All About Aogashima Island
The Small Aogashima Town
There are a number of interesting facts about Aogashima. One of them is that it is not “a volcano inside an island” nor is it a “volcanic island”. It is simply a habitation, or a community, living on the crater of a large active volcano. The “island” itself is the caldera or mouth of this monstrous oceanic volcano, where a trail or hike to the tip will show an inner crater camouflaged by lush greenery.
What is interesting about Aogashima is the fact that it is actually under the jurisdiction of Tokyo despite the fact that it is located hundreds of kilometers off the coast. This small sleepy city is completely opposite to the hustle and bustle of the urban life in the city. What is even more interesting is that historical records show that this particular island was uninhabited for hundreds of years, especially at the time when it last erupted in the 17th century. There is no definite timeframe that records when and how people started living on this island. However, it is now considered as an active community.
History of Aogashima Island
Prior the 16th century, there were no definite records of the islands in history books. This is probably due to the fact that it is an uncharted island with no inhabitant at the time. It was only from the historical records from the Edo period that volcanic activity in the islands has been tracked by historians and scientists.
Since the late 16th century, there are earthquakes and eruptions recorded. It has also been noted that there are no inhabitants in the island. Habitation in the island started between the 16th and 17th century. This is why by the late 17th century a major volcanic eruption occurred, there are about a hundred deaths in the island. This roughly represents a third of its total population at the time. This was the last recorded volcanic activity the volcano had in the recent past.
According to local history, as told by the island’s inhabitants, the people started experiencing ground shaking prior the massive eruption. Plumes of gas, ash, and smoke started getting belted up from the mouth of the volcano. The people started to evacuate but had very little time and resources to do so which is why almost half of its inhabitants lost their lives.
A lot of people ask whether the calamity could have been avoided. The answer could be a no. The technology of the time was not yet as advanced as today. Ground shaking and smoke belching from the volcano could have been a common sight. Furthermore, transportation into and out of the islands was not that easy. Ships would be needed to transport hundreds of people out of the place. Rescue ships might not have been as common back then as it is now.
Aogashima Volcano in Japan
What many people do not know about Aogashima is the fact that it is an active quaternary volcano. This means that it has been formed from four overlapping calderas (or volcano openings). The volcano may look small but it is actually large beneath the sea.
Since the island is a large volcanic crater, it is understandable why there are very steep cliffs made from volcanic materials and deposits. Otonbu is known to be the highest point of the island which is at 423 meters.
Aogashima Island Map and Location
The Island of Aogashima is impressively under the jurisdiction of Tokyo. It is administered under the Hachijo Subprefecture and is the most isolated member of the Izu Archipelago. It is located in the Philippine Sea and is one of the Japanese territories which are farthest from the mainland. Specifically, the Aogashima island is about 350 km south of Tokyo. It is also measured to be about 64 km from Hachijo-Jima.
The total land area of the Aogashima island is about 9 square km with only around 170 inhabitants. Because of its size and population density, it is considered as the smallest village in the entire country. There was a time in its history when they had more inhabitants, but through time the population started to deplete. Because of its distance and location from the main island of Japan, Aogashima is considered to be one of the islands in Japan which is hardest to reach, along with Mikurajima and Toshima island.
In the latest census, the population of Aogashimamura is around 170 persons. This includes young children and senior citizens as well. All the inhabitants of the island know each other by face or by name. Interestingly, many of the inhabitants are relatives to some extent or degree. However, there are also migrants from different parts of Japan that chose to live the simplistic lifestyle of the island.
There are very limited facilities on the island since there is also a limitation in the number of inhabitants. There is one elementary school, one junior high school, and one high school. All the mail goes to a single postal address for which the postman brings to the home of the receiver. Since most of the people living in Aogashima are relatives with the same surname, the postman knows each individual by their given name. There are clinics available on the island but no major hospital.
There are a number of possible reasons why the population in Aogashima is not that high and accessibility is one of them. It is quite difficult to get in and out of the island. It would be a hassle to charger a boat or a helicopter out of the island since there would not be that many passengers. On top of that, it would be surely expensive.
Another reason why people migrate out of the island is the fact that there is not much to do in the area. There are no restaurants, not that many stores, or anything on the island. This means that there would not be that many jobs to choose from nor not that many people to serve. For an outsider, it would seem that most households on the island are self-sustaining.
