Every 20 years or so, Miyakejima experiences a volcanic eruption. Most recently in 2000, the entire island had to be evacuated and the island was left uninhabited for 5 years – resulting in a complete take over by mother nature, the ocean further increasing in its beauty. Nowadays it is a place where one can observe the raw beauty of this planet, the terrain formed by lava flow, with the ocean right in front of your eyes. In this post, I would like to share Miyakejima’s best sightseeing spots, recommended activities, access information and some precautionary tips.
Table of Contents
1. What is Miyakejima Island?
1. Must-see spots on Miyakejima Island
2. Must-do Activities on Miyakejima Island
3. Find Accommodation on Miyakejima Island
5. Tips for traveling around Miyakejima Island
Miyakejima is an island located roughly 180 kilometers south of Tokyo. It’s a compact island with a diameter of 8 kilometers and temperate climate. With an active volcano that erupts once every 20 years, Miyakejima is a rarity in which you see both the creation of life alongside areas of old growth forests – the history of earth to behold all at once.
What is Miyakejima?
Must-see spots in Miyakejima
The earth and townscape shows topography that was hugely affected by nature. You’ll see incredible views and scenes that are unique to the face that the island is home to an active volcano.
Volcano Experience Promenade – Elementary and Junior High School That Dammed The Lava
When the volcano erupted, out poured the lava. A building that was once an elementary and junior high school stood in its way and managed to contain the lava. There are places where the scene remains as though frozen in time. Formerly known as Ako elementary and junior high school, the site has since been turned into a promenade attracting tourists. It’s two minutes on foot from the “Niijima” bus stop and about 12-13 minutes by foot from “Sabigahama Port”.
The two story building was buried under lava during the 1983 eruption. Nowadays, only the rooftop is visible above the surface. What used to be the schoolyard is now entirely covered in lava. Approximately 300 households were swallowed up by the lava, but fortunately there were no casualties. Now a sea of lava, Ako elementary and junior high school is a site where you can feel the immense magnitude of nature.
Volcano Experience Promenade
Address: Ako Miyakejima Village, Tokyo
Nippana Shinzan – A Mountain Created Overnight
When the Miyakejima volcano eruption occurred in 1983, a mountain was created in a span of one night. That mountain is Nippana Shinzan. It was created due to a pile up of lava and volcanic ash. It isn’t particularly big, but the way up to the peak is quite steep. The view of the horizon from the peak of the mountain is spectacular.
Address: Ako Miyakejima Village, Tokyo
Shiitori Shrine – A Spiritual Spot Buried Under Lava
A truly shocking sight. During the 2000 Miyakejima eruption, large amounts of volcanic mud flow swallowed the Torii (traditional Japanese gate) and main structure at Shikata Shrine, leaving only the tips in sight.
Forests surrounding the new torii were withered by volcanic gas and still remain so today. The immense strength of nature are on display here.
Towards the back however, the main shrine is surrounded by greenery, giving an air of serenity. We recommend stopping by both of them.
Address: 2420-1 Miyake Village, Tokyo
Tairo Pond – A Place Where Wild Birds Gather
While on one hand lava flow can cause entire forests to disappear, forcing life to be recreated from scratch again, there are also forests that are said to be “completed”, meaning, they are not expected to grow any more. That is the forest area around Tairo Pond.
The area surrounding Tairo Pond is inhabited by akakokko, a type of bird designated as a natural monument to Japan, and many others birds that are native to the Izu Islands. As such, another name for the island is Bird Island. Take a walk through the forest to spot rare birds that are unique to these islands. In good weather the pond turns a beautiful shade of green.
Address: 4188 Tsubota, Miyake Village, Tokyo
Megane-iwa Rock – The Best Sunset and Seasonal Diving Spot
Megane-iwa Rock (literally eyeglass rock) is located 10 minutes on foot from the Volcano Experience Promenade. It was named as such because it used to be shaped like a pair of eyeglasses, but an earthquake caused by volcanic eruption broke it apart.
