Izu Oshima, an island that is part of Tokyo Prefecture.There, visitors are greeted with nature so abundant that it’s hard to believe that it is still considered ‘Tokyo’.
Crater @ Caldera loop trail @ Mount Mihara @ Oshima / _
With the help of an expert nature guide, I went there to find out what discoveries there are to be made on such an island.
A Trip of Regeneration
An hour and 45 minutes ferry ride from the heart of Tokyo, or just 45 minutes from Atami, and you can set foot in an environment so different that it feels like you are on a different planet.
I feel slightly melancholy as we set sail from Takeshiba Pier at 8:40AM on a refreshing morning. But I decide to put my everyday life behind.
Mount Mihara, the volcano at Izu Oshima, exists within a unique ecosystem and to this day forms new land, continuing to change the landscape of the island.
At Izu Oshima, I felt the unimaginable strength of that power of continuing regeneration.
It’s living and breathing.
The Geopark Nature Guide launched in 2009, and they are planning on further expanding their activity in coming years.
The next eruption may happen as soon as sometime within the next 9 years.
That’s very soon.
Izu Oshima is completely different to the impression I had of it before my arrival.
I instinctively felt like the island was hiding something from me.
So many elements of adventure, all the while being so close to the city.
A trip full of surprises indeed.
To Mount Mihara
I head to Mount Mihara with my nature guide for this trip, Mr. Nishiya (Link in Japanese only).
He knows the island inside out, allowing you to design your route through any path, mountain or valley.
Natural sauna that utilizes heat from Magma. It’s no longer in use.
After passing a forest of tsubaki (camellia) flowers, I see a small entrance covered in greenery.
I am told it’s a natural sauna that has been in existence for more than 70 years. It was in use until the 1986 eruption.
A crack appeared in the ground, carrying just the right amount of heat from the volcano to the surface, creating a natural sauna.
I find that to be so fascinating.
From the viewing site on the outer rim of the crater, we walk towards the skies.
We walk from the viewing site of the outer rim of the crater, located at the Oshima Mount Mihara entrance of Fuji Hakone Izu Public Park.
There was hardly any wind that day, and I was surprised at how quiet and serene it was.
Step into the grasslands that stretch out under your eyes and it feels like you are walking on soil of ancient times.
We head towards the mountain that was towering up above in front of us.
I felt numb at the unexpected sight that lay ahead.
Traces left by lava.
The 1100 degree lava transformed the shape of the mountain, covered the earth and burned everything in its tracks, forming new lands the color of charcoal.
Various forms are created depending on the circumstances in which the lava cools, creating a world so foreign you would think you were on another planet.
We couldn’t help but smile as we studied and touched these miracles.
Learning about nature and history from Mr. Nishiya, my guide
The eerie waves of lava that flowed in the eruption 26 years ago appears frozen in time on the ground.
Some of the land that burned in the eruption prior to that is now partially covered in greenery.
And the lands that burned before that are now covered in wildlife.
Each and every one of them are unique and deeply profound, as though awaiting its time to be burned down again.
There are those that live and others that perish. Plants will fight for survival by continuing to regenerate, gradually adapting to become stronger against volcanoes.
The Japanese zebra grass and tsubaki flower are both such plants.
Mihara Shrine is an old shrine, which despite being located in an area that saw heavy lava flow, was spared as lava miraculously avoided the area where it is located.
We gaze at the crater for a little while.
Then, we climb a slope that takes us closer to the skies.
The view of the sun sitting at an angle together with the grass and charcoal surface of the rocks at this time of day was exceptional.
Allowing myself to soak it all up, I look up at the sky.
My eyes start to tear up at the fact that I exist.
Walking, feeling, eating and breathing.
The earth gave me strength, and its continuous power to regenerate gave me energy.
To end, we walk through a sea of strange looking trees, and I part ways with the guide who today shared such experiences as smelling mushrooms and bug excrement with me and told me many stories.
I hope we meet again.
The Day Comes to an end
Afterwards, I relax in the onsen hot spring and spend some time on my own.
Dinner is especially tasty that night.
I look forward to going home and trying out the newly released tsubaki oils, bath salts and beauty soaps that I purchased.