Toshima, the shape of the island is like a kiss made out of chocolate surrounded by camellia trees whilst dolphins swim around the island. There are only 350 people living on Toshima island. So what is there to do and to see on this tiny island?
Specialities of Toshima Island
Toshima island only has nine accommodations, two restaurants (you need to make a reservation in advance) and four markets. This place is not developed for tourism so why do people visit? Here are some of the reasons that make Toshima Island so attractive.
80% of the island’s trees are camellia trees
80% of the trees on this island consist of Camellia trees, which amounts to more than 200 thousand. Camellia is also known as the ‘Winter Rose’. From January to March, the Japanica camellia blossoms and dyes the ground red, like a carpet. Also, 60% of camellia oil in Japan is produced on Toshima Island.
It is possible to get a panoramic view of the ocean from the isolated island. Where would be the best place to see this? There are two places worth recommending.
One is the observatory on the mountain. When you go up to Mt.Miyatusuka, not at the top of the mountain, but right before going up to the top, there is an observatory.
The other one is Minamigayama Park. You can see other Tokyo Islands from there too.
Eating lobster and turban shell
What are Toshima Island specific cuisines? The island is famous for catching lobsters and turban shells. If you order them at your accommodation in advance, you might be able to enjoy these delicacies. Also red bream and other kinds of shells are famous. Enjoy the fresh seafood!
Wild dolphins live around Toshima Island. There are some tours where you can swim with dolphins when snorkeling. The dolphins do not swim around Toshima all the time, so before planning to go to Toshima Island for a dolphin swim, check the current information on dolphins at the shops.
*There are rules to swimming with dolphins, so please make sure to abide by these.
*Most of the guides don’t speak any foreign languages.
List of the dolphin swim shops here. (Japanese Only)
Toshima Island is a good place for fishing. There are amberjack and shimaaji (yellow jack) from spring to autumn around the island. Also during the winter time, it is possible to catch Southern squid.
Nothing to do at night? No way, look up at the sky and see the countless stars! If you go outside of the town a bit, you can see the stars even better! If there is no moon, you might see the milky way. The best place to gaze stars is Minamigayama Park. It takes 15 mins from the town by car.
Shrines and temple
To protect itself against the forces of nature there are 7 shrines on the small island of Toshima. Here are some recommendations.
Azusawakenomikoto shrine(阿豆佐和気命神社) is located in the island’s town and is the biggest one. The main building was built in 1760, which makes it the oldest shrine on Toshima Island. If you have a chance, come here at the end of the year. People gather by a bonfire where everyone sings “the song of Jikkuwa fire” at midnight. It is a very traditional custom on Toshima.
Look under the roof of the shrine. There is a mark of a ship. People pray here for a bumper year. They also pray against sickness. The place is located in town. It takes 13 mins on foot from the port.
First, Second and Third Shrine
On Miyatsuka Mountain, there are three similar shrines. There are long stairs made of cobbles to the main building. Around those shrines, it is very calm and sacred. Islanders will come to the first shrine(a.k.a Azusa wakeno mikoto Shrine), The second shrine(a.k.a Oyamakoyama shrine) and the third shrine(a.k.a Orinobori shrine) during the 3 days of new years.
Staying like islanders
Wake up with the birds’ voices and eat breakfast at the proper time. Smell the wind and trees and see the spacious sky. It sounds like normal daily life but, do you remember how long ago you have done any of these things? Leave stress behind and integrate with nature. At night, you may eat dinner at the accommodation with other guests or even the owner’s family. They are so natural to welcome you to eat together and drink together. Perhaps other islanders will join the “home party”. If you spend time here for a couple days, you will feel like you are a member of the Toshima Island family.
The best place to do nothing
As mentioned before, there are not that many shops or activities. So this is the place where you don’t need to DO anything. Even if you decide to go for a restful break there are always so many things to see or to do that you might be tired by the end of your trip. However, in Toshima Island, travelers are just relaxing, talking with other islanders, eating fresh fish, drinking some good shochu from the island, gazing the stars at night and sleeping tight in the calm environment. The stress which you get from the city can be released on this island.
Find Accommodation on Toshima Island
Now let’s find an accommodation on Toshima. Please Go to the website of Toshima village town hall(Japanese Only). 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 Toshima
There are two main ways to get to Toshima. Either by large passenger ship, or by helicopter from Oshima Island. Below I list the different modes of transportation to get there, how to get around the island, and some precautions.
Access to Toshima
Getting to Toshima. The most popular way is by large passenger ship which takes 9 hours from Takeshiba pier, Hamamatsucho in Tokyo.
Get on the large passenger ship leaving the pier. The boat departs at around 10:30 pm (it depends on the season) and arrives at Toshima around 6:30am-7:30am in the morning. Budget-wise however, it’s the most reasonable at around 4,000 to 7,000 yen one way.
Also from spring to fall, there is jet ferry to go to Toshima Island, basically once a day. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes from Takeshiba pier. The cost will be more expensive than the large ferry, around 7,000 yen to 10,000 yen one way.
Book your tickets for the Toshima boat on the Tokai Kisen’s Official English language site at tokyoislands.jp.
The large ships or jet ferries are sometimes canceled due to the weather or ocean conditions. However, don’t give up just yet. There is Tokyo Ai-Land Shuttle from Oshima Island which is the closest island to Toshima Island. It takes only 10 minutes to go to Toshima from Oshima. There is 1 round trip a day. Costing 7,230 Yen each way. There are planes going to Oshima from Chofu airport, Tokyo. (details here) It takes 30 minutes from the airport to Oshima so in total, it takes only 40 minutes to go to Toshima when taking a flight without the waiting time.
Book your tickets for the helicopter on Oshima by Toho Air Service’ website.
Getting around Toshima
No bus, No taxi, No rental cars
The area of this island is only 4.12 square kilometers. So there is no bus, taxi, rentals car or bicycle. So the way to go around the island is on foot. Your accommodation might rent you a car so it is good to ask there too.
Precautions when traveling in Toshima
Better to ask an accommodation to prepare lunch
There are only a few places to eat lunch, and you also need to make a reservation in advance. What is the best way is to ask your accommodation to prepare lunch as an option. Or there are some markets so you can get cup noodles there. However some shops are closed during the weekend. So the best way to secure lunch is by making a reservation at your accommodation.
There are no camping sites and wild camping is not allowed since the island is a national park. Please make sure to book an accommodation before you arrive.
Book a helicopter just in case
Especially from the middle of December to March, ships are often are canceled because of strong wind. So better to book a helicopter just in case.
No pharmacy or convenience store
There are no pharmacies or convenience stores. So please make sure to bring everything you need to the island especially medicine for motion sickness.
If you want to go back to Tokyo via Oshima by helicopter
If you take a helicopter to go back to Tokyo via Oshima, you will arrive at Oshima airport from Toshima. It takes 15~20 minutes from the airport to Oshima’s port. So you need to take a bus or taxi on Oshima. If you want to take a plane to go back to Tokyo, then the plane will depart from Oshima airport so you don’t need to go anywhere.
To spend time in Toshima is like a summer time in your grand parents’ house. Enjoy the nature, talking to the islanders, releaving your stress and smelling the fresh air.