Living life in the fast lane, there are times every now and then, when you wish to escape from it all. Sometimes, all you want is to relax at the beach and blend in with nature. Oshima island (Izu Oshima), just 1 hour and 45 minutes away from Tokyo, is just such a place. Oshima island, one of Tokyo’s many islands, is rapidly gaining in popularity. Fujico a frequent traveler to all Tokyo islands shares her top picks for Oshima island.
Table of Contents
1. Must-see spots on Oshima Island
2. Must-do Activities on Oshima Island
3. Night Activities
4. Must-eat on Oshima Island
5. Where you can try some local foods?
6. Find Accommodation on Oshima Island
8. Tips for traveling around Oshima Island
Must-see spots on Oshima Island
The nature and townscapes of Oshima Island are unique and distinctly different from other places in Japan. Its unique black desert, the numerous camellia trees, the view of Mt. Fuji, the mysterious crater and the over a 100 years old town all are worth seeing. Check out these must-see spots on Oshima island.
Ura-Sabaku: The black desert on Mount Mihara
Ura-sabaku is famous for being Japan’s one and only desert. Yes you heard that right. Tottori prefecture’s famous Tottori Sakyu, is not a desert at all as many mistakenly believe, as it merely consists of sand dunes. That said, Ura-sabaku is not a typical desert. In fact, in terms of appearance alone, it can be argued that Tottori Sakyu looks more like a conventional desert.
So what’s so great about Ura-Sabaku?
The secret is its landscape which looks remarkably similar to the moon’s surface. It’s enough to make you forget that you are on Earth, let alone Japan! The vast hills made of charcoal sand would have you believe you are in outer space, expecting to float due to zero gravity. Visitors always return saying the same thing – it’s so much better in real life than on pictures! The place has such a unique atmosphere that no image can do it justice! Mt Mihara is also infamous for the 1952 plane crash where flight Mokusei-go from Tokyo to Fukuoka crashed into the mountain in which all 37 people on board perished.
Mt. Mihara and The Crater
Mt. Mihara (Mihara-yama) is an active volcano which erupted last in 1990. Most of the trees being burned by lava the landscape looks desolate but still seeds find their way here and you can observe how nature always tries to grow. When you go up to the top of Mt. Mihara, you can see the crater. Once upon a time this was a ‘popular’ suicide spot with people regularly jumping into the crater during the 1920s and 1930s until the government erected a giant wire fence around the vantage point from which people used to jump. It was also made illegal then to purchase a one-way journey to Izu Oshima. Seeing the crater is still a spectacular experience.
Mt. Mihara also has several movie connotations. For instance, in the 1984 Godzilla movie Godzilla was dropped into the crater. When two years later the volcano erupted people said it could be the curse of Godzilla. In the 1989 sequel Godzilla escaped again. Another famous movie connection is Ringu where Sadako’s mother jumps into mountain Mihara’s crater.
Stratigraphic cross-section (a.k.a Baumkuchen)
When you first catch sight of this stratigraphic cross section, also known as Baumkuchen for its resemblance to the famous German cake, you’ll be blown away. There are only a few locations like this one in the world that are open to the public as a tourist attraction.
The layers of soil give some insight into the mysteries of nature. Apparently the layering of stacks occured over a period of 20,000 years. The Oshima Baumkuchen can best be seen when driving down the circular road connecting Motomachi Port and Habu-minato Port.
Make sure to pay a visit to Hama-no-yu. You will not find any onsen more luxurious than this one. You have the perfect view from this hot spring with the sunset being the best part of the day. Seeing the sun set in the sea whilst relaxing in a natural bath of hot water is simply the best.
Hama-no-yu is a mixed bath, which means you need to wear a swimsuit. You can rent one at the onsen but you are welcome to bring your own. While there are several onsens on Oshima island, we highly recommend first time visitors to come to this onsen. In fact, this onsen alone is worth the trip to Izu Oshima.
Adress: Tonchibata Motomachi, Oshima-machi, Tokyo Hours: 1PM～7PM
(Open year round / Weather permitting / May close earlier on some days)
Entrance fee: Adult 300 yen, Children 150 yen
Hajikama Shrine is an atmospheric place, surrounded by trees. In order to reach this place you need to negotiate a flight of stairs, made from trees.
Hajikama shrine is located in Senzu area which takes about 15 minutes by car from Okata port, or 25 minutes by car from Motomachi port. You might not notice the street sign of Hajikama shrine on the Oshima round road. It used to kind of a hidden place. If you drive from the town side, you will find the sign on the left hand. A small white sign indicates “波知加麻神社” which means Hajikama shrine. Take a right and then go straight, you are going to see a lot of aligned cedar trees. This place is a sanctuary. And as you walk down the torii and go straight, you walk into a small forest. After going through the small forest, you will reach the main hall of the temple. You might think you ended up in the world of Ghibli.
