Ogasawara Islands: the Idyllic and Little-Known Japanese Archipelago


WordsManon Baeza

Known for its beauty and diversity, the archipelago of Ogasawara attracts a few more local and overseas visitors each year, despite the fact that these idyllic islands are still relatively unknown to the general public. Often compared to the Galapagos Islands, they are a true natural treasure to be explored thoroughly!

Situated off the coast of Tokyo, 1000 kilometres south of the Japanese capital (or a 25-hour journey by ferry), Ogasawara is an archipelago which comprises over thirty islands of different sizes and with a subtropical, even tropical climate. Moving from north to south, the archipelago is made up of Iwo Island, Okinotori Island, Minamitorishima Island and Nishinoshima Island. All of these islands are then split into three main groups under the names Mukokima, Chichikima and Hahajima. Chichijima and Hahajima are the only islands to be inhabited today.

Since 2011, the islands of Ogasawara have been listed as UNESCO natural World Heritage sites. In addition, 53% of their area has been classed by the Forestry Agency as a forest ecosystem preservation area, and rightly so, because they house and protect over 450 plant species and around fifteen endemic, unique and rare animal species.

Two of the thirty islands, Minamijima and Hahajima Sekimon, are considered as the natural heritage of the Tokyo region. Meanwhile, Minami Iwo Island, which has always been inhabited, was designed to be a Japanese nature reserve conserved by the Ministry of the Environment. The islands’ magnificence is indisputable, but they continue to amaze visitors due to the many different activities and varied landscapes they offer.

Visitors can see animals of all kinds, from whales to birds, or admire the stars in the evening. Sport enthusiasts can try scuba diving deep down in the coral reefs, swimming with dolphins, surfing or kayaking! And those who prefer to stay on land can discover the island on foot, taking in the spectacular views and seeing the bunkers built by the US army during the Second World War.

To preserve their natural habitat, the Ogasawara Islands are difficult to access and relatively demanding of visitors. Just one ferry runs each week from Tokyo and this little corner of paradise. It is also forbidden to walk off the marked paths or to camp on the site. Those wishing to enjoy a peaceful, idyllic retreat can get tickets by phone from Ogawasara Kaiun or from a konbini in Tokyo. As the Ogasawara Islands are still a well-kept secret, remember to bring cash, as very few establishments there accept card payments!