Ogasawara Islands

The Ogasawara islands (Bonin islands) is a Natural World Heritage Site (#1362) located 1,000 km south of Tokyo, Japan. It is located in the same sub-tropical climate zone as the Okinawa islands, but are far less visited due to the very limited options and long duration to get there.
 
WHEN TO GO
The Ogasawara islands can be enjoyed almost year round, but I'd try to avoid going in September and October when the risk of typhoon is high. While dolphins can be enjoyed year round, the humpback whales are mainly seen between February and April, while Sperm whales are seen from late August to October. When I was there in mid-August it was still too early for the Sperm Whales.
 
I arranged my trip through the tour agency National Land (ナショナルランド), which exclusively specializes in tours to the Ogasawara islands. The website is only available in Japanese, but they have English speaking staff at their office a 2 min walk from Takeshiba station in Tokyo (〒105-0022 東京都港区海岸1-16-1 ニューピア竹芝サウスタワー3F). I strongly recommend to go there as the agency can help you book the ferry, accommodation and tours at no additional charge. They have photos of all the accommodations, and several flyers and books about the islands.
 
HOW TO GET THERE
The islands are only accessable by ferry, which takes 25.5 hours each way from harbour in Tokyo. The ferry departure at 10.00, just next to the Takeshiba station in Tokyo, and the check-in time is from 08.30 to 09.30. At check-in you receive a small paper with your queing number which will be converted to a bed number as you enter the ferry - So in case you are traveling more people together, be sure to check-in together, or you'll get seperated in the sleeping area. For 2nd class you are provided with a small pillow and mat and blanket. I had great use of my "flight-pillow", a music player to block out noise and a sleeping mask.
 
The dormitory like sleeping room at 2nd class of Ogasawara Maru View from Ogasawara Maru Goodbye to the locals at Ogasawara (Chichijima) Goodbye to the tour companies at Ogasawara (Chichijima)
The Ogasawara Maru Ferry
 
HOW LONG TO STAY
I booked a 4 nights stay at the island, which is an August season special, as the normal tour is only 3 nights. I'd say that 4 nights was exactly the time needed, while three would have been a day too short for sure.
 
DAY ONE
10.00AM - Depart from Tokyo on the Maru Ferry
 
DAY TWO
11.30AM - Arrive at Chichijima island (Father island)
12.00PM - Check-in at hotel
13.00PM - Snorkeling at Miyanohama beach and Tsurihama beach, and Omura night view
18.00PM - Dinner
 
DAY THREE
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Full day tour, Minijima island, swim with dolphins, snorkeling
16.00PM - Back to hotel
19.00PM - Dinner
 
DAY FOUR
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Full day tour, Sea kayaking
16.15PM - Back to hotel
16.30PM - Sunset view at Mikazukiyama Observation Deck
20.00PM - Dinner
 
DAY FIVE
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Bicycle around Chichijima
14.00PM - Snorkeling at Sakairua beach
16.30PM - Return to hotel
20.00PM - Dinner
 
DAY SIX
08.00AM - Breakfast
09.00AM - Snorkeling at Miyanohama beach
12.00PM - Return and pack things at hotel
14.00PM - Ferry back to Tokyo
 
DAY SEVEN
15.30PM - Arrive in Tokyo
 
HOW MUCH ARE THE COSTS
The cheapest possible ferry tickets are those on 2nd class, which becomes increasingly more expensive if you choose to go for more comfort in the higher and private classes and rooms. Half-day tours are usually around JPY 6,000, while full day tours comes around JPY 10,000. The total expenses comes out approximately like this:
 
JPY 85,000 - Ferry (2nd class) and Accomodation (without meals).
JPY 10,000 - Full day tour including swimming with dolphins.
JPY 9,000 - Full day sea kayaking tour (including lunch)
JPY 3,000 - Rent of snorkeling equipment
JPY 3,000 - Rent of electric bicycle
 
Total about JPY 110,000 for one person. This budget does not include expenses for lunch and dinners. The accomodation might be cheaper if you are travelling more people together.
 
WHERE TO STAY
While there are accomodations with sea views and other more luxuries accomodation, I consider my place to stay at the Ogasawara islands as a place where I only have to sleep. So basically I recommend just a cheap place like the Plumeria Village - The accommodation is conviently located in the main "city" Omura (#2 on right sidebar map).
 
WHAT TO DO / WHERE TO GO
1. Miyanohama beach and Tsurihama beach
Snorkeling at the Miyanohama beach (#7 on right sidebar map), a 45 minutes walk from the Primeria Village, including a detour up through some view points over Omura.
 
