Enjoy Adventure Tourism on Tokyo's Outlying Islands: Hachijojima and Aogashima
[CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE] The creator of the "Enchanting Tokyo" video series on Tokyo's 11 outlying islands, on his trip to two of them—Hachijojima and Aogashima.
As it is today, Japan is truly a "golden country" for travel. The easing of COVID border restrictions, combined with the historic depreciation of the yen, has made Japan one of the most attractive countries in the world for foreign tourists. Some of these tourists are planning their second or third trip to Japan, and many are therefore seeking information on the kinds of places that don't show up in travel guides. I myself am like that. And so, I'd like to talk about my experience with a side of Tokyo I never knew—even after living here for over 30 years.
Hachijojima Island: A Paradise of Outdoor Activity and Relaxation
Hachijojima Island, located a short 55-minute flight away from Haneda Airport, is the perfect destination for a weekend trip away from central Tokyo. The island's nature, with its distinct lushness, the azure sea, and thick forests of large spiny tree ferns inspire a sense of adventure.
The first thing I'd recommend is a trek up Mt. Nishiyama (Mt. Hachijofuji)—a mountain reminiscent of Mt. Fuji, the symbol of Japan. In Mt. Mihara, the trek allows you to enjoy a unique river landform called potholes* which are created by abundant spring water. After your trek, you can relax in the superb waters of the natural hot springs and footbaths—unique to volcanic islands—easing the fatigue from your travels while feeling the gentle sea breeze on your face. Uramigataki Hot Spring—a free public hot spring right in the forest that requires bathers to wear bathing suits—was also popular with families while I was there. If you visit in the winter and are very lucky, you might even be able to catch sight of pods of whales swimming near the island while soaking in the Footbath Kirameki. Surely what makes travel so intoxicating is being able to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and to experience these moments of relaxation.
*Potholes: Holes in bedrock formed by erosion through water currents in water channels. Natural monument of Hachijo Town.
Aogashima Island: Primeval Japanese Landscapes
It seems unbelievable that the one location in Japan selected for the list of "13 Amazing Natural Wonders You Should See Before You Die" (published by U.S. environmental NGO One Green Planet) is located in Tokyo. And yet it is—Tokyo's Aogashima Island. The island is located an approximately 20-minute helicopter ride away from Hachijojima Island.
Aogashima Island's double caldera is an example of a phenomenon rarely seen throughout the world. While the only way to see it in its entirety is to fly a drone over it, don't let that discourage you. The beautiful scenery, which almost makes you feel as if you have been dropped onto an asteroid, can also be experienced from places like the Otonbu Observatory (the highest-altitude observation point on the island) and Oyama Observation Park.
Take one step into the Ikenosawa area inside of the caldera, however, and you will encounter something exhilarating—a truly primeval Japanese landscape. And as you see the steam rising from the ground all around the island, you will rea— once again that you are standing on a volcanic island. In the interviews I conducted with residents while filming, one of them said to me, "Living on this island is to coexist completely with nature. Living here, having to endure everything nature throws at you, you get in the habit of helping each other out, and are able to connect with other people in a way that would be difficult in an urban setting."
Boats to Aogashima Island are available, but this time I made my way on the once-a-day helicopter ride. However there are days, they say, where bad weather prevents both forms of transport from running. Hence why I also recommend a more long-term, workcation-type stay. You'd stay at a minpaku (Japanese-style bed-and-breakfast). Since the island has a total of one store, you'll also be eating all three meals a day at the accommodation itself—something I recommend for the interaction you'll get to have with the locals. Many of the locals were very fun to talk to, to the point where my fondest memories of my one-week stay on the island are of socializing with them.
Tokyo is home to islands rich with nature, and rich with opportunities for adventure tourism. There are very few cities that offer the same, even on a world scale. Those who visit the Tokyo "treasure islands" will definitely want to tell all of their friends about their experiences.