“Land in motion”
Izu Peninsula UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the southeast of Japan’s main island, Honshu. Most of the area is covered by mountains of low to moderate elevations. The highest point of the peninsula is Mt. Banzaburō (1,405 m). The sudden protrusion of these mountains from the sea causes heavy rainfalls, and a diverse coastal topography.
The Izu Peninsula is located at the northern edge of the Philippine Sea tectonic plate and at the far northern end of the Izu-Bonin volcanic arc. It is the only place in the world where two active volcanic arcs collide and where the various phenomena resulting from this can be observed. The geological history of the past 20 million years can be divided into three periods: Neogene submarine volcanism; large-scale Quaternary terrestrial volcanism, after the collision with Honshu at about 1 Ma; and the scattered activity of the monogenetic volcanoes, continuing from 150,000 years ago to present. The continuous volcanic geological history of the area is unique in the world. Nowhere else is it possible to trace the numerous and dramatic changes of volcanism for such an extended period. Due to this widespread volcanic activity, the area is also one of the most famous destinations in Japan for hot springs. The collision with the Honshu arc has developed many active faults and has led to an uplift of the topography. Research on these faults, such the discovery of the large-scale lateral slip (of 1 km) in the 1930s and the activity history of the Tanna Fault, have been of great importance to global fundamental research of and understanding of active faults.
About 660,000 people (Tentative Census 2017) live along the coastal area and on the narrow plain of the territory. The human history of the peninsula goes back to 3,000 years ago. The discovery of varied remains in the Ashitaka Mountains and western parts of the lower Hakone Mountains testify to the existence of ancient settlements around this period.
Due to its geographical location, Izu has suffered many natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. These tragedies contributed to local beliefs as communities began to fear deities who supposedly ruled over natural fury, resulting in over 90 shrines scattered across the area.
An important aspect of heritage conservation is shown in the traditional landscape management by local societies throughout generations. Some of these practices are geared to securing ecosystem services and the renewal of resources while others have philosophical or religious significance. The aim in both cases is the effective protection and renewal of parts of the natural ecosystems and several geosites are currently associated with this type of protection.
Nature and culture of the peninsula fascinate many great writers and visitors. Yasunari Kawabata, a Japanese novelist and short story writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, found inspiration for many works here in Izu, for example the “The Dancing Girl of Izu”.
Izu is an important tourist destination. There are many hot spring resorts such as Atami, Ito and Shuzenji and the historical sites such as Shimoda, attracting many visitors all year around. Tourism has been a main element in the economic activity in the peninsula.