To be honest with you, Ito is the last place I thought I'd ever write about. Not because I am unfamiliar with the town or its surroundings, but because I am selfish and, for a long time, wanted to keep this place as my getaway spot. But what fun is that? I am a photographer by profession and delight in showing people the world around me, and honestly, I would never have known about Ito had it not been for a friend extolling its virtues to me, so I figure that it is time for me to pay-it-forward.

Ito, just south of the bubble-era resort town of Atami and roughly two hours by train from Tokyo, is located on the western side of Sagami Bay in Shizuoka Prefecture and has long been known for the ubiquity of its onsen hot springs and its breathtaking coastal views. Owing much to its proximity to the sea, it was here in 1604 that the Tokugawa shogun ordered the English navigator William Adams, known in Japanese as Miura Anjin, to build Japan's first Western-style sailing ships. This charge clearly suited Adams well, for his shipbuilding prowess impressed the shogun so much that the title hatamoto, or bannerman, was bestowed upon him, making him one of the country's first non-Japanese samurai.

With its rich history, relative ease of access from Tokyo and abundance of hot springs, Ito has been my go-to spot for the past three years when I seek some respite from the hyper-hustle of Tokyo city life. Its population of 68,000 makes it an ideal trade-off between city and nature, the latter of which can be found in abundance.