Izu Oshima island can be your idyllic midsummer night’s dream which swaddles you right into nature’s lap. Flawless beaches, rugged terrain, scenic mountain trails, lush greenery and a desert and a night sky that inspire songs – this is what Izu Oshima island offers.
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There are several ways to get there. You can sail under Tokyo’s iconic Rainbow Bridge taking in the glorious skyline on a jet ferry, or just hop on a plane. A mere 2 hours from Tokyo by the jet ferry or 30 minutes by plane, either way it’s a weekend trip you owe yourself this summer. If time is not a constraint, we do recommend slowly slipping through the night on a gigantic Tokaikisen ship. Sail first class for a little extra, if you want to travel in style.
Plan your arrival well, because it’s true what they say that island life never starts early. However, it does end early. If you want to rent a bicycle or a car, be wary of that the rentals don’t open till past 9 am or even 10 am in some cases. Make sure to book in advance and learn the opening times for a smooth start to your trip.
While there is the option of bringing in your bicycle or even car from Tokyo on the ship, it is pricey. Whatever you do, know that exploring the island in a vehicle would be very convenient, especially for families.
In case you opt for public transport, the Oshima island bus system is fairly easy to navigate, one just needs to be prepared to wait at times as buses are not very frequent, but otherwise punctual.
Due to the limited number of inhabitants and visitors on the island there isn’t a plethora of accommodation options, but that is all part of the charm of being on a quite remote island. It is also a perfect way to unwind, away from the concrete jungle that is Tokyo. For a night’s sleep, one could choose from bunking in a hostel, a hotel room, to a traditional Japanese stay also known as ryokan.
Book Tea Bed
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This rather conveniently located property within 5-minute walking distance from Motomachi port and about 20 minutes drive from Oshima airport has a combination of both dormitories as well as private rooms. All rooms have a flat-screen TV and air conditioning, and some have balconies.Even if you don’t plan on staying there, you should try visit their much talked about cozy book café. A cup of coffee, a book and a view are your 3 best friends.
Mashio Hotel & Resort
This upscale 3-star property undoubtedly hosts some phenomenal views of the island as it sits right in between the mountains overlooking the coastline. The resort features its own bar and restaurant, free airport shuttle and each room type with its own balcony.
KON Guest House
This guest house close to Habu port is an ideal setting for a large group of 5 to 6 travelers or a family with kids. It offers 2 bedrooms, a barbeque garden, a well-equipped kitchen and all the amenities a family could ask for during their stay.
Kimaru-san, the 79-year owner, was born in this very house and she meticulously plans everything to make her guests feel welcomed.
The detail can be witnessed in every aspect, from the extra towels and extra amenities like hair straightener, to pampering one with homemade mochi and tamagoyaki at check in. If needed, she could also help coordinate and guide the guests around the island.
1. Volcanic black sand beach
Feast your eyes on the black sand beach and don’t forget to indulge in the open-air shower afterwards. There is something so right about becoming one with nature.
The general contrast of the black volcanic sand and the blue water gushing in is quite the spot for a walk or even a picnic, but otherwise not ideal for swimming due to the sharp shoreline.
Do try to make it to the black sand beach during the morning or afternoon, as the beach cuts in quite steep during high tides and the evenings could get a bit tricky.
A trip to an island would be deemed incomplete without a visit to the lighthouse, so if you arrive at Motomachi port do take a few minutes to admire the divine design of the lighthouse. Although it’s not possible to go inside, it does offer a rather pretty picture. As the port is on a curve, on a clear day one can see a shadow of the Izu Oshima mountains across the clear blue.
3.Garden of Eden and Camellias
You must visit the famous camellia garden known as Oshima Tsubaki-hana garden, as camelia is the symbol of Izu Oshima. You can meet Takashi Yamashita, the man who has been taking care of the garden for the past 30 years and his commitment has been awarded by the international camellia society and the garden is recognized as “International camellia garden of excellence.” Mr. Takashi can explain the different varieties of camellia, show you the squirrels and the rabbits and take you around the garden. He can communicate a great deal in English, so there won’t be a big language barrier.
Though camellia flower season is March/April, the garden is spectacular with other flowers and plants throughout the year.
At the end of the garden tour you are left on a green grass hill overlooking the ocean with a view of Mount Fuji on a clear day. A sunset at this spot would definitely make a great memory.
Rabbit Feeding at the Tsubaki-hana Garden
Rabbit feeding is another activity that can be indulged in this garden. If you like bunnies, for a small fee you can buy food and feed them at the Tsubaki-hana garden.
