Did you know that you can take a flight or a ferry from Tokyo and after your journey still end up in Tokyo? As big, crowded and grey city it can be, Tokyo still has some interesting corners that you cannot reach by ordinary train lines.
You may or may not know but Tokyo prefecture covers a number of islands, stretching more than 1000 km down South. Out of 200+ islands, eleven are inhabited and are often referred to as “Tokyo Islands”. Nine of them belong to the Izu island group, with Oshima Island being the closest with under 2 hours by a jet ferry, and Hachijojima as the second farthest. Funny enough, it is also the easiest one to get to with a 55 min direct flight from Haneda.
The remaining two Tokyo islands belong to Ogasawara island group, also referred to as “Galapagos of the East” and it would take no more and no less but a 25 hour ferry trip one way. So technically, you can spend 25 hours in a ferry and travel a thousand kilometres to still end up in … Tokyo! As you may guess, this is not an option for a weekend trip as you would need at least a week for a return trip to Ogasawara islands.
I was looking for a quick and easy weekend getaway, thus boarded the first flight to Hachijojima one Saturday morning (at the moment it is also the only available flight out of normal due to covid-19 related flight cancellations).
All Tokyo islands in the Izu island group are volcanic ones, Hachijojima is not an exception with two (theoretically, active) volcanos on both ends and the airport strip and the town in the middle.
Being about 300 km south of central Tokyo, Hachijojima has a subtropical climate and is a popular destination for snorkelling, diving, tropical forest trekking, volcano hiking, seafood, and hot springs (onsen). As most of Tokyo islands, it is also a good spot for stargazing.
Hachijojima has a population of about 7,500 people and was used as an exile place during the Edo period. Later, during the WWII it hosted a secret submarine base, and has been promoted as tourism destination since the post-war period. At some point it was even referred to as “Hawaii of Japan”, and I imagine that in the current situation with closed borders and virtually non-existing international travelling, this summer it may regain some of that glory.
If you do not rent a car, be prepared for quite some walking, as the bus network and schedule is rather limited and taxis are not that cheap. I did about 20 km walking in that one day that I’ve spent in Hachijojima, so was happy to return back to my sofa the following day.
I had a feeling to have been away for much longer than just one day, even though I have never really left Tokyo. It was really nice to travel a bit after a long time, this is what I have been missing most in the last months.