Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

5 Reasons to Visit Niijima Island

Photo: Photo: Kenta Hayashi on Flickr

5 Reasons to Visit Niijima Island

Matthew Turner

Niijima is a volcanic island and a member of Izu archipelago, situated roughly 160 kilometers south of Tokyo bay. Easily accessible by ferry from Takeshiba port or by air from Chofu airport, Niijima allows for the perfect getaway from the bustle of city life, whilst technically remaining in Tokyo. Life on Niijima is laid back, however there’s plenty for everyone to see and do!

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1. Camp

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One of the main draws to the island is the free campsite, maintained by the Tokyo metropolitan government. Situated on the east coast of the island, the Habushi-ura campsite is nestled below forested mountain, and perched above a stunning ocean vista. Accessible both by taxi and bicycle, the campsite provides the perfect base for adventures on the island. Sign up at reception on arrival, then pick your preferred spot and pitch your tent, it’s that simple. Barbecue grills are scattered around the site, as well as a larger communal cooking area together with toilets and showers at the foot of the campsite.

2. Cycle

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Niijima is a relatively small island, totaling an area of just under 24 kilometers. This makes it the perfect place to explore on a bicycle. Although rental cars and bikes are available, prices appear unreasonably high. However, from between 500-1000 yen a day, you can explore most of the sites on your own steam. Niijima is the culmination of a series of volcanoes erupting and merging together over time, therefore much of the island’s activity is situated in the central plain. For trips to the north or further south, consider using a taxi.

3. Bathe

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Being a volcanic island, Niijima boasts a number of natural hot springs. Just a short ride or walk from the port is the impressive Yunohama Onsen. This hot spring is free, outdoor and unsegregated, with swimwear a requirement for all. Immerse yourself in the faux Roman ruin surroundings, while taking in the tranquil harbor and coastline views. Other options on the island consist of the more traditional Mamashita Onsen, which is slightly further south along the coast from the port and at a fee. While Niijima Village Onsen Lodge also provides another bathing option, however these facilities are only available to guests at certain peak times of the year.

4. Eat and Drink

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With Niijima being a Japanese island, unsurprisingly, seafood is a local staple. In particular, and perhaps not for the squeamish, is kusaya; salt-dried fermented fish. Visitors can sample the delicacy for themselves at various stores on the island. The fish is best served with sake, something of which the island also proudly produces. Whilst on the island, you may also wish to try ashitaba, an editable leafed plant, as well as the locally caught kinmedai fish.

5. Surf

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<It’s not uncommon on the island to see wetsuit glad surfers riding bicycles with boards in tow. Yes, aside from the local seafood delicacies, Niijima is more widely known for its surfing excellence. Surfers flock from all across Japan and further afield to catch the waves and swells that surround the island. There are dozens of surf spots located on all sides of the island, however, Habushi-ura beach, near the aforementioned campsite, is by the far the most renowned. With clear white sand and emerald green seas, this beach is a must for surfers and non-surfers alike.

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As well as all the above, the island possesses historical appeal, and was once home to prisoners forced into exile from the mainland. More information about the island’s intriguing heritage can be found at the wonderful Niijima Village Museum. Glassmaking and rock mining are also thriving industries of the island, with large esoteric rock sculptures an ubiquitous feature of the scenery.