Japan Rail Times
The
Rail Way
to Travel
2208-Jibiru-Left
Community

Izu Ōshima: Tokyo’s idyllic island escapade

Izu Ōshima: Tokyo’s idyllic island escapade

When people say Tokyo (東京都 Tōkyō-to), the image one often conjures up is the sprawling metropolis of the 23 wards (東京23区 Tōkyō 23-ku). Yet, Tokyo actually has 62 municipalities, including nine islands. Of these nine, the largest and closest to Tokyo is actually Izu Ōshima (伊豆大島), just under two hours away by jet ferry. The island, usually just called Oshima (大島 Ōshima) for short, is also home to an active volcano and Japan’s only desert (although there are sand dunes in Tottori), with stunning scenery of natural beauty that you wouldn’t expect to find this close to Tokyo. Featuring large barren landscapes covered in black sand around the volcano, punctuated with occasional tufts of greenery, it almost looks like another planet. The island has captured the imagination of many—it was used as the setting in two Godzilla movies, and was also the inspiration for Cinnabar Island in the original generation of Pokémon games.

 

Ferry schedules differ based on season, but there are typically at least two departures from Takeshiba Ferry Terminal (竹芝客船ターミナル Takeshiba Kyakusen Tāminaru), one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and up to four departures during peak season. A round-trip ride by jet ferry costs ¥16,840, but there are student and early-bird discounts of up to 25% off your fare. A 3D2N itinerary would be best to maximise your stay on Oshima without having to rush through the attractions.

 

Takeshiba Ferry Terminal (竹芝客船ターミナル)
Address: 1-12-2 Kaigan, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0022
Nearest station: Takeshiba Station (竹芝駅), Hamamatsucho Station (浜松町駅)
Access: 1-minute walk from Takeshiba Station, and 7-minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station’s North Exit
Opening hours: 7am–11pm
Tel: +81 3-3433-2101

 

Day 1: Hike up an active volcano, Mount Mihara

Not to worry, paths are wide and well-paved with fences on both sides. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

Despite standing at 764m above sea level, the hike up Mount Mihara (三原山 Mihara-yama) is rather beginner-friendly with most hikers taking the bus to the highest bus stop before beginning their hike. The 7km route takes around two and a half hours starting at the bus stop, going up and around the crater, before ending at the Oshima Onsen Hotel (大島温泉ホテル). 

 

There’s sadly no bubbling pool of lava for Frodo to throw the One Ring into, but it’s still a mighty impressive view. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

As you traverse the route, you’ll get great views of the Ura Sabaku (裏砂漠), Oshima’s black desert, and as you go around the crater, you are high enough that you can actually see the entirety of the island. The highest point of the route also brings you right next to the crater where you can see the endless dropdown. You will also pass a second crater where the volcano erupted from in 1986. At the end of your hike, you can treat yourself to a soak in the onsen (温泉) at the Oshima Onsen Hotel with an outdoor rotenburo (露天風呂) facing the mountain.

 

Mount Mihara (三原山)
Address: Nomashi, Oshima, Tokyo 100-0104
Nearest bus stop: Mihara Sanchō Guchi (三原山頂口)

Oshima Onsen Hotel (大島温泉ホテル)
Address: 3-5 Kitsunba, Senzu, Oshima, Tokyo 100-0103
Nearest bus stop: Mihara-yama Onsen (三原山温泉)
Opening hours (For onsen): 5am–9am, 3pm–12am
Admission fee (For onsen): ¥800 (Free for hotel guests)
Tel: +81 499-22-1673

 

Day 2: Hit up those coastal views on a bike

(Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

Oshima is a popular destination for cyclists, and for good reason. The roads aren’t very crowded and provide stunning views of the coast as they run along the sea. With a rented electric bike, even ascending those slopes is a breeze. My favourite route runs from Motomachi Port (元町港 Motomachi-kō) to Habu Port (波浮港 Habu-minato), a 14km-long route that takes around 1.5 hours with photo breaks included. You can rent a bicycle for ¥1,000 a day or an electric bicycle for ¥3,000 a day at Toi Shōten (戸井商店) located in Motomachi Port.

 

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth paying more for an electric bicycle, the answer is yes. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

My favourite spot along the route is this rock formation that you’ll see on the left of the path. It’s called a Stratigraphic Cross-section (地層大切断面 Chisō Taisetsu Danmen), and its layered appearance stems from the lava and volcanic activity of the area over millennia. Even more amusingly, this rock structure has a beloved nickname by the locals: the Baumkuchen (バウムクーヘン Baumukūhen), the popular German cake, due to its many layers and rounded lines. 

