» » Aogashima Island, Japan : A Village in the Middle of a Crater

Aogashima Island, Japan : A Village in the Middle of a Crater

By on Dec 08, 2014

358 kilometers south of Tokyo is a small island in the Philippine Sea, inhabited by a community of roughly 200 people. The entire land area of the island is only 9 km2 and is called Aogashima. However, apart from its size and few inhabitants, there is something extraordinary about the island. Aogashima is actually a volcano and in the middle of the crater is a smaller volcano.

The whole island is beautiful although it lacks something that is common to most islands – beaches. In place of beaches are tall cliffs, so the only way to reach the community is through a path that leads to the village from the only harbor.

Aogashima seldom experiences tourists, much less those from other countries. It may not have much to offer in terms of normal tourist activities and accommodations, but the experience of spending some time on a volcanic island that is actually inhabited, makes the trip worthwhile. If you’re willing to spend a day or two at Aogashima to explore its beauty, here are a few tips that will help you on your trip.

How to Get There

Aogashima is technically still a part of Tokyo, but getting there can be a problem. You’ll have only two choices in terms of transportation: a helicopter or a ferry. The ferry might seem like an obvious choice. Not only is the fare cheaper than the helicopter, but the travelliing time is only 2.5 hours, which would seem like a good way to experience the sea.

Unfortunately, the sea between Hachijojima and Aogashima can be treacherous at times. Because of this, almost 50% of the scheduled ferry trips are cancelled. If you’re in luck, you might be able to travel on the same day as you planned.

The helicopter is a much better option, although it is a bit expensive. The Toho Air Service Company operates trips from Tokyo to the six islands near Aogashima. You’ll be able to find their office at Hachijojima where it will be much cheaper to charter the helicopter than coming from Tokyo.

Aogashima does have its own helipad in the village so you won’t need to do a lot of walking. If you take the ferry, you’ll need to walk from the harbor to the village, and this is quite a distance. In fact, the villagers placed a CCTV camera at the harbor to monitor the weather from the village, so they don’t need to walk to the harbor only to find out that that they can’t use their boats due to the weather.

Where to Stay

You certainly won’t find any fancy hotels on the island, but a few places called minshukus accept the occasional tourists. You’ll be able to get your meals there since there are no restaurants in the village.

Alternatively, you can bring some camping gear and a tent. You’ll be able to camp for free near the volcano, but make sure you have a supply of food too.

What to Do

Don’t expect that there’ll be much tourist activities on Aogashima. During the day, you’ll be doing plenty of exploring in and around the volcano. You can spend some time at the public sauna that is powered by the steam rising from the volcano. The vents are extremely hot so you’ll also be able to cook your food there.

Only several trails from the village are clearly marked. If you intend to explore the whole island, you’ll need to search for trails or create your own. Other than seeing the natural beauty of an island volcano, don’t forget to taste the local shochu. Some say it is a unique variety and can only be found on Aogashima. You might also want to taste the only product on the island, which is salt. The salt is derived from the seawater by using the steam vents.

The locals are friendly and are willing to chat with the tourists although this can be a problem if you don’t speak Japanese. Nevertheless, you might want to try to find someone who can speak English. If not, then still try to spend some time with the locals.

Safety

Most of the trails you’ll be walking to explore the island will not have been used much. It’s best you find a guide to show you some of the most visited places and prevent you from going to places that could be dangerous. The edges of the island are cliffs without any barriers that can prevent you from falling, so be careful where you go.

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