Officially part of Tokyo, the islands of the Izu archipelago feel like another world. Calm and rural, they have nothing to do with the skyscrapers and commercialism of the capital. Some indeed are quite a distance away but transport is of high Japanese standards making it a quick and smooth journey. And don’t miss our insiders tip at the bottom of this post, a great suggestion for onward travel without backtracking to Tokyo!
Reaching the islands can be done by either air or boat. Take a look at the picture of the map of the Tokaikisen shipping company for an easy overview. Located south-west of Tokyo the first island to meet is also the biggest, Oshima, at a 108 km distance. Oshima and the next four islands are closed to the mainland and sometimes called ‘the Inner Islands.’ And at the bottom of the map you see Hachijojima, which is about 290 km from Tokyo. Together with the two islands you pass first these can be called ‘the Outer Islands.’
By boat (Booking is here.)
I always feel that for a real island experience you should travel by boat. Smell the ocean, feel the wind and get rocked by the waves (just a little). The Tokyo-part of the trip feels like a harbor cruise admiring the docks, outlying islands like Odaiba with its architecture and especially the Rainbow Bridge. Further out you pass small sea-defence islands and you can usually see the Yokohama skyline and harbor too. Since distances are small and there is a high speed ferry-option, riding the boat doesn’t have to take more time as a flight including your wait at the airport. And the price is lower too.
To understand your options for boat travel, let’s go back to that map. Look at the red line; the high-speed ferry route, and the blue line going south all by itself; the large passenger ship-route. Those two boat-types are your options;
The High Speed Ferry (Booking is here.)
This is another story and traveling with this is an adventure in its own. After the doors close, a speaker-voice asks you to ‘please remain seated during take-off!’ How about that for a start! Next the engines rev and you see from your surrounding that you are now a couple of meters above the waves. This makes the trip extremely smooth, feeling more like a flight then a boat ride, but the average speed is still 80km per hour.
There is an upper and lower deck and both have rows of reclining seats. These are comfortable which is good because you are supposed to remain in them. There are of course toilets and vending machines and a large screen video shows you all about the various islands in an entertaining way.
Your luggage you bring onboard yourself and it has its space near the exits. You can access it during the crossing. You cannot go outside but looking through the rear-windows at the impressive spray of foam and wake of the ship gives you a good impression of the power of this ship. Read all details and how it flies over the waves at Tokaikisen/jetship
Large passenger ships (Booking is here.)
These stop at all the islands and run on two routes. They generally sail at night, departing Tokyo around 11pm and reaching the first islands early the next day. There are several cabin types for those who want a bed or futon and there are reclining seats if you want to spend a bit less. Coin-operated showers, a restaurant and of course the ubiquitous vending machines can make the journey more comfortable. Full details about the ships at Tokaikisen/large ship
- The Camellia-Maru leaves Tokyo around 11pm daily and serves all the Inner Islands in a north-south order (Oshima, Toshima, Niijima, Shikinejima and Kozushima). Then it turns around to head back to Tokyo.
- The Salvia-Maru serves the Outer Islands and departs Tokyo around 10.30pm reaching the islands the next morning. The following evening it returns.
By air (Booking is here -Japanese only)
- Shin Chuo Koku has flights from Chofu airport (from Shinjuku about 20 minutes on the Keio line). To Oshima (about ¥10,000 for 25 minutes), Niijima (about ¥14,000 for 40 minutes) and Kozushima (about ¥15,000 for 45 minutes)
Travel times and indications of ticket fares (The rate will be changed by seasons)
- by Large Ship about 6 hours and about ¥10,000 for round trip(2nd class seat)
- by high speed ferry under 2 hours and about ¥15,000 for round trip
- by Large Ship about 8,5 hours and about ¥13,000 for round trip (2nd class seat)
- by high speed ferry under 3 hours and about ¥20,000 for round trip
- by Large Ship about 11 hours and about ¥20,000 for round trip
(2nd class seat)
- no high speed ferry
In the Japanese holiday season there can be a few extra routes available and note that in high seasons boats and even extra boats can be full; booking in advance is highly recommended.
Weather can mess up a travelers schedule. Although especially the high speed ferry is not so much affected by waves, understand that when a typhoon passes all boat travel could be altered or stopped entirely; keep an eye on the forecast in typhoon season.
Tokyo. All ships leave from the Takeshiba pier in downtown Tokyo. Nearest station is Hamamatsu-cho, served by two JR East lines: the circular Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tōhoku Line. It is also the terminus of the Tokyo Monorail line to Haneda Airport.
Getting to the pier is a 10-minute walk from the north-exit of the station. It is a modern complex with waiting hall and a restaurant. For more choice of meals you should better eat before arriving at the pier.
Insiders tip; travel via Atami
Look at the map again and you see the red line also connects to Atami on mainland Izu peninsula. This is only 1 hour by high speed ferry and also cheaper. A ten-minute shuttle bus connects the railway station and the pier.
While not used by most travelers, this tip gives you a direct connection with the Fuji/Hakone region or even Osaka and Kyoto. Without backtracking to Tokyo. Because to/from Atami you can ride both the JR and some shinkansen lines. And Odawara, which has a beautiful Japanese castle and is the main access point to Hakone, is only a short train ride from Atami. So, be adventurous and follow this trail!
Shin Chuo Koku (airline) http://central-air.co.jp
*Although put together carefully and correct at the time of writing, transport information gets easily outdated. Always check in advance the relevant companies for schedule and prices on the dates of your trip