Going up Mt. Kofuji on Hahajima (Ogasawara)
In addition to Chichijima, Hahajima is the only other Ogasawara island that is inhabited. It can be reached by boat from Chichijima and the tickets can’t be reserved in advance (don’t worry, there is enough space, as the only way to get to these islands is via the Ogasawara Maru ferry that goes straight to Chichijima).
You can also read more about getting to Chichijima and things to do here and here. There are only 500 people living in Hahajima, so it is a very close-knit community. There is no bus and only a few limited cars and scooters available for renting (not many roads anyway!). Most of the island is green and protected, but the good news is that you can do a variety of hikes to experience the exuberant nature and some species that can only be found there, such as birds (the meguro, Apalopteron familiare that has a white around its eye, the red-headed wood pigeon Columba janthina nitens, or the grey-capped greenfinch, Carduelis sinica) and plants (Ogasawara wild peony, Melastoma tetramerum var. pentapetal, Hahajima “tobera”, Pittosporum parvifolium Hayata var. beecheyi and Sekimon tree Claoxylon centinarium). If you are coming to the island, make sure you book accommodation in advance, otherwise you may be requested to get back on the boat!
A Hot Climb, But Totally Worth It
As there are many endangered species on the island, some of the hikes can only be done with a guide (Japanese only) and on specific times of the year, to allow the delicate wildlife to breed in peace. Mt. Kofuji is one of the hikes that can be done without a guide and at any time of the year. I would recommend you reserve 4-5 hours for this, as there are some beaches on the way that you can also visit.
To get there, I borrowed a bicycle from my accommodation and cycled down to the end of the southern tip of the metropolitan road. It takes about 12 minutes by car and approximately 1 hour on foot from the tourist office at the Oki Port, so by bicycle it should take less than 1 hour. The road is quite steep in some places, though, and I made a few stops to enjoy the views and to take some pictures, so it may have taken me about 1 hour anyway. From the top it is possible to see the coastline and the port. Along the road there are funny signs alerting not to step on/run over certain species that can be found walking/crawling around and the tiles depicting endemic wildlife are also very pretty. The weather was already so hot early in the morning, so that has definitely slowed me down as well. Make sure you bring water (it’s Japan, there are vending machines everywhere in the small village, just get cold water on the way out) and apply sunblock!
If you would like a souvenir and a postcard/certificate sent to your home, make sure you go to the tourist association office to register before doing a hike and you’ll get a kit (300 yen) to fill in and show as proof on the way back. It’s fine to leave the bike at the little car park at the end of the road and enter the trail, which is clearly signed. Before entering, because it is important to maintain biodiversity and not introduce any exotic species from the main island or Chichijima, there is a shoe disinfection station. You must spray your shoes, especially the bottom, before entering. The trail is not difficult, but make sure you drink water!
On the way, you can make a detour to visit Minamizaki Beach, with its amazing corals underneath the clear water, as well as the White beach. The very last bit of the climb is a metal ladder and the 360° view of the island from the top is quite something. Right below, you get a very nice view of the Minamizaki beach and the coral reefs. If you got your certificate pack, you need to put the piece of paper on top of the pole and make a print of the image, using the provided crayon. Then, you can take it back to the tourist association office and they will post your postcard. Mind the strong wind up there, don’t lose your evidence!