島 (shima/jima) = Island
The closest of the inhabited Izu Islands is two hours away from Tokyo by ferry, the farthest is seven. The islands are an outdoor adventure lovers haven with plenty of ocean side camping, natural onsen and scenic hikes. You also have access to creatures like dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat, so much better than the zoo.
I've had the privilege of visiting Oshima, the largest and closest of the chain of islands. It is an absolute gem.
The food is stellar. Unique. They have these tasty chilis they used instead of wasabi because there are no rivers on the island that wasabi could be grown in.
The scenery is gorgeous - everything from black sand dunes, to coral reefs for snorkeling. It was so surprising to find such a subtropical paradise just two hours from Tokyo.
I made the journey during rainy season and got to experience peak bloom of the hydrangeas. It was breathtaking.
And beyond the natural beauty, the island is home to some really amazing people. Especially, Suguru, my host on Oshima.
Suguru runs a guesthouse called Island Star House. He did all the renovations on the home, by himself over the course of three years. He'd work Monday through Friday and then ferry over to the island, build Saturday and Sunday and be back in Tokyo for work on Monday. Talk about dedication and vision.
Here is a little bit of information to help you plan your own adventure!
- Nantoukan - traditional island food, super yummy, be sure to go with someone who can speak Japanese, and even better if you can call ahead and let them know you are coming
- Takoyaki - he's a master, with a little red food truck, you'll smell the delicious food before you spot him.
- Ice cream from the Burratohouse farm.
- Taiyaki - savory and sweet options available, so delicious - set inside another guesthouse.
Very much looking forward to island hopping this summer, below are a few of the other islands and what they are known for:
- Niijima (surfing)
- Mikurajima (dolphins)
- Hachijojima (sea turtles)
- Shikinejima (beaches and onsen)
- Aogashima (only accessible by helicopter, an unbelievable double volcano!)
- Kouzushima (camping and diving)
Another random fun fact to peak your interest in visiting: During the Edo period, Nii-jima, Miyake-jima, and Hachijō-jima served as places of exile for criminals....I can imagine that was isolating, but what amazing water front property they had!