Beginning of May, I got on a boat from Shikinejima with two companions and headed to Niijima.
As Shikinejima island and Niijima island are neighbors, they are quite close to each other.
The inter-island ferries or one of Tokaikisen’s speedboats will get you there in 20 minutes.
This island was once a popular destination for youngsters, and it was crowded in a similar fashion to how Harajuku is these days.
Nowadays, there’s a relaxing air about the place, a simple Japanese island.
Of the seven Izu islands, it’s the only island with white sands. With Habushi-ura-kaigan beach at its center, it’s an irresistible spot for surfers.
With plans to stay a night on the island, We decided on a place called ‘saro’ that just opened recently.(Now ‘saro’ is closed and new space is under construction.)
In the car from the harbor to the hotel, entering the road along the coastline, we spotted objects made of stone along the road.
These are made of a type of stone called kouga stone.
Statues that looked like this were everywhere…
Kouga stones are a type of pumice stone. Niijima and Lipari island in France are the only two places on earth where they can be excavated. Turns out, the moyai statue at Shibuya station was also made using kouga stone from Niijima.
I decided to go for a drive around the island.
First stop, I wanted to learn more about the Kouga stones I heard about earlier so I headed to the Niijima Glass Art Center.
The Niijima Glass Art Center is in a stylish building standing in an open space facing the ocean.
Niijima Glass Art Center
Here, Kouga stones are used as raw material to make pieces of glass art. There’s a line of glass art in unique shapes and colors that can be bought to take home as a souvenir.
They also offer classes for making glass goods from Kouga stone.
After the visit to the center, we went up the mountain in the car.
Niijima is huge compared to Shikinajima, the island we were at until yesterday.
Driving along the coast for just under 20 minutes, we arrive at Mukaiyama Observation Deck, which is also a mining ground for Kouga stone.
Here too there is a large Kouga stone object
You can look over Shikinejima and other islands
Stunned by the view
The moment we take a step out of the car, we are blown by rather strong winds. Under the strong sunlight, the wind feels pleasant. From here, we have a sweeping view of Shikinejima and other surrounding islands. I am reminded of how blue the ocean is. As might be expected from a Kouga stone mining ground, the place is scattered with stone. Everywhere you look it’s stone. I pick one up just to see. Lo and behold, it’s light! After hanging around at the deck for some time, we descend the mountain towards Honmuramae-hama.
As it was still early in May there were hardly any swimmers at the beach, but we were told that during summer season it gets busy.
I swam about 200m away from the coast.
The white sands go on for a long way, and I felt as though I had wandered into a void in space.
Once in awhile, a large mantaray would be seen scattering sand on the seabed. Fish would swim leisurely around the tetrapods. I also spotted some large striped beakfish, blackfish and moray eel.
After returning to shore, we headed to the nearby yunohama-roten onsen.
With temple like sculptures standing tall, the exterior was like that of an ancient roman bath!
It’s hard to believe that this onsen facility is free!
Here, with swimsuits on, you can bathe in the onsen for free at any time 24 hours a day.
After a relaxing dip in the onsen, we headed to the hotel.
The stone statues that we spotted on our way home were barely visible in the dark, and had a rather peculiar ambience to them.
The next day, we went to ‘Mamashita onsen’ to try out the island’s famous sand bath.
All three of us let out a big ‘ahhhh’ at the same time.
Our bodies wrapped in sand, our travel fatigue, insecurities over our beer gut, or our routine fights all seeped out of our bodies along with all the sweat.
Our bodies were warm, we forgot about time, and we nearly missed our ferry home.
Niijima island is one of Tokyo’s peaceful and beautiful islands. Enjoy your time on the island as you wish in the slow relaxing atmosphere.
Use time:24 hours a day, seven days a week (except when cleaning)
※ swimsuit wear
3.Glass Art Center
Official Homepage(only Japanese)
Hours:10:00 to 16:30
Holiday:Every Tuesday, year-end and New Year holidays