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Saturday, August 13, 2022
HomeJapanA Travel Guide to Tokyo's Izu Islands

A Travel Guide to Tokyo’s Izu Islands

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If you like hot springs, nature, the ocean and water sports, Tokyo’s Izu Islands is a world away from the city and capital. An archipelago with nine islands, it is the perfect backdrop for a Japanese island getaway. Each island has its own unique character and things to do, which guarantees something for everyone.

Without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into Izu Islands!

The islands

Oshima

oshima island
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

Oshima is the largest and most accessible of the Izu Islands. It is also known for its active volcano Mount Mihara, which erupts every 30 to 40 years. It last erupted in 1986 but don’t worry, it is still safe to visit for hiking (for now!). There are several hiking trails, and you can go all the way up to the rim and peer into the crater!

mount mihara
Photo credit: atlasobscura.com
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Oshima is also famous for its beautiful camellia flowers which bloom from January to March. You can see them in their full glory at Oshima Park. Oshima’s camellia oil is famous throughout Japan, and the oil from the plant is often used in hair and skin products. 

izu islands - tsubaki
Photo credit: tokyoislands.jp

Since the island is volcanic, it is also home to many onsen. Hama-no-yu is arguably the most popular onsen on Oshima. An outdoor onsen that allows both men and women, it provides a panorama view of the Pacific Ocean and even Mount Fuji on a clear day. Bathing suits are mandatory, making it perfect for those who are shy about getting naked in front of strangers! Sunset time is the most popular and the best time for visiting this onsen. 

izu islands - hama no yu
Photo credit: behere.asia

Toshima

toshima island
Photo credit: tokyoislands.jp

If you’re looking for somewhere more remote, Toshima has only one small fishing village with a population of about 300, and receives very few tourists. There are no supermarkets or convenience stores and no public transport, so visitors get around by walking. This isn’t too difficult, as the island is only 7.7km around.

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The island is covered in forests, with Mount Miyatsuka standing 508 meter above sea level. The top commands a view of Mount Fuji and the Izu Peninsula. Unsurprisingly, this is the most popular activity on Toshima!

izu islands - toshima
Photo credit: tokyoislands.jp

Like Oshima, camellia flowers bloom in the winter and may be the most beautiful time to visit. But even without these flowers, there is still much to gain from the island. Bottlenose dolphins live in the waters around here, so you can swim and play with them from April to November! There are rules when it comes to protecting the dolphins’ ecology, so you must join a tour in order to go on a dolphin swim.

toshima dolphins
Photo credit: tokyoislands.jp

Niijima

niijima
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

Niijima draws in visitors as a popular surfing destination with good waves most of the year. The beaches are long and they all face different directions, so you have a good chance of scoring some waves no matter where the wind is blowing. Habushiura Beach is the most popular spot. Here and around on the island, there are surf shops for board rentals and surf lessons.

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Niijima is also known for its glass works and stone sculptures scattered across the island. They look similar to the stone statues at Easter Island, and are carved from a special kind of stone. Rent a bicycle to go around and see how many you can spot! 

niijima stone sculpture
Photo credit: tokyoislands.jp

To try your hand at glass blowing and learn how the island’s glass works are made, head over to Niijima Glass Art Center. While you’re here, stop by the museum where you can see over 90 different works by glass artists from the island and more!

niijima glass art center
Photo credit: niijimaglass.org

If you’re sore from all the surfing and cycling, take a dip at Yunohama Onsen on Yunohama Beach. A large outdoor bath built in the style of ancient Greek ruins, here you can catch the sun setting behind the vast Pacific ocean. 

Shikinejima

shikinejima
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

The best thing to do at Shikinejima? Take it easy and soak in the different hot springs, or kick back on one of its beautiful beaches. Largely undeveloped with just few roads and just one stop light. The roads here are free of traffic and perfect for cycling or exploring on foot.