There is another story to this shrine. In the edo period, an evil magistrate was hated by many islanders. At the time, 25 brave young people were involved in disposing of the evil magistrate. As they were pursued, they decided to escape from Oshima to the other islands. At the time, they had made boats from cedar trees in Hajikama shrine and escaped. Sadly, other islanders were afraid to be killed by the pursuers so they couldn’t help the young people. In the end, the young people ended up perishing out on the ocean. These young brave people were called “Hiimi sama”. Still now in some areas of Tokyo Islands, to quell the Spirit of 25 young people, it is said that one should not look at the sea on January 25th. Also to clean the entrance, prepare 25 rice cakes and wait.
Adress: 48, Senzu, Ōshima-machi, Tōkyō
The roots of the trees creep up the sides of the road, and the trees grow tall as though reaching up to the sky. It leaves you in awe at what nature is capable of. There’s nothing in particular that is of interest at the top of these stairs. But the nature here tells a story of Oshima island’s history, how it has stood tall and strong all these years. Come here to feel the vitality of Mother Earth.
Adress: Senzu, Ōshima-machi, Tokyo
(On the way to Tsubaki Tunnel from the port)
Oshima Tsubaki-hana Garden (Squirrel Village)
Tsubaki-hana garden is a garden known for the camellia flowers which the owner planted and has grown by himself over the last 30 years. The garden received the award of Gardens of Excellence from the International Camellia Society. It is an astonishing feat that the camellia flowers growing on a plot of land this large were planted by just a single person. The blooming season for tsubaki flowers is winter, and the best time to see it is March. Chairs for relaxing on the vast, grassy hill, a view of the ocean from high ground, and on a clear day you might even see Mt. Fuji in the distance. What’s not to like here?The scenery is just magnificent. The park alone is 3,000 “tsubo” (just short of 1 hectare). There are hammocks nearby making it a great spot for chilling. It’s hard to find a place more blissful than this.
Simon and Martina, a pair of popular vloggers with more than a million followers online went to the Usagi-no-mori, or Rabbit Forest, also located within the premise of Tsubaki-hana Garden when they visited Oshima island. For just 100 yen you can buy food for the rabbits, and as you begin to feed them they all pop their heads out of the fences wanting a share of the food. By the way, Simon and Martina’s video of their trip to Oshima island is a joy to watch. They have an interesting perspective on how to enjoy the island. It’s worth a watch if you plan on going!
Oshima Tsubaki-hana Garden (Squirrel Village)
Adress: 41-1 Tsubaitsuki Motomachi, Ōshima-machi
Hours: 9AM – 3PM (High season open till 4:30PM)
Sa-no-hama: The black long beach
Oshima island’s longest beach front. Famous for being a nesting beach for sea turtles is a 15 minute drive from Motomachi port. As the waves can get quite high, the beach is usually quite empty. As a result it’s a great relaxing place for anyone trying to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. There’s a good chance you will have the whole place to yourself.
Adress: Mabushi Nomashi, Oshima-machi, Tokyo
Habu Port Lookout
Drive 25 minutes from Motomachi Port or 35 minutes from Okada Port. Alternatively it’s a 30 minute bus ride to the ‘Habu Minato Miharashidai’ stop. The Habu Minato Miharashidai, or Habu Port Lookout is located along the Oshima circular road. The historic port was the setting for the famed Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata’s most iconic novel, Izu no odoriko or The Dancing Girl of Izu.
From the vantage point you can see the perfectly concave port, the small fishing boats anchored within it, and the traditional Japanese homes lining the streets which all together create a picturesque scene of Japan’s bygone days. This is a popular spot for taking photos of such nostalgic landscapes.
Habu Port Lookout
Adress: Sashikiji, Oshima-machi, Tokyo
30 minutes drive from Motomachi port or 20 minutes on foot from the ‘Seminar Iriguchi’ stop on the bus.
Drive a little further down from Habu Port on the Oshima circular road and you’ll see Fudeshima island sticking out of the ocean. It was named after the fact that it appears like the tip of a fude or paintbrush. Oshima island is most known for its volcano, Mt. Mihara, but once upon a time there were a total of 3 volcanic mountains in Oshima, and Fudeshima volcano was one of them. Fudeshima Volcano is thought to have been active several hundred thousands of years ago, and it is believed that the trail of hardened magma that ran from the volcano eroded over thousand of years due to waves hitting against its side, resulting in its current paintbrush shape. Due to its ability to withstand stormy seas, It’s also known as the rock in which God dwells. Close to Fudeshima island is Fudeshima beach which was officially listed as one of Japan’s 100 best beaches.
