The Izu Peninsula’s natural beauty and plentiful hot springs make it one of the top vacation destinations for domestic tourists in Japan. While the scenery and hot springs have been around for a long time, getting here was nowhere near as easy as it is today.
Everything about Japanese culture can be traced back to its rural villages. Japanese language, behavior, rituals, and diet can be traced back to a small village tucked away in a remote mountain valley.
How can that be? Let’s look at one lesson from language.
One of the first words a foreigner learns when studying Japanese is “gaijin,” 外人 which means ‘outsider.’ The more polite and socially accepted version of this word is “gaikokujin,” 外国人 which means ‘person from a foreign country.’ The word “gaijin” is strongly connected to the important concepts of “uchi” 内 and “soto” 外 in Japanese.
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.