas. Rowan was pleased to pick up some gold flake for his mineral collection (gold has been difficult to come by for some reason) at a reasonable price.
After this we headed over to our hotel. I was a bit disappointed by the hotel, mainly by the horrible stale smoke smells in the room and hallway. It was then I realized I never had the option to specify a non-smoking room, probably because there were none. Oddly, I was the one having the hardest time with it, Kerri and Rowan didn't seem to mind too much. There was an onsen there (or just an ofuro, not sure if they have volcanically heated water there) and we availed ourselves of the facilities. Unfortunately, the swimming pool doesn't open until August, so that was another expectation not met. Though there was a main restaurant, it was buffet style only and way too expensive, so we ate at the smaller restaurant next to the onsen which had decent enough food at much better prices.
The hotel is also attached to several large sports facilities. There were immaculately kept grass fields, including a baseball diamond and a soccer field. Strange, but interesting.
The next day we headed south to the town of Shimoda, one of the first ports opened officially after Commodore Perry first made it clear that Japan would be opening ports whether they wanted to or not. There is a famous Black Ship festival here every year, but we've never been. We then travelled back up the eastern coast all the way to where the toll road begins and drove the rest of the way back via toll roads for speed. All in all a fun short weekend trip. It's nice to have seen a new area not far past Hakone that we can easily get to, and there were so many things we saw from the car that we'd like to go back and check out some time.
Kerri and Rowan head back to the US for a month in a couple of weeks (I keep telling Kerri she needs to stay home and heal or she'll be in trouble for her trip), so I'll be getting to try out all sorts of local restaurants I wouldn't normally have the chance to check out, so if you're interested in those adventures, stay tuned to my food blog: JC Food Reviews.