Adress: Fudeshima ,Habu area, Oshima-machi, Tokyo
Stars So Beautiful You Wouldn’t Believe You Are In Tokyo
Photo by mock mock
The stars are so bright at Oshima island that people often ask themselves, ‘Is this really Tokyo?’, ‘You can see so many stars less than 2 hours from the city?’ A popular spot to go stargazing is the summit of Mt. Mihara. Staying overnight at the summit and gazing up at the stars while snuggling in a sleeping bag is a wonderful experience. If you’re afraid of going up the mountain at night, we recommend joining a tour → Orange Fish
Another recommendation is the view of the night sky from an inn called mock mock. As there are hardly any streetlights in the area, the stars are incredibly clear there. A must for fans of stargazing. If you’re not sure you will get to see the stars on your travel dates, check the weather here! →tenki.jp(Japanese Only)
Adress: 2 Sashikiji, Oshima-machi, Tokyo
Website: Tokyo Islands
Must-do Activities on Oshima Island
As the nature of Oshima Island is largely untouched there are a lot of activities to choose from.
Oshima Island is very famous for scuba diving. You canl see Hammerhead Sharks, Sea turtles and many kinds of fish. Also the floor of the ocean is dynamic. The terrain was formed from lava and looks amazing. The most famous diving spot is Toshiki beach. The tropical fish and the endemic species of Izu Islands live in a vivid blue ocean.
More information about scuba diving shops
Youtuber: Life Where I’m from
Like scuba diving, snorkeling is one of the most popular marine activities on Oshima Island. You may be surprised by the many kinds of fish out there. In the summertime, diving boards are made available in Akino-hama, so many people enjoy diving into the ocean and snorkeling.
No snorkeling sets? No worries, most of scuba diving shops in Oshima Island rent snorkeling sets at reasonable prices.
The center of this island, A mountain is towering. That’s Mt. Mihara. Oshima islands was sellected as Japanese Geo Park. You will be suprised how dynamic the nature on Oshima Island, especially Mt. Mihara is. Go up to the entrance of the mountain, it takes 20-30 mins from Motomachi or Okata port by car or by bus. From the entrance, there is maintained road to the top of the mountain and the creator. It takes only 45 minutes walk to the top. On the way to the top, there is steps made by lavas and if you go up, you will be in the center of the lava oceans. Surrounded by lava, Mt. Mihara stand up in front of you. On the top, there are several ways to go around. You must visit Mihara shrine. In the 1986 eruption which became evacuation of the whole island, somehow the lava flow was avoiding the shrine and changing the flow to both sides. It still remains as it is, so you can see it at short notice. Also, the statue of godzilla naturally made by lava is on the top of the mountain. This is one of the best photo spot. The main spot on Mt. Mihara is the creator. It is a huge vertical hole with a diameter of about 300 to 350 meters and a depth of about 200 meters. If you are not satisfied yet, why don’t you walk around the creator, called “Ohachi Mawari”. You can go up to the top of the creator and Ura-sabaku.
Cycling with the ocean as a backdrop, a dream come true on Oshima. Izu Oshima is the perfect place for cycling not only for beginners but also expert cyclists. If you want to see the ocean whilst cycling or to see the sunset, “sunset palm line” is the place. You can also go for a run on the road alongside the sea, head to Nodahama beach to ring the “boddy bell”. Go north and visit Buratto House and pay your respect to the cows there. Take a relaxing break with some ice cream made with local ingredients. And then head back to the sunset palm line and see the sunset going down into the sea.
If you are a cycling enthusiast why don’t you go around Oshima Island on bicycle. Many cyclists come to practice here. Oshima Island is well known as the Asian Cycling Championship was held here. To go around the whole island on bicycle takes 4~5 hours.
The best spots for star gazing to see stars are Ura Sabaku or Mt. Mihara. Also, if you find somewhere street lamps do not enter, you can see a lot of stars on the sky.
Those accommodation suggests to see stars nearby. So easily to see the stars from the guest rooms.
also there are night tours too.
If you want to find the best parts of night on Oshima Island, better to join the tour.
