With adventure tourism on the rise due to the spread of coronavirus infections, a free tour for press and other participants was held on the remote island of Oshima under Tokyo, Japan, to showcase the possibility of new types of tours.
Oshima Island, a beautiful display of six natural elements
As an active volcanic island, Oshima consists of six natural elements the guide explained. These six elements are: Lighting, Stones, Wind, Sea Salt, Camellia and Ashitaba leaves. The Tokyo Islands’ team also participated during this tour which introduces the possibilities of a new range of tours on Oshima Island and found that it offers many opportunities for adventure tourism, which is very much in demand right now. What exactly are these six elements you may ask? What makes us think there are opportunities for adventure tourism? Please read on to find out!
First of all, what is Adventure Tourism?
According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), an international organization for adventure tourism, Adventure Tourism is considered to have two or more of the following three main objectives: contact with nature, physical activities, and cultural exchange.
Adventure tourism is more than just adventure travel; it is about facing nature and local culture, spending quality time enriching one’s life, and connecting that experience to one’s own growth and transformation. In this sense, it is a new and different form of travel. It is also expected to make a greater contribution to the local economy and have a more far-reaching impact.
Based on this definition, let’s see how we can enjoy some Adventure tourism on Oshima Island!
Reference Materials: Yamatogokoro.jp
1. Lighting – The changing faces of the crater and the volcanic mountain every hour
The tour of light was led by Junji Takasago who is Japan’s leading nature photographer and Kana Nishitani, a popular nature guide on the island.
Usually, it is recommended to start hiking in the morning. However, since the tour guides wanted us to see the changing faces of the mountain and the island, the tour started in the afternoon. As the free tour was held in autumn, silver grass could be seen everywhere on Mt. Mihara, which is the biggest mountain, located in the center of Oshima Island. On remote islands such as these dusk sets in early.
As the sun goes down, the green and silver leaves catch more light and start shining by themselves. We went up to the crater and walked up to a place where one can see Mount Fuji and the other Izu islands when the air is crystal clear. We then arrived at the Omote-desert, which looks like a landscape on Mars.
At the end of this tour, we headed to the Sunset Palm Line where you can watch the sunset light up the island.
2. Winds – Winds have created the visual appearance of Mt.Mihara and also reminds one of a black desert
All landscapes are influenced by winds and Oshima Island is not an exception to this. Only an hour and a half away, there is a path that will take you from the beginning of the desert to the growth of the forest. The road is called: “Saisei no Ippon Michi” which means “One road to regeneration”. During this time, a disaster prevention information advisor, Mr. Kajiya who is a disaster prevention information advisor gave us an explanation on how much the wind has affected there.
The starting point was the Oshima Onsen hotel and we headed to Ura-Sabaku, the black desert which is spread out all around behind Mt.Mihara through the One Road to Regeneration. Through the lush forest, a slightly rugged volcanic landscape came into view. Since it was autumn, silver grass spread all over the ground. It is said that that silver grass grows on young mountains or in areas that have been scorched, as it grows before it turns into a forest.
Later on, we arrived at Ura-Sabaku. Because a strong wind tends to blow here, it is difficult for plant seeds to stick, leaving the black desert landscape. These landscapes are affected by wind in various ways thus changing the look of even just an hour and a half’s journey.
3. Sea Salt – The island won the battle against the salt monopoly and maintained the old-fashioned way of making salt
This tour will give you some amazing insights in the way salt production is changing in Japan and the importance of preserving the traditional methods by which Japanese artisans throughout history have been producing salt. Do you know the story behind Japan’s salt monopoly system? The geological formation in Japan does allow for rock salt production. Also, due to the hot and humid climate, it is not possible to produce salt by collecting seawater and drying it. Since ancient times, the only way to obtain salt in Japan has been to boil seawater over a fire.
There was almost no other way to obtain salt in Japan. This involved hard work, such as fetching seawater, cutting trees for fuel from the forest, and guarding the fires day and night. The Japanese government, which was in the process of modernizing the nation, established a salt monopoly system in 1905 to strictly control salt production methods, distribution and sales. The salt monopoly system lasted for 92 years until it was abolished in 1997, and the innovation of production methods was actively promoted. In 1971, however, the traditional salt production method using salt fields was completely discontinued and replaced by the world’s first salt production method using seawater concentrated by an ion-exchange membrane method and cooked in a vacuum evaporator. As a result, the only standard type of salt produced in Japan is a highly pure sodium chloride, which contains almost no other minerals. Citizens who felt threatened by this drastic change started a movement to revive the traditional salt producing ways. As part of this movement, Umi-no-Sei began producing salt in 1976 with special permission from the government. The salt made by inheriting the traditional method is truly delicious and has a deep and rich flavor.