Open: 9:00am – 3:00pm (Varies by season)
Closed: Wednesday and Thursday (During December)
Admission fee: Adults / 830yen
4. Observe Volcanic Landscapes
One of the best things about Oshima is its natural wonder. And you don’t necessarily need to always arrive somewhere to enjoy that, a drive across the island offers quite phenomenal views of the cross section of the volcanic strata. These volcanic cliffs are layers of volcanic sedimentation from over 20,000 years also known as Baumkuchen, the layered German cake. Best views are seen during the drive between Habu port and Motomachi port.
5. Mount Mihara
Mount Mihara of Izu Oshima is an active volcano with its last major eruption dated to 1986 which lead to the evacuation of the entire island. Nowadays trekkers and cyclist climb the mountain and it takes 2 hours each side on a leisurely pace or one could rent a gear bike and pedal up the mountain. While on your way up one comes across the black sand desert and volcanic rocks – another distinctive landscape and a rare sight. The desert is called Ura Desert (meaning ‘back-side’ desert) and it is near the summit of Mt Mihara.
When climbing Mt. Mihara, many prefer watching the sunrise from the top, but even if you can’t make it at the break of dawn don’t be disappointed, the view remains amazing at all times of day.
Fun fact: In the movie “The return of Godzilla” Mount Mihara is the place where the Japanese Government imprisons Godzilla. This has led to quite a few Godzilla toys and souvenirs at the Izu Oshima gift shops.
6. Visit Hajikama Shrine
The shrine is close to Okata port about 3 minutes peaceful walk through large patch of moss-covered green trees overlooking the mountains. It’s a great side quest activity for when you’re close to the port and have sometime to spare. The shrine is very serene, sleepy and scenic, surrounded by a small thick forest and offering a very peaceful crowd-free experience.
7. Tokyo municipal Oshima park Zoo
The zoo has free entry and it houses many species of birds, aldabra giant tortoise, emu, ring-tailed lemurs, Japanese red panda, Japanese wood pigeon and even migratory fish. All of them seem to be greatly cared for. The Zoo is a particularly good stop for families with kids.
Let’s start with a challenge for the brave ones! If you think Durian has a strong smell you haven’t met Kusaya – a specialty fish produce of the Izu islands with its origin dating back to the Edo period. The fish which is either mackerel or flying fish is dried after fermenting in a tea colored brine made of aged fish extracts and salt water known as “kusaya water” giving it a strong unique smell and pungent taste. This produce is typical of the of Izu islands, and among them the kusaya with the strongest aroma comes from Nijima Island.
We braved a seafood pizza thinking it was the most palatable way to try Kusaya. It comes with a filling of Kusaya below the cheese, but a word of caution – it is an acquired taste. On the bright side, this cured fish is valued for its anti-bacterial properties and is rich in sodium, calcium, vitamin B12 and folic acid, making it quite healthy.
Horned Turban Shell
Dive right into the horned turban shell found locally in shallow waters of up to 30 meters deep around all the Japanese islands. Served on a bed of salt the outer shell is thick grey green, while the inside is a soft spiral akin to a snail. Dig in directly and eat it. You can keep the shell as a souvenir of the most prized of all gastropods.
We tried it at this restaurant
Check out Kiri Kiri Restaurant
This this 70-year-old restaurant tucked in the woods offers a true laid-back island escape vibes. The house itself, built from scratch by owner, is made of wood and is full of remarkable and intriguing details. The indoor is as charming as it is tasteful and everything including the crockery is handmade. Kiri Kiri is serving quite a few options for the vegetarian, some organic cakes, curries but mostly cups full of joy and coffee.
Do note this restaurant takes only prior reservations as it’s a busy haunt among travelers and walk-ins are not encouraged.
Opening hours 11:30 to 20:00 ※ Reservation only
Regular holiday Fixed holiday
Go to the Pottery Studio next to the Restaurant
If pottery has been on your mind for a while, this would be the place. The owner of the restaurant runs a pottery class in a cottage just beside the restaurant, overlooking the loquat trees. The pottery studio with the Aztec rugs, lumber log tables and all the raw textured crockery is both a temple of art and a therapeutic oasis we all are in need of.
Camellia flower oil or any camellia related product would definitely be a must-have souvenir from this trip for its multiple benefits for the skin and hair.
But also explore a bit at the Motomachi port as they house some locally made bath salts, soap bars, Tsubaki creams, shampoo, hand-woven indoor cloth slippers and many other articles which would make for a great souvenir of your great summer escape.
The best way to end a vacation would be to soak in at Hamanoyu – an open air onsen about 5 minutes’ walk from Motomachi port. A hot onsen is a great way to unwind even on a summer evening and has many health benefits. The most unique selling point of this onsen, in addition to being lovely and with an amazing view, is that this is a mixed onsen which requires one to wear a swimsuit. So, you don’t have to fear being naked in front of a bunch of strangers. Just relax and enjoy the sunset.