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Aogashima Volcanic Island

A couple of hundred miles to the south of Tokyo in the Philippine Sea lies the volcanic island of Aogashima. Administered by Tokyo and part of the Izu Archipelago, the island’s 205 inhabitants (2009) enjoy a type of solitude that many will never experience. This island is known for having a volcanic caldera within a larger caldera, which makes the island’s unique shape resemble a tropical scene from the set of Jurassic Park or Lost. Only accessible by boat or helicopter, one could end up trapped here pretty easily if the seas get rough or a tropical storm makes its way in.

How to Get There

The only way to reach Aogashima Island is via Hachijojima, a larger island 70km north. Hachijojima has an airport and can be reached by air or boat from Tokyo.

From Hachijojima by boat: Boats take 3 hours. Note that service can be affected by inclement weather.
From Hachijojima by helicopter: Flights time: 20 minutes. Reservations are required.

Stunning topography

The topography of the island is breathtaking. Sheer cliffs rise up out of the ocean on all sides and then just drop away inwards creating a large, ringed bowl. The best views are from the helicopter flight, but there are trails to hike with lookouts across the crater and out to sea. One of the best viewpoints is from Oyamatenbo Park. At night, the stargazing opportunities are out of this world.

A different side to Tokyo

The island is part of Tokyo, but compared to the bright lights and buzz of the metropolis, Aogashima is worlds apart. Life on the island is about taking things slow. There is just one store, one post office, and two bars. At the bars, you can try a few local dishes and sample Aochu, the island’s vodka-like drink made from sweet potatoes. The island bars are a great place to meet the locals and sing some karaoke.

The power of nature

The current shape of the island dates back to a big eruption in 1785, after which Aogashima was uninhabited for 50 years. Today there is a population of some 170 people. Accommodation is limited to a few small B&Bs or the free island campsite. The campsite has minimal facilities, but there is a geothermal sauna nearby where you can also shower and relax. Outside the facility, there are some geothermal vents for cooking eggs and sweet potatoes, available at the island store.

 

Likely the best way for someone to take an adventure here is to fly to one of the larger islands in the archipelago like Hachijō-jima that has a landing strip and organize a helicopter flight here. Getting there is an adventure akin to a James Bond mission, which is likely why not many ever make the journey.

These remote islands are truly a great place to relax. It is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park system which encompasses many of the islands in the area, so a trip would definitely require a bit of island hopping to take in all of the surrounding beauty.

On Aogashima there isn’t much to do, but the serenity is probably one of the biggest attractions on a visit.

In the center of the island lies a geothermal sauna, scuba diving is popular, and the alien landscape is something you will never forget. Be careful though, this is still an active volcano. In 1785, 140 of the 327 person population perished in a massive eruption. It has been over 200 years since the last eruption, so the volcano might be in store for an eruption. Beware.

Location: Izu Islands, Philippine Sea, Japan

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