The Simplicity of Living in Aogashima
Aogashima Real Estate
There is limited information regarding the age of the civilization on the island, there are no temples or shrines to base the age from. However, people who wish to migrate to Aogashima would always be welcome. It would be best to gather information from the village office regarding the acquisition of real estate in the island. Acquiring property anywhere in Japan is never a walk in the park and the costs are usually more expensive than in other places in the world, especially since Aogashima is a part of Tokyo.
Schools in Aogashima
Since the population in Aogashima is only less than 200 people, it is also expected that about 10 to 20 percent of this is children of different age groups. Because of this, there is not really that much need to open many schools because of the class size. There is only one building that serves as an elementary, junior high school and high school. There are no universities in Aogashima which means that students who wish to further their education must migrate out of the island for the university.
Public schools in Aogashima are typical just like in other parts of Japan. There are basic education subjects like English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Japanese. The good thing is that despite the size of the community, special education classes are still available.
Restaurants on Aogashima island
There are no cafes or restaurants in Aogashima island of Tokyo. However, the spas, ryokans, and minshukus provide home cooked meals for their guests. There is also one bar or pub on the entire island which also offers food.
The primary local delicacy in Aogashima would be blackened eggs or eggs which are cooked in volcanic steam. The process blackens the outer shell of the egg and gives it an interesting smoky flavor as well. It is said that these kinds of eggs are good for the health and are great for people who are health conscious.
Main Points of Interest in Aogashima
Aogashima Night Sky
A lot of people still wonder why Aogashima is a popular tourist attraction. There is no restaurants, no museums, no temples or shrines to visit. However, what they don’t understand is that Aogashima offers a different kind of nightlife.
Since there are not that many inhabitants of the island, there isn’t much pollution as well. Without the hustle and bustle of the city lights, the Aogashima sky is a wonder to look at. The stars twinkling in the sky is romantic and otherworldly. Finding constellations is a great activity. The isolation of the island is something that “soul searchers” and “wanderers” are looking for and the place surely puts people into perspective that life can be simple.
The Mountains of Aogashima
Since the cliffs of Aogashima are quite steep, hiking is a definite challenge. Despite that, a lot of people enjoy hiking the mouths of the mountains. On top of that, camping is also a priced activity on the island but there are a few tips and rules to remember. Staying in the camping site is free but there must be reservations done two weeks prior a trip to the island. This is to ensure that the village office is informed of the number of people to stay in the camping site.
People say that it is better to just rent the gear on site because having too much equipment will accrue additional fees when going to the island. Furthermore, people are advised to not drink water coming from the tap and visitors are advised to access fresh water from the village office or from vending machines.
Travel to Aogashima Island
Access to Aogashima Island
There are two different ways to access the island of Aogashima and both are quite expensive. The first means of transport would be a ship that travels from the Shihani port of Hachijojima to the Sanpou port of Aogashima. There are no train stations or railway lines that go directly to these isolated islands. The ride costs about 1500 yen and takes about two hours. There is only one trip going to and out of the island in a day and it only runs about four days a week. On days where the weather is bad, there will also be no trips.
The second means of transport would be via helicopter. This is a ride that could seat about nine people per trip. It will be coming from Hachijojima going to Aogashima. A one-way ticket will cost about 11,500 yen and the trip takes about 20 minutes.
Aogashima Hotels and Accommodation
Although there are not many people in Aogashimamura, the citizens do their best to promote tourism to their island. This small tight-knit community is welcoming of tourists and guests. There are no hotels on the island but there are small, comfortable Minshukus. These are traditional Japanese-style bed and breakfast which have been passed down from generations to generations.
Other than Minshukus, Ryokans and onsens are also very popular in the area. In fact, there is a particular spa at the center of the island that has been powered by geothermal energy coming from the volcano. What is even more interesting is the fact that cooking equipment uses heat coming from volcanic rocks. Electricity also comes from the heat coming from the volcano.
There are five inns on the entire island and the cost per night usually ranges between 7000 to 9000 yen per night. This is complete with three meals from breakfast until dinner. For those who do not wish to spend thousands of yen per night can stay at the only camping site on the island.
For those planning a trip to Aogashima, it might be best to avoid peak seasons such as fall and winter time from October onwards. This is because of the fact that these are the days when people have more time to travel and would prefer going to tropical destinations to avoid the cold weather. It is also important to watch out for weather updates when traveling during the rainy months of June and July this is because traveling by air or by sea can be dangerous with terrible weather. A great time to go would be during the spring months of March and April because these are the times when nature is in its full bloom.