Beyond Tokyo's looming skyscrapers, noisy streets and crowded trains, the Izu Islands lie in wait across the Pacific for weary travelers looking for an escape. Although 180 kilometers away from the metropolis proper, these serene, tropical getaways are still, administratively, part of Tokyo.
This island offers visitors immaculate beauty, outdoor activities, water sports and a much-deserved break from city life. Still, the evident power and harmony of nature on Miyakejima stands out from other islands of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, a volcanic belt spanning from the country's iconic Mount Fuji to the isle of Hachijojima.
Miyakejima is a circular, volcanic island. Its volcano, Mount Oyama, erupted most recently in 2000. The magma and ash formed the island's beautiful, black sandy beaches, fields of igneous rock, spectacular coral for diving and awe-inspiring geo-formations along its coast.
Further south, pristine old-growth forests flourish over Mikurashima. The groves of Japanese box trees twist and spiral from centuries of ocean winds, and ancient trails lead to dynamic views of precipitous cliffs.
Miyakejima is one of Tokyo's more accessible islands because it is one of the few islands with an airport. As a result, passengers can fly from Chofu Airport in Tokyo to Miyakejima Airport in just 50 minutes. It’s a thrilling opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the breathtaking Izu Islands.
Those who prefer a slower pace can travel by ferry via the Tachibana Maru from Tokyo's Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal. The caveat is that due to the ferry's schedule, the boat departs Takeshiba after 10 p.m. and arrives in Miyakejima at 5 a.m.
Nevertheless, the locals on the island are friendly and welcoming — several restaurants are family-owned, where every meal is homemade and everything feels specially made, just for you. The owner, who knows the ingredients the island has to offer, prepares a menu to suit the seasons.
Cycling on Miyakejima
To truly experience Miyakejima, there is no better way than cycling along its beautiful coastal highway. The road encompasses the entire island, more than 35 kilometers in total, with the most scenic spots easily accessible all along the way. Moreover, you can conveniently rent an electric bike from the Miyakejima Tourist Association during your stay.
Unfortunately, the island's center is dangerous and strictly off-limits due to volcanic gas. Nevertheless, volcanic peaks and rolling mountains over your shoulder, while the endless ocean crashes against rugged cliffs such as the arching Megane-iwa Rock, will make you truly feel away from it all.
Further, on the road, you'll spot Izu-misaki Lighthouse, a lighthouse more than a century old and a popular spot among locals for watching the sunset and stargazing at night. From here, you can see neighboring Niijima and Kozushima islands and even Mount Fuji when the weather is clear enough.
This is a popular cycling spot. Bike rentals are available to see and tour the island. One thing to note however: helmets are mandatory when you go biking on the island so make sure you ask the rental shop about getting one (and paying attention to the local road safety rules goes without saying).
Nippana Shinzan and the Ako Lava Flow Trail
An unforgettable location is Nippana Shinzan, a striking red and black pyroclastic cone jutting from a charcoal-black beach formed by the 1983 eruption. The panoramic view is awe-inspiring. You might even spot a pod of whales. Whale watching on Miyakejima is popular among camera hobbyists and casual observers alike.
The most memorable sight on the island — the Ako Lava Flow Trail — was caused by the same 1983 eruption. It is here where the awesome power of nature is evident. The eruption from Mount Oyama submerged the village and Ako elementary and junior high schools in magma. Although the buildings were thankfully evacuated in time, parts of the area were buried. A walking trail was built over the sharp, hardened lava, and you can still spot the roofs of the schools—permanently entombed in the rock.
Planning your trip
Miyakejima can be thoroughly enjoyed over a few days. Spend them cycling about the island, leisurely taking in the sights and then stay in one of the many hostels for the night.
Keep in mind that there are limited accommodations available. Miyakejima is a small island home with a community of just over 2,000 people. Thus, you may not have a place to stay if you do not book ahead.
For more information, visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government “Tokyo Treasure Islands Project” official website.