View over the Omura Marine life at Miyanohama beach Marine life at Miyanohama beach Clear star night at Chichijima
The Omura village, Snorkling at Miyanohama beach, night view from Omura hill
 
From Miyanohama beach explore the northern coast of Chichijima and head towards Tsurihama beach (#8 on right sidebar map). Head back over the view points hill again in the dark to get a magnificent night view
 
2. Visit Minajima island and Swim with Dolphins
Take a day tour, e.g. with the Pink Dolphin. Remeber to bring lunch. The tour will take you to the strictly protected Minajima island, to see beautiful rock formations, swim wth dolphins and snorkeling with sea snakes and marine wildlife.
 
View over the Minamijima island remains of dead sea turtle baby Minimijima bay
Minamijima island
 
Cliff formations, the first one truely looking like a heart and the second with some good imigination a cat.
 
heart cliff cat rock
Heart and cat rock formations
 
Wheter the story is true or not, Captain Stanley told us, that the reason his boat is pink, is that dolphins like this color, and he had tried to color the boat in many different colors. The story also says that, apparently, dolphins don't like white boats. When swimming with the dolphins, a total of 10 people jumps in the water and thenhave about 2-3 minutes before getting back to the boat, approching the dolphins again and then jump in the water again. It is exciting and you have the opportunity to jump in and swim with them 6 or 7 times.
 
The Pink Dolphin boat Watching dolphins from the boat Sea snake feeding show Swimming with dolphins
The pink dolphin boat, sea snake feeding and swimming with dolphins
  
3. Sea kayaking and snorkeling
Take a day tour, e.g. with Pelan Pelan (lunch included), to access otherwise beaches like Kopepe (#18 on right sidebar map), Buta (#21 on right sidebar map), and otherwise inaccaessable beaches such as the Jinny beach (#23 on right sidebar map).
 
Before the start at Kopepe beach It was fun to play in the waves at Jinny beach Relaxing at Jinny beach
Pelan Pelan Kayak tour to Jinny beach

From Jinny beach you paddle to the Buta beach where we'll have lunch. The tour guide cook the best lunch I've had in a long time with his homemade miso. At Buta beach it is possible to encounter the whitetip reef shark and explore the inland world war II memorials.
 
The tour guide cooking lunch for us Delicious lunch and enough to get two portions World War II Bunker at Buta beach Kayaking on the open sea
Lunch during Pelan Pelan kayak tour, and World war II bunker visit
 
4. Sunset view at the Mikazukiyama Observation Deck
Go to the Mikazukiyama oberservation deck (#5 on right sidebar map) to watch the sunset and the stars on night sky.
 
Sunset at the Mikazukiyama observation deck Moonlight at the Mikazukiyama observation deck Star viewing at Mikazukiyama observation deck
Mikazukiyama Observation Deck
 
5. Bicycle tour around Chichijima
Rent an electrical bicycle and bike around chichijima island to Nagasaki Observation Deck (#12 on right sidebar map), Hatsuneura Observation Deck (#27 on right sidebar map), and take a small trek to the top of Mt. Chuo (#25 on right sidebar map). Take a lunch at Ogiura beach.
 
Electronic bicycle Long distance radio station from World War II View from the Hatsuneura Observation Deck Radar from World War II and view from Mt. Chuo
Bicycle tour around Chichijima island
 
6. Snorkeling at the Shipwreck at Sakaiura beach
Spend a few hours to enjoy the wonderful white sand bach at Sakaiura beach and explore the shipwreck 100 meters out of the shore (#14 on right sidebar map).
 
View to the shipwreck from Sakaira beach Beautiful marine life at the shipwreck The ship got torpedoed during World War II
Snorkling at the world war II shipwreck at Sakaiura beach

WHAT TO EAT
It might be aganist some peoples moral, but at Ogasawara islands they traditionally eat sea turtle. For at first timer, stewed sea turtle is recommended.
 
Stewed sea turtle
Stewed sea turtle
 
WHAT TO REMEMBER
1. The sun
The Ogasawara islands are located in the sub-tropical climate zone. The sun is very strong. Remember sun screen, wear a hat, and remember to drink plenty of water.
 
2. Bring cash
Do not rely on the ATM at the island, better bring cash for your accomodation and day tours from mainland Japan. If you book through national land, you can pay accomodation and tours upfront by credit card, then you only need to bring cash for food.

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