Exploring Chichijima (Ogasawara) Island: 1000 km Away from Tokyo!
Looking for a break from city life? How about a place 1000 km away from Tokyo, that can only be reached by boat and takes 24h to get to? Ogasawara comprises over 30 islands, only two of which are inhabited (Chichijima and Hahajima), with a subtropical climate and many endemic species. Great for hiking, biking, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and being in contact with nature.
The journey to get there is an adventure in itself. The ship departs from Takeshiba pier promptly at 11:00 and we start our trip with a tour through Tokyo Bay on our way out. After the security announcements (all announcements are in Japanese only, I’m afraid…), some lovely Japanese “Hawaiian” music to get us in the mood for Ogasawara.
There are two bars, a restaurant and a gift shop onboard, as well as drink vending machines, so you don’t have to worry about food and drink (although you can obviously bring your own). These all have specific opening hours, so make sure you get all you need before they close! There are plenty of seats indoors, as well as tables and chairs outside and an amazing upper deck where you can either sit or lie down. At night, in the middle of nowhere, the views of the starry sky are pretty awesome. If you’re into photography, remember that boats move and rock, so bring your big ISO, long exposures will be no good!
From time to time there will be announcements regarding what islands we are passing, eventually marine life, like birds and whales, as well as rainbows, sunset and sunrise (don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese, just follow all the other passengers with cameras)
A whole day on a boat sounds like forever, but actually there is plenty to do and see (including reading or working on your computer, as well as making new friends at the bar), so the trip is not boring at all. After waking up, showering, having breakfast, looking at the birds and views, you will start seeing Chichijima on the horizon and the journey will soon be over.
Afternoon Cycling Through the West Coast
There are only 2,000 people living in Chichijima and basically most shops, houses, restaurants, bars and accommodation are located along Omura district’s main road and the few roads parallel to it. You will not get lost and all these are within walking distance from each other as well as from Futami Port.
So, what to do? I went for a bike ride. After checking in and getting rid of my backpack, it was time for some fresh fish! Then, as there was no time for a long hike, I rented a bicycle from the shop on the main road and went for a little adventure. I headed south, along the main road nearest to the coast. Ogasawara felt a bit like Hawaii to me. Even the flowers reminded me of it. After cycling uphill for a bit, Sakaiura Beach and a sunken WWII ship can be seen from the top. During low tide most of it is actually visible (you can Google 濱江丸 for some more images) and there is a path down to the beach. There are a few places where you can rent a kayak, or you can just go for a swim at one of the beautiful beaches along the road. Then, I heard there was a place near the weather station that was pretty special to watch the sunset, so it was time to head back, as it is north of the main village Omura and uphill. Follow the signs to Mikazukiyama picnic site. Half way through, on the way up, there are some nice views of the island as well. It really is a nice spot and if you’re lucky, a variety of different species of whales and dolphins can be observed from there. Then, a quick shower and dinner, before some night adventures (you can read more about that here link to the post on the night tours).
See You Soon!
Life in Ogasawara is much slower and more relaxed than on the main island and as a result people are quite different too. No one sees visitors off like the folks from Ogasawara! Itterasshai (see you soon), they say, smiling and waving, from their boats that escort the ship out of the port, before diving into the water. You really feel like coming back.
Planning in advance is crucial, as accommodation and tours are limited. Ferry tickets have specific dates from when they can be purchased (2 months to 24h prior to traveling) and can sell out quite quickly at times. You can purchase them online and the website has recently been updated to include all the necessary information in English. The process is now much easier (to understand) than it was when I went last year.
The first thing you need to do is book accommodation, for example, through Booking.com. If you don’t speak Japanese, this is your best option, as some other places are advertised in Japanese only and the owners don’t provide an e-mail address, so you’ll have to give them a call (in Japanese) to book. There are a couple of guesthouses and hostels away from Omura that I didn’t consider because I didn’t know much about transportation on the island before I went. There are two bus lines and the ferry arrives at 11:00, so you’ll be fine to get to wherever you need to go (or you can rent a bicycle).
Takeshiba passenger ferry terminal is a 10-minute walk from Hamamatsucho station (Tokyo Monorail from Haneda airport) or 7 minutes walking from JR Hamamatsucho Station, 1 minute walking from Takeshiba Station (Tokyo Waterfront New Transit Yurikamome) or 8 minutes walking from Daimon Station (Toei Oedo subway line).