One time in the gap between Christmas and New Year, I got cabin fever from staying in my apartment, and decided I wanted a night away, somewhere close, relaxing and inexpensive. A tall ask, but a look online led to a late booking discount at Imai-So, an onsen hotel on the east coast of Izu that ticked all the boxes.
The curtains across the entrance tell you that it's a Japanese inn, and straight away as I walked in, I could see the understated elegance I'd imagined. The large, open first floor features a lounge with a view of the ocean, a gift shop selling local souvenirs, and a display of traditionally decorated room, with tatami mats and an alcove for a hanging scroll. Check-in was brisk and efficient, as at least one of the staff speaks capable English; she actually called and left a message after a late lunch in Kawazu led to my missing the shuttle back to the hotel, which just showed me the amount of care they show to the guests.
Even though I knew the dimensions of the room from the online description, I was still struck by quite how spacious it was: my whole apartment would fit inside comfortably, with still enough room to swing a pretty big cat, if it were sufficiently tame. As well as the main sleeping area, I had a little changing room, and a sitting room by the window with a view out over the sea. Here there was a pair of binoculars provided, along with an information sheet telling me which islands I was looking at.
It was decorated with traditional charm: a futon on tatami mat floors, fittings of wood, wicker and bamboo, and sliding screen doors, all creating a peaceful air enhanced by the sound of the sea. There were also modern amenities, of course; I had my little TV and fridge, a closet full of extra bedding in case of need, and a teaset to brew up with in the room.
The main draw is the onsen baths, of course; I was lucky that there weren't many people traveling around this time, so I had the bathroom mostly to myself. The sauna was satisfyingly steamy, and there were indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, all with ocean views, and I found the slightly rough stone walls of the outdoor bath to be pleasantly abrasive. After emerging from the baths, I took advantage of the rest area and the foot massagers just outside.
Imai-so is really a destination in its own right, and it's assumed most guests will be eating in-house, as there are very few dining options (or anything else) nearby; if you want to eat out, it's better to take the train one stop to Kawazu. This town is also the centre for local sightseeing; you can set off for the Nanaderu (Seven Waterfalls) hike, stroll round the Bagatelle French rose garden, or take in some Buddhist history at the Heian Buddha Statues Pavilion.