LWIF EP12: Visiting Tokyo’s Izu Islands

Hello World! Did you know that Tokyo has islands? Yes, the prefecture (province/state) of Tokyo has a volcanic chain of islands called the Izu Seven Islands group. We stayed at Shikinejima (Shikine-jima), which is a small island 3 km long by 2.5 km wide that is located 160 km south of the city of Tokyo. To get there, we took an overnight ferry, where we slept on a carpeted floor.

It was a real surprise to find out that there are beautiful islands and with amazing water so close to Tokyo. When I thought of visiting a nice beach, Okinawa always came to mind. If you do some research on Shikinejima, the bay below is the famous beach you’ll often see.

In front of Tomari beach
In front of Tomari beach

The nice thing about Shinkinejima is that there’s lots of these little coves and bays around the island, and since it’s very small, you can visit all of them. There are electric bike rentals that you can use to tour around the island, and if you have a Japanese or international driver’s license, you can rent a scooter (I did, it was fun!)

Because the islands are volcanic and have geothermal activity, you can find hot springs (a lot of them free) to soak in. These are natural hot springs, so the temperatures can vary (be careful!) and the minerals may stain some bathing suits.

I specifically chose Shikinejima because I wanted to visit a quiet island that didn’t require taking buses or renting cars to get around. However, there are lots of islands and choices to choose from. Just a ten minute ferry ride away is Niijima, which is quite popular with surfers.

There are two sets of ferries that you can take: the jet ferry and the regular ferry. The jet ferry is of course more expensive, but it cuts down the travel time by a factor of 4. If you’re on a budget, the regular ferry is a good choice, especially since you don’t have to pay for accommodations when you sleep overnight. If you want to find out about the ferries, the operator is Tokai Kisen.

Maehama beach
Maehama beach
Viewpoint from Shikinejima  with Niijima behind us.
Viewpoint from Shikinejima with Niijima behind us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do people regularly wear shirts while swimming?

When I first went swimming in Japan I was surprised to see that almost all the swimmers appeared to be wearing hoodies. They are actually a specialized clothing item called a rash guard. I think they’re mainly worn for two reasons: modesty and sun protection. I also think the clothing will depend on the type of crowd you find at the beach. For example, I just went to a beach at Kamakura and there were lots of young people there not wearing rash guards.

Higashihama beach in Kamakura - If you look closely lots of people aren't wearing rash guards
Higashihama beach in Kamakura – If you look closely lots of people aren’t wearing rash guards

How much did the trip cost?

It was a package deal that ran the equivalent of about $1,000 USD. It was for two adults and two elementary school children. The package included the regular and jet ferry rides, two nights stay, two breakfasts, and two dinners.