Itō has been inhabited since the Jōmon period – roughly 13,000-300 B.C. This era coincides with the Stone Age. The hunter-gatherer Jōmon people are believed to have entered Japan via the Japan Sea and the northern archipelago. They occupied northeastern Japan, and Izu was at the far western boundaries of their range. Archaeological digs here in Itō have produced artifacts from that time including primitive tools and pottery.
Today is Setsubun in Japan. It is one of several very old traditions imported from Chinese culture and based on the lunar calendar.
In the West, spring is associated with the vernal equinox (March 21), and rituals in European countries generally take place in early April. In Japan, the beginning of February is seen as the start of a transition from winter to spring. It is a time when the seasonal responsibilities of numerous gods start to shift, and they get restless and move around. To prevent gods of bad luck from wandering into the house, people developed a protective ritual called mamemaki (mah-may-mah-kee) or bean sowing.
The Red Cow of Ike: The tale of a shape shifting murderous dragon lord.
Ike is a small, quiet community with two Shinto shrines and a single Buddhist temple. Ryukeiin was built 500 years ago, when it replaced an even older temple that was haunted by a murderous red cow.
Itō’s biggest festival is called Anjin sai and it celebrates the life and accomplishments of Miura Anjin (William Adams). Dancing, a taiko drumming competition and a fireworks show featuring more than 10,000 fireworks are highlights of the festival held in August every year.
In the Totari (十足) valley, just north of Mt. Ōmuro, there is a Buddhist temple by the name of Ryūnji (龍雲寺). In a prominent location just outside the main entrance to the temple, there is a Shinto shrine called Kōsu Inari.
Why is there a Shinto shrine inside the grounds of a Buddhist temple?
Behind the Izu Kogen train station, on the other side of the tracks, is one of the area’s many unique museums. The Jogasaki Cultural Museum is a place to learn about Izu history and culture, view art exhibitions, collaborate with artists, and mingle over coffee.
Sushi has become very popular throughout the world. Perhaps the most recognizable ingredient in sushi is wasabi. By now, many sushi lovers know that the wasabi they have on their sushi is not actually wasabi. It is a horseradish based mixture of ingredients designed to mimic wasabi.
So what is real wasabi? It is the root of an aquatic plant that grows in cold mountain streams. It is also very sensitive: grated wasabi must be eaten within 5-15 minutes in order to taste its fullest flavor.