4. Camellia – The winter rose is not just something to look at but also can be used for other purposes
This young volcanic island is famous for camellia, called Tsubaki in Japanese. It is said that there are 3 million camellia trees on this island. For that reason Camellia has been deeply involved in the lives of islanders. The camellia seeds become oil, the camellia trunks become charcoal and the trees themselves serve as windbreakers.
Camellia oil is not only for moisturizing hair and body, but also for use as a food source. On Oshima, some of the accommodations such as the Oshima Onsen Hotel offers a camellia oil fondue filled with specialties from Izu Oshima. Here at the Takada Oil Refinery, you can learn how to make camellia oil and also its history.
Also, you can experience Itto-bori carving, one knife carving at the Fujii workshop. You can get an experience of carving a camellia trunk to make a key ring with so called one knife carving.
5. Angelica (Ashitaba Leaf) – A leaf that support the lives of islanders
You might not have heard about the Ashitaba leaf yet but this leaf (English name: Angelica), is a plant that grows wild mainly on the Izu Islands and has been used as a food source by the islanders for centuries. As the name Ashitaba means “If you pluck a bud today, a new bud will appear tomorrow”, the leaf is very vigorous.
It is said to be effective in preventing diseases such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure, as well as in suppressing allergies due to its antibacterial properties, and in recent years, research has shown that it may also help prevent cancer.
There is a cooking experience session using Ashitaba leaves. However at this time as a COVID-19 prevention measure we were served a dish prepared by an Ashitaba farmer.
6. Stones – The stones at beaches tells the deep histories of the islands
Stones are not just stones. They are telling us stories about the land. This tour was organized by Tatsuro Chiba,a volcanologist and also a chief engineer at Central Research Laboratories of Asia Air Survey Co.,Ltd. He took us to a stretch of a geological cross section running about 600 meters, which is known as “Baumkuchen”.
Apparently the layering of stacks occurred over a period of 20.000 years. “Since it is a “Baumkuchen”, even if the surface were to be cut the same layers would appear” Mr. Chiba said.
We then moved to the Sano Hama black sand beach, which is famous for Sea turtle spawning and we started observing and experimenting with the stones. We checked the colors, weights and shapes of the stones and found out where they were from. Then we could start to understand how the stones came to the beach originally and what kind of geographic background Oshima Island has.
At the end of the tour, all participants have cleaned up the beach and finished the tour.
Adventure Tourism’s Tip: The charm of walking around on Oshima Island
Oshima Island is not small, we recommend using a car to go around. However, get out of the car and walk around, you can discover the charm of nature that you cannot find by driving past it.
Very close to the Sunset Palm Line, about 10 minutes away by car from the main ports. You will find a narrow road that can barely fit a car. We walked on, and there were the camellia couple trees, a pair of camellia trees with their roots intertwined, like a married couple.
Also you can also see insects disguised as tree branches, eggs of common insects, and other creatures that you would not normally see (If you are not afraid of watching insects).
At the end of the road, Mt. Fuji suddenly appeared in front of us and it was a stunning view. When the weather conditions are good, you can see Mt. Fuji from Oshima Island.
Novel coronavirus infection prevention measures
The monitoring tours were held during the Covid-19 pandemic. So the executive office made sure that:
- Our temperatures were measured before boarding the ship
- Temperatures were checked once more after arriving to Oshima Island
- Hand sanitizer was used before boarding a bus
- In the bus, the windows were opened during the tours
- All the participants and people involved were wearing face masks
- Each participant stayed at a different accommodation
If you are interested in creating/participating in an adventure tour on Oshima, contact the Oshima Tourism Office or us
Thank you for reading this article until the end. If you are interested in participating or creating an adventure tour on Oshima, and if you speak Japanese, please contact the Oshima Tourism Office
Oshima Tourism Office: 04992-2-2177
If you want to communicate in English, please contact us, Tokyo Islands