While neighboring Niijima may have better beaches for surfing, Shikinejima has picture perfect white sand beaches. Tomari Beach is perhaps the most popular with its calm, turquoise waters that’s perfect for swimming. Head over to Nakanoura Beach for some snorkeling fun, and Oura Beach for sunset. 

shikinejima sunset
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

Shikinejima’s onsen are one of the main highlights. Jinata Onsen is an all natural onsen with iron-rich waters which is scalding hot at low tide. But when the tide starts to rise, the seawater mixes in with the spring water, making it comfortable enough to soak in. Ashitsuki Onsen has clearer waters, and is another natural hot spring with temperatures varying according to the tide. Since these are outdoor areas, bathing suits are required!

jinata onsen
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

Kozushima

kozushima
Photo credit: en.japantravel.com

With challenging hikes and dive spots, Kozushima is great for more adventurous types. There are sandy beaches, an ultra-fun clifftop promenade and snorkel-swim areas. Maehama Beach is the main beach here.

akasaki promonade
Photo credit: tokyocheapo.com

For an exciting afternoon, head to the Akasaki Promenade. Resembling a giant wooden jungle gym, the raised walkway is complete with jump-off points, rocky outcrops, and snakes along the coast. We also recommend snorkelling, especially during the summer. You might notice by now, the waters at Izu Islands are extremely clear. If you have a diving licence and want to see more of Kozushima’s marine life, book a dive with one of the island’s dive shops.

Miyakejima

Another volcanic island, Miyakejima was evacuated in 2000 when Mount Oyama erupted, leaving part of the island covered in volcanic rock. Visitors were only allowed back on the island in 2005. In 2007, locals built a wooden path across the volcanic field, allowing visitors to see the rugged landscape up close.

miyakejima
Photo credit: tokyoislands.jp

Apart from that, there is little to do on Miyakejima, unless you’re an avid birdwatcher. The island is known for its species of wild birds, including the local Izu thrush. Head over to Akokakko-kan, where you can observe the birds via telescope and learn about the wildlife and nature in the area.

Mikurajima

mikurajima
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

The main draw of Mikurajima is swimming with dolphins. There are about 160 of them living in the waters here, and the island has become a major research site for studying dolphins in the wild. There are also rules in place to protect the natural habitat of the dolphins. Swims can be booked through the Mikurajima Island Tourist Association. In case you don’t want to get wet, you can also bring a floatation device into the water and photograph the beautiful creatures from the boat.

mikurajima dolphins
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

Mikurashima is also home to over 700 giant trees. While some areas are accessible without a guide, most areas require that you go with one.

Hachijojima

hachijojima
Photo credit: matcha-jp.com

Many flock to Hachijojima’s onsen resorts and to enjoy a tropical holiday without the effort and expense of traveling to Okinawa. The island has great surf and diving spots, along with hikes up Mount Hachijo-Fuji, the tallest peak in Izu Islands.

hachijojima
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

Rising 854 metres above the ground, Mount Hachijo-Fuji offers the best views out across the ocean. It will take you over 1,200 steps to get there but you can also cycle or drive up the mountain via Hachimaki Road, accessible from the seventh station on the mountain.

After the hike, take a soak at Miharashi no yu, while taking in the Pacific Ocean. This hot spring is open day and night, so you can enjoy sunny blue skies or beautiful night skies! If you’re lucky, you catch some bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the ocean below.

miharashi no yu
Photo credit: gotokyo.org

Aogashima

aogashima
Photo credit: trip.com

The southernmost island on the Izu Islands chain, Aogashima is a tiny island with a big spirit. Home to less than 170 residents, the island still remains largely untouched by tourism. The entire island is a volcanic crater, within which there is another, smaller volcano. It is the ultimate destination for nature lovers, explorers and people who just want to retreat into a remote area.

There really isn’t much to do here, except to take things really slow. If you want to go exploring, there are trails to hike with lookouts across the crater and out to sea. Oyamatenbo Park is one of the best viewpoints of the island. And without any of the bright city lights, the night skies here are simply breathtaking.

aogashima night sky
Photo credit: onegai-kaeru.jp

Ideally, you are able to get by with some Japanese, because the island is not the most English-friendly place. There is just one store, one post office, and two bars. At the bars, you can try out local dishes and Aochu, the island’s alcoholic drink made from sweet potatoes. This is also where to meet the locals and sing some karaoke!

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