This is a popular spot for its beautiful sunset. It’s also an unusual diving spot that’s opened only in the months of June and October. The topography is unique, such as the massive three signature arches created from lava flow. There is also a strong density of fish in the area. This diving spot is so popular some divers will travel all the way just to experience this diving spot.
Address: Ako Miyakejima Village, Tokyo
Must-do Activities in Miyakejima
Miyakejima is a treasure trove of activities. From diving to bouldering, you can try a variety of activities.
Miyake-jima is diving heaven. You might spot coral reefs, tropical fish, and even sea turtles. As Miyakejima is a volcanic island, lava has flowed into the ocean creating a dynamic sight. Activities that make use of the extraordinary topography, like diving between the arches or under the Megane-iwa Rock, are popular among divers.
For Miyakejima’s diving shop, check the activities on Miyakejima page.
Did you know that the best place to swim with wild dolphins is the island right next to Miyakejima? The area around Miyakejima’s neighbor, Mikurajima, is known to be home to many wild dolphins and if you join a tour with the dolphin club Miyakejima you get to swim with them. While the area is closest to Mikurajima, boats departing from Mikurajima have a high rate of getting cancelled, whereas boats departing from Miyakejima have a lower chance of cancellation. So for a much better chance of getting to enjoy the Dolphin Swim, we recommend going from Miyakejima.
There are some guidelines associated with the Dolphin Swim, so make sure to check in advance.
For dolphin swim guidelines and shops, check the activities on Miyakejima page.
There are several beaches in Miyakejima that are great for snorkeling. The water is incredibly transparent at Miyakejima beach and there is a high density of fish, making you feel like a mermaid swimming in the ocean! From July to August, there are lifeguards on duty at select beaches, so you can safely swim in the ocean.
Check the Miyakejima Tourist Association website for info on which beaches to go to for snorkeling. (Google translated page available)
Bouldering (indoors and outdoors)
Both indoor and outdoor bouldering can be enjoyed in Miyakejima. In fact, the bouldering facility here is one of the largest in Japan, attracting many from outside of the island for practice as well as just pure fun.
Miyakejima Recreation Center
Address: 3034 Tsubota, Miyake village
Hours: 11am – 8pm
Closed: Thursdays (in the case of a national holiday the next day)
Price: 500 yen ※ Elementary school students and seniors over 65 years can enter free of charge
For outdoors, there are cliffs in the wild that are well suited for free climbing. Over 70 routes have been recorded so far. Just keep in mind that you’re responsible for your own safety here. Enjoy the excitement of bouldering with nature’s gifts.
Thanks to the Kuroshio current, the area around Miyake-jima is rich in marine life. It’s been a popular fishing spot for years! If you’re rock fishing you may catch girella (Mejina), striped horse mackerel (shima aji), or yellowtail kingfish (hiramasa), and if you’re boat fishing look out for gnomefish (mutsu) and amberjack (kanpachi). It’s a great activity for beginners and experts alike
Miyakejima, is home to many rare species of birds, including Akakokko, a natural monument of Japan. The area around Tairo Pond has a particularly dense population of birds that have been designated as natural monuments of Japan, attracting many tourists with an interest in bird watching.
Learn more about the islands rare birds by visiting the Miyakejima Nature Center Akakokko Station.
Akakokko Station (Akakokko-kan)
Address：4188 Tsubota Miyakemura, Miyake-jima, Tokyo 100-1211 Japan
Hours：9:00am – 4:30pm
Closed：Mondays (or the following day if Monday falls on a national holiday)
Entry：¥200 (free for junior high-school students and younger, and seniors over 65. 20% discount for group of 15 or more.)
Find an accommodation on Miyakejima island
Now let’s find an accommodation on Miyakejima. Go to the website of Miyakejima Tourist Association . You will find some places to choose from on the website. However, for some accommodations it will be difficult to place a booking in English so it is better to have a Japanese speaking person take care of the reservation or try your luck with Google translate.