 

Toi Shōten (戸井商店)
Address: 1-2-2 Motomachi, Oshima, Tokyo 100-0101
Nearest bus stop: Motomachi Port (元町港)
Opening hours: 5:30am–6pm
Admission fee (Bicycle rental): ¥1,000 (1-day), ¥2,000 (2-day)
Admission fee (Electric bicycle rental): ¥3,000 (1-day), ¥5,000 (2-day)
Tel: +81 70-2158-4093

 

Stratigraphic Cross-section (地層大切断面)
Address: Nomashi, Oshima, Tokyo 100-0104
Nearest bus stop: Chisō Danmen Mae (地層断面前)

 

Kick back and have a coffee at Hav Cafe

(Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

One of the best perks of exploring a place on bike is the unexpected discoveries along the way, like small local haunts that ooze unique vibes. Hav Cafe (ハブカフェ) is one of these places. Located in Habu Port at the end of the cycling route, it is nestled in a rustic street with wooden houses on both sides. Refurbished during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cafe is run by a freelance Japanese travel writer who used to live in Sydney and now serves up toasts, drinks, and her own personal blend of coffee to customers.

 

Look at the thickness of the toast, and the mound of ingredients on it! (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

My personal recommendation is the cafe’s signature Pizza Toast complemented by a cup of hot chocolate. The Pizza Toast (¥550) is made from thick shokupan (食パン) that is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and when you top it with the local green pepper, the taste is exquisite. Even more impressive is the hot chocolate (¥550), a positively life-changing cup with its richness, mild sweetness, and deep taste of chocolate that makes me reconsider ever getting a hot chocolate from any other establishment.

 

These cute tiles embedded in the floor are actually Peranakan tiles, an unexpected rare find in Japan. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

Perhaps what gives the shop the most of its charm is the little trinkets littered throughout the shop from the owner’s travels. The owner is also fluent in English, so feel free to chat with her and exchange some stories! 

 

Hav Cafe (ハブカフェ)
Address: 1 Habuminato, Oshima, Tokyo 100-0212
Nearest bus stop: Habu Port (波浮港)
Opening hours: 10am–5:30pm (Closed on Wednesdays–Fridays)
Tel: +81 499-27-5845

 

Get your spice kick at Sushi Kou

The header does not deceive you, spicy sashimi is real. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

Tōgarashi (唐辛子 chilli pepper) is one of the main products on Oshima, leading to many unique flavour combinations such as togarashi soy sauce (唐辛子醤油 tōgarashi shōyu) with sushi. The island’s signature sushi dish is called bekko sushi (べっこう寿司), named after its tortoise-shell like appearance. Bekkō sushi is made from white fish (白魚 shirauo) such as tai (鯛 sea bream), maguro (鮪 tuna), or katsuo (鰹 bonito) marinated in togarashi soy sauce, leading to a sushi dish that is actually pretty spicy. It is said that this dish was developed before the Meiji Era (明治時代 Meiji-jidai) when wasabi (山葵) wasn’t easily accessible, and togarashi was added to the soy sauce (醤油 shōyu) in order to help process the fish for storage. 

 

Maybe you’ll start breathing out Godzilla’s Atomic Breath after eating it. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

At Sushi Kou (寿し光), you can try the Shima Don (島丼) for ¥2,000 which consists of half a bowl of bekko and the other half being the local fresh catch of fish on the island. Ōshima has many tie-ups with Godzilla, including the Godzilla Mapo Tofu Teishoku (ゴジラ麻婆豆腐定食) for ¥1,000. It’s a gekikara (激辛 extremely spicy) mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐 mābō tōfu) served in a piping hot stone bowl. If you’re looking for a spice challenge in Japan, be sure to give this dish a try.

 

Sushi Kou (寿し光)
Address: 1-4-7 Motomachi, Oshima, Tokyo 100-0101
Nearest bus stop: Motomachi Port (元町港)
Opening hours: 11am–2pm, 5pm–9pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
Tel: +81 499-22-0888

 

Day 3: Hop on a ferry back to Tokyo

Ferries to and from Oshima typically leave from one of two ports: Motomachi Port and Okada Port (岡田港 Okada-kō). The port of departure for the day is only announced at 6am every day. 

 

(Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

If you’re leaving from Okada Port, I recommend getting some coffee and the fish burger at Starfish and Coffee before heading out. The sweetness and freshness of the fish comes through in the lightly battered and crispy fish patty, topped with tartar sauce and sandwiched between two fluffy buns. It makes for the perfect light snack to kick off the day.

 

Starfish and Coffee
Address: 6 Okata, Oshima, Tokyo 100-0102
Nearest bus stop: Okada Port (岡田港)
Opening hours: 10am–4pm (Closed on Sundays)
Tel: +81 499-27-5871

 

(Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

Then once you’re ready, hop onto your jet ferry back to Tokyo. Given the island’s proximity to Tokyo, you can usually get phone signals on the ferry ride to and fro. If you have time, I also recommend checking out the Motomachi no Hama Hot Spring (本町の浜温泉 Motomachi no Hama Onsen), a mixed bath onsen (with free bathing suit rental) that overlooks the ocean. So be sure to check out Ōshima, Tokyo’s idyllic island escapade just under two hours by ferry away from Takeshiba Pier, accessible from Hamamatsucho Station on the JR Yamanote Line.

 

Header image credit: Jeremy Jee

 

Related Articles

Share this article:
TSC-Banner
2208-Jibiru-RIght