Find your favorite Japanese hostess bars
Most restaurants and Izakayas on Oshima Island close by 8pm. So what to do after dinner? There are several hostess bars where you can enjoy the Japanese unique culture here. Everyone drinks together, sing songs at the bars and talks with hostess. Be aware that a typical entrance fee is 5000 yen.
Must-eat on Oshima Island
Which types of cuisine does Oshima have to offer? Rather a lot actually
Bekko Zushi is a kind of sushi where raw fish is marinated with a special sauce, including soy sauce and red pepper making it a little spicy.
Ashitaba is a kind of leaf from the family Seriacea which is grown on the Izu Islands. Ashitaba tempura, Ashitaba fried rice, Ashitaba dressed with sesami sauce, Ashitaba miso soup or boiled Ashitaba etc…. There are many ways to eat Ashitaba.
Sashimi (Local Fish) and Shells
Sabi which lives in the deep sea you won’t find that easily in Tokyo but it is commonplace in Oshima izakayas. Mekkari or Seseri shells are also on the list you should eat on Oshima Island. The shells are small but very juicy.
Oshima Milk, Cookie and Ice Cream
There are holstein cows at the farm of “Buratto House” close to Oshima airport. Oshima Milk Cookie(Gyunyu Senbei) is made from Oshima milk. The ingredients are milk, egg, sugar and butter. Also there is Oshima Milk Ice Cream that kids love. The taste of milk is coming out firmly but it is not too heavy. Oshima Milk Cookie and Oshima Milk ice cream are sold at most of the souvenir shops and supermarkets in Oshima Island.
Tsubaki (Camellia) Jam
Oshima Island’s nickname is Camellia Island. There are 3 million camellia trees on the island and people celebrate camellia’s flowering from January to March, every year. Camellia Jam is made from the petals of camellia and sugar. Moderately sweet camellia jam is good with ice cream, yogurt or tea.
Where you can try some local foods?
Minato zushi(Sushi restaurant)
Find Accommodation on Oshima Island
Now let’s find the accommodation on Oshima. Here is the list of accommodation on Tokyo Islands. Also there are some other places on booking.com. Those are easiest way to book in English. Do you want to see more options to stay? Go to the website of Oshima Tourist Association . You will find some more choices on the website. Some accommodations on the website are difficult to communicate in English, so it is better you speak in Japanese or use google translation.
There are basically 2 ways to head to Oshima Island. First is by boat and the second is plane.
There are 2 types of ferries to head to Oshima Island.
-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
If you want to book the ship tickets, go to tokyoislands.jp and book from the top page.
Also there is a plane to go to Oshima Island from Chofu Airport.
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)
If you want to book the plane tickets, go to New Central Airservice.
Tips for traveling around Oshima Island
If you go to Oshima Island, those 5 tips are better to know.
Transportation in Oshima Island
The best transportation on Oshima Island by rental car. The fee is from 3,000yen to 14,000yen per day. It depends on how big the car you want to rent is. If you come from abroad, you will need the international drivers licence. So if you want to go around this island, which is around 50km, better to rent a car.
Scooter is another popular choice. Same as rental cars, you will need a International Drivers licence. The fee is from 4,000yen to 8,000yen for 1 day. It depends on the type of scooter.
Using a taxi is another convenient way to get around. The drivers know Oshima Island very well and can take you around the island. The fee is about 30,000 yen for 6 hours to charter.
There are also buses. The buses come once every hour or 2 hours. Bear in mind also that the buses don’t go to some places during off-season. It is better to decide where you want to go at first and plan your trip.
Mountain bike or bicycle are also available. It costs 2,000 yen to rent a mountain bike. If you want to go around the island, it should take about 6 hours. Also there are mountain hills, so it can be a little hard to bike around. Many professionals come to Oshima for practice.. If you want to challenge yourself or enjoy the view of ocean, a bicycle will be a good choice for you.
See more details about transportation
Book restaurants in advance
Especially during holiday seasons, Most of restaurants in Oshima Island tend to be fully booked. Even during off season, it might be hard to find a restaurant that is open. So it is better to call and make a reservation the day before you go, or if it is hard to speak in Japanese for you, Oshima Tourist Office will help you to book.
Summer seasons, Golden week (Apr 30th to May 6th, 2018) or any other Japanese holidays
People will book accommodation, transportation or restaurants in advance for summer seasons, golden week or any other japanese holidays. Some people make the reservations 1 year ahead! If you decide to go to Oshima Island during the holidays, better book as soon as possible. Ship tickets are available 2 month before the date of travel.
Let’s go to Oshima Island
In any seasons, you can enjoy Oshima Island. You just need one night or 2 nights, ride on the ferry and come visit Oshima Island!