Access to Miyakejima and precautions
There are two main ways to get to Miyakejima. Either by large passenger ship, or by airplane. Below I list the different modes of transportation to get there, how to get around the island, and some precautions.
Access to Miyakejima
Getting to Miyakejima. The most popular way is by large passenger ship which takes 5 and a half hours.
Get on the large passenger ship leaving Takeshiba pier in Hamamatsucho, Tokyo. The boat departs at around 10pm and arrives at Miyakejima around 5am in the morning. There is only one round trip service a day, and the journey takes much longer than by plane. Budget-wise however, it’s the most reasonable at around 5,000 to 7,000 yen one way.
Book your tickets for the Miyakejima boat on the Tokai Kisen’s Official English language site at tokyoislands.jp.
For those looking to cut down on travel time, flying is the best way. The flight time is about 50 minutes from Chofu Airport in Chofu, Tokyo, to Miyakejima airport. There are three round trips a day. Costing 17,200 Yen each way, it’s pricier than the large passenger ships, but you get to spend more time on activities. Round-trip discounts are also available.
Book your flight with New Central Airservice Co., Ltd. on their official English language website at New Central Airservice.
Getting around Miyakejima
There are five main modes of transportation – car rental, moped, taxi, bus or bicycle rental.
Car rental and moped
To rent a car or moped, an international driver’s licenses is necessary. The rental company will pick you up at the port and take you back to their shop, but beware as there may be an extra charge for pick-up.
The fee for renting a 4 seater car is typically around 6,000 yen per day plus gas. For mopeds it’s about 4,500 yen per day plus gas.
For more info on renting cars and mopeds at Miyakejima, check the the Miyakejima Tourist Association website. (Google translated page available)
Going around all day in a taxi is obviously more expensive than renting a car or a moped, but it’s a good option for those without an international driver’s license, and there are no additional fees like pick-up and gas.
You can hire one for approximately 5,300 to 5,600 yen an hour, so it’s best suited for those traveling in groups.
More info about taxis in Miyakejima on the Miyakejima Tourist Association website. (Google translated page available)
There’s a local bus which runs 5 times a day. This is another good option for those without an international driver’s license. However, since it runs only five times a day, the last leg ends around 5-6:30 pm. Make sure to keep an eye on the time so you don’t miss it.
More info about the village bus in Miyakejima on the website of the Miyake-jima Tourist Association. (Google translated page available)
The last option is bicycle rental. Although it’s physically more demanding, the island itself is not that big – a loop around the island is about 30 km. If you cycle nonstop it only takes about 1-2 hours to make it around the entire island. If you’re traveling on a budget, bicycle rental is a great option. A limited number of motor-assisted bicycles are available for rent at the Miyakejima Tourist Association.
More info about bicycle rental in Miyakejima on the website of the Miyakejima Tourist Association. (Google translated page available)
Precautions when traveling in Miyakejima
Entry into the mountain is prohibited
The 2000 eruption created volcanic gas, and as of January 2018, entry into Mount Yuyama at the center of the island is still prohibited. The level of sulfur dioxide in the town is 0, but avoid entering the mountain.
You can check the level of volcanic gas in Miyakejima here. （Japanese Only)
Check if your inn offers shuttle services and early morning naps
The first bus of the day is timed with the arrival of the large passenger ship early in the morning, but for those getting off the ship on its way back to Tokyo from Hachijojima, the buses may not necessarily run in sync with your boat.
Many inns and car rental companies offer early morning pick up services from the port, so check with them at the time of reservation. Those arriving too early in the morning to begin sightseeing, for an extra fee there are also places that will let you to take an early morning nap before check in. Again, confirm with reception when making your reservation.
For high season such as summer, book early!
Ships, flights, inns, restaurants, activities, car rental… All of these get booked out fast during high season like summer. Ships and planes in particular may sell out as soon as they become available for purchase, so be sure to make your reservations early. During off season, some restaurants and izakayas may close, so if you decide to choose a stay without meals included, check with your inn for restaurant recommendations.