When you think of Japan, one of the first things that may cross your mind is the sprawling urban metropolis of Tokyo.
What might not cross your mind is a volcanic island on a distant archipelago. However, it seems that the capital’s influence reaches far beyond the city limits, 200 miles to the small, beautiful volcanic island of Aogashima, where, technically, Tokyo governs the 170 residents.
Truth is, there isn’t much to govern. Besides a few “minshukus” (a sort of budget bed and breakfast), a general store, and the helipad, there isn’t much to the settled area of the island. The main draw is the massive double volcano, with the island itself a giant volcano holding within itself a smaller volcano sprouting from its center. In fact, calling Aogashima a double volcano undersells it a bit as it is built from the remains of at least four submarine volcanoes.
Though is has been a while since its last eruption, the island was the site of a series of earthquakes, known as an “earthquake swarm” in the 1780’s and a large eruption in 1785 that killed 130-140 people, nearly half of the island’s population. While it has been geologically calm since the 1780s, living next to an active volcano inside of another larger volcano, built from the remnants of previous destroyed volcanos, seems like asking for trouble.
Aogashima, however, is a beautiful place to visit, and you can reach the island from Hachijō-jima by helicopter or ferry. There are hiking trails up to the rim of the interior volcano where you can cook eggs in the steam vents, beautiful views of the night sky absent light pollution, and a sauna powered by volcanic activity in town. Relaxed, quiet, