Ok, so here’s a little known fact for you. There’s like a dozen semi-tropical islands in Tokyo. Well they aren’t exactly in Tokyo. But, they are part of Tokyo Prefecture. Known as the Izu Seven or, 伊豆七島 Izu Shichitō, at least seven of islands can be easily reached by high-speed ferry or a slower “cruising” ferry.
I recently had an opportunity to visit the largest and closest to Tokyo of the islands, Oshima, which, in Japanese, not surprisingly means “Big Island.” You gotta hand it to the locals, when it comes to naming places, what they lack in imagination they make up in descriptiveness.
Anyway, as I mentioned, it’s pretty darn easy to get to the islands from anywhere near Tokyo. Ferries depart from terminals in Tokyo, Kurihama, and Atami at various times on various days. You can see the schedule here: http://www.tokaikisen.co.jp/english/time_price/time_price/
Due to my desired departure date and time, I opted to take the train from Yokohama to Atami and catch the ferry to Oshima. The ferry terminal is easy to find and, as I had reserved my ticket in advance (recommended!) getting my boarding pass was a super simple 2-minute process.
It was a warm day with little wind, and flats seas, so the 50-minute ride to Oshima was quite smooth. As the ferry has free wi-fi, I was able to send some emails and do a little research on Oshima.
Oshima Key Facts
Name: Izu Ōshima – 伊豆大島
Size: 91 Sq. KM
Arrival Options: Ferry, Airplane
Famous For: Mt. Mihara, Oshima Flower Festival, Active Volcano!!!
Famous Visitors: Godzilla!, Cinnabar (from Pokemon – ask your kids!)
Depending on the weather and prevailing winds the ferry will either arrive at Motomachi Port or Okata Port. We arrived at the larger of the two, Motomachi Port which has a tourist information centre, several small restaurants, gift shops, hotels, and bike and car rental businesses.
From Motomachi I rode my trusty Brompton folding bike about 6.5 KM on a very wide and nicely maintained road to check-in at Asamikan, a family owned Japanese-style inn that was recommended by one of my cycling friends.
After checking in, checking emails, and taking a short nap, I jumped back on my bike and spent the afternoon exploring the north side of the island.
What did I find?
I found a deafening amount of peace and quiet. Except the occasional car, the only thing I could hear was a variety of birds, ocean waves, the wind, and whatever noise my bike was making. I also found beautiful scenery including abandoned black lava and sand beaches, impressive viewpoints, friendly locals and a few fellow tourists.
And oh yeah, I found Godzilla! That terrifying reptilian giant has been tamed, transformed, and downsized by Oshima’s charms into a cute and friendly ambassador for the island.
I got back to Asamikan around 5pm, and in an uncharacteristic burst of productivity, took a nice long shower and bath in the very well kept “ofuro,” sent some emails, had a conference call and made it to the dining room just in time for dinner.
The food was off the charts in both quantity and quality.
The only other diner was a Mr. Nakamura who, it turns out, has been visiting this exact same inn on a monthly basis for 40 years. He told stories about the island history and changes, and generously shared some of his Japanese shochu with me. With good food, conversation, and a wee bit alcohol, it was very pleasant end to a well spent day.
The next morning a warm and hearty breakfast was served at 7:30am.
During my short stay in Oshima I also came across a couple coincidental things that somehow or another might be related. A blast from the past outdoor beer vending machine (only in Japan!) and a tribute that reminded me of a good friend (who would’ve absolutely dug the vending machine). Funny how life unfolds sometimes.