5 reasons why you should visit the Izu Islands
When it comes to Tokyo, you immediately think of dazzling neon lights, dizzying high rise towers, and train cars overflowing with people. The furthest thing on your mind is beaches and relaxation. Head to the Tokyo Izu Islands, however, and you’ll be transported to a semi-tropical paradise within a stone’s throw of Japan’s densely populated capital.
The Izu Islands are a chain of more than 100 islands off the coast of Shizuoka Prefecture that are an urban retreat packed with local charm. Here’s five reasons you should visit the Izu Islands during your Tokyo vacation.
Reliable transportation network
A hassle-free trip to the Tokyo Izu Islands is possible thanks to a highly efficient network of transportation that connects the Japanese mainland to the nine inhabited islands of Oshima, Toshima, Niijima, Shikinejima, Kozushima, Miyakeshima, Mikurashima, Hachijijoma, and Aogashima. Most islands can be reached within 2 hours from Tokyo.
For day trips, board a jet ferry departing from several locations around Tokyo Bay or fly from Haneda Airport. Board a large passenger ship in the evening to get a fresh start on your weekend island getaway. For quick trips between islands, there’s no better choice than a scenic helicopter ride over the Pacific Ocean.
More beaches than you could ever explore in a lifetime
The Izu Islands consists of some 100 islands, meaning there’s plenty of coastline to explore. Scuba divers will love the emerald green waters of Shikinejima, while those looking for low-key marine activity should head to Mikurashima to swim with dolphins.
Not to be missed is Habushi Ura Beach, located on the eastern side of Niijima. It’s a six-kilometer stretch of pristine white sand, cerulean blue ocean, and sunbathers that has serious Hawaiian vibes. Habushi Ura Beach is in fact a surfer's paradise, complete with a world-class professional surfing tournament held annually.
It’s the ultimate nature retreat
There’s no denying the untouched nature of the Izu Islands. Nature lovers will appreciate the breathtaking views of sunset over the Pacific Ocean as they hike a 5 kilometer course along the coast of Oshima in Oshima Park. Take a guided tour of Hachijo Botanical Park in Hachijojima to see rare glow-in-the-dark mushrooms.
Oyama Prospect Park, a mountaintop observation deck in the heart of Aogashima Island, is where you can take in an unobstructed view of the vast, starry night sky.
Relaxing hot springs with an ocean view
You can’t have come all the way to Japan without experiencing the Japanese custom of bathing in a hot spring, or onsen.
There are plenty of onsen to choose from as the island chain is dotted with active volcanoes. Visit the Greco-Roman inspired Yunohama Roten Onsen in Niijima that features baths overlooking the ocean. Onsen lovers will especially love the infinity pool-like onsen of Miharashi-no-yu of Hachijojima. Take beach relaxation to the next level with a soak in an onsen that overlooks the ocean for the ultimate urban escape.
No-frills island soul food
While you find standard Japanese meals on the Izu Islands, there are a few foods with a local spin. One such dish is shima zushi. While the key ingredients of vinegar rice and raw fish remain the same, shima zushi is made from fish caught near the islands and soaked in soy sauce. Sugar and karashi (mustard paste) are added for extra flavor instead of wasabi.
Another dish to look out for is anything made with ashitaba, a leafy green vegetable native to the islands that is high in nutrients. Try a bowl of ashibata soba topped with crunchy ashitaba tempura.