Aogashima – the blue island
Despite being 222 miles south of Tokyo, Aogashima, a remote yet inhabited island, falls under the administration of Japan’s capital city. But the address is where the similarities end. As of 2010, the 9 square kilometer (about 1680 football stadiums, for all you Super Bowl fans out there) island has 98 households and a population of 165, making it the smallest village in all of Japan.
Looking almost like a Jurassic Park-like natural fortress, the volcanic island is known as a caldera. Within the large crater is a smaller crater – a cinder cone – that was formed after the larger explosion. The steep rugged cliffs of layered volcanic deposits rise up as high as 1388 feet.
Origins Shrouded in Mystery
How people first ended up on the island is largely considered a mystery. The island’s own legend has it that the island was once forbidden to women because it was believed that man and women living together on the island would anger the gods. The first written records of the island appear around the 15th century and many of them are of shipwrecks so there’s a strong possibility that sailors may have taken refuge on the island and eventually made it their home.
Returning Home After Tragedy
A series of earthquakes in 1780-81 was followed by volcanic activity 2 years later. Lava flows burned down all the houses and residents were forced to flee to the nearest island, Hachijojima. Unfortunately, about half of the 327 residents did not make it out in time and perished. Those who did survive were forced to live out the next 40 years of their life on Hachijojima. Some sought out new life elsewhere but others could never forget their beloved island. One of these people was Jirodayu Sasaki, who, after 18 years of planning, courageously led an expedition back to the island and successfully resettled in 1835. He’s considered a hero on the island and there’s even a statue of him.
Traveling to Aogashima
In this day and age, getting to Aogashima is actually much easier than you might have thought. They even have their own heliport!
- First Class – fly from Tokyo to Hachijojima and then take a helicopter. A one way trip will take just a little over 2 hours and will cost about $240.
- Economy Class – sail from Tokyo to Hachijojima and then take a smaller boat. A one way trip will take 14 hours and will cost about $100.
So what do you actually do once you get to this lost paradise? Well what it doesn’t have in beaches the island makes up in starry skies. Photographer Toshihiko gawa documented some of these fantastic starry nights. The photos were taken from the 2nd caldera, where many people will go to camp out. There is also a volcanic natural hot spring where you rest those muscles from all the rock climbing you did getting there.
Otherwise there’s plenty of fishing, hiking trails and shrines to see. And the internet is probably shoddy so it’s the perfect place to unplug.