Discovering how kids can have fun on Oshima Island

3 minutes read

Living abroad has many advantages. Especially making trips to new places, which my family calls ‘going on adventure’ and big or small, these are our favorite moments.

Nature with all its strangeness and ingenuity never stops to amaze me and this curiosity I proudly share with my kids. Last month we visited Oshima island which is off the coast just south from Tokyo, in between Sagami Bay and the open ocean. It is not far from mainland Japan and under 2 hours from central Tokyo by hydrofoil. Officially Oshima and the other 6 Izu islands belong to Tokyo and they are for me ‘Tokyo’s best hidden secret.’

The hydrofoil-ride alone was a reason enough for Tom and Rik to love this adventure. The ship by Tokaikisen Ferries is not big but brightly painted and comfortable. They have 4 and we traveled on ‘Niji’ meaning ‘rainbow’ so you can imagine the colorful exterior! The exciting thing is that once departed, the speaker goes ‘please stay seated during the take-off procedure’ and as the ship gains speed you see and feel it raising up until ‘a smooth glide of around 80/km per hour’ is reached.

Once on the island we had many more adventures. Nature guide Nishitani-san took us along on and around Mt. Mihara, the highest and sort of dormant volcano of Oshima. The last eruption was 27 years ago, leaving vivid examples of lava flows and young vegetation. To be honest, the weather was plain bad, rain and mist all around us making it not easier for Nishitani to keep us entertained with information about nature. The track was clear enough to follow and full of reds, browns and blacks; the typical color scheme of volcanic scenery. The soil is highly fertile and combined with enough water (did I mention it rained already?) the next color will be green, bright green. Low trees and bushes, fresh leaves and many types of plants in variations special to Oshima.


hiking on Tokyo Islands; all year all weather
hiking on Tokyo Islands; all year all weather

Light gusts of wind and mist pushed us along the trail. We could not see far ahead and as the trail was flanked by low trees with corkscrew-shapes blocking the view after several meters, we were in a small world. Tom especially did not mind, he is completely into ‘precious stones’ and believes that each pebble with special colors is worth a small fortune, enough to buy him lots of new lego. And rocks in all seizes and shapes were everywhere. Rik liked to run back and forth.

We came across small animals like snails and beetles but Nishitani shifted their attention to plants. Pitcher plants with poison inside to kill and digest flies, a type of grass that makes a perfect whistle when spread between your fingers and the all-time-favorite, ‘fart grass!’ I forget both the Latin and the Japanese name as usual so I stick to this suitable description. Rub a bit between your fingers and smell. You can imagine the rest, truly terrible! The boys of course loved it came up with all kinds of uses for this grass, and where to best hide it in their grandparent’s house for maximum effect.

smelling 'fart grass' on Oshima island
smelling ‘fart grass’ on Oshima island
searching the black beach
searching the black beach

Following ‘a gully in small ridge’ created by the lava flow having cracked after cooling down we nearly lost ourselves in the thick bushes. Spider webs crossing the trail more than once stuck to my face, the privilege of being the tallest. Luckilly the fat black spiders were easier to spot and avoid.

discovering the misty woods on Mt. Mihara, Oshima island
discovering the misty woods on Mt. Mihara, Oshima island

Then, the kids together with Nishitani guided us back to the safety of the car. In all it was not a long walk, just over 5 kilometers in 2 hours. Filled with rain and clouds we never even saw Mt. Mihari itself but it didn’t matter; we learned that also ‘the small world close to your feet’ holds lots to discover! Next was ‘onsen-time’ enjoying the Japanese hot bath/ spa in the hotel.

Come and have some great adventures on the Tokyo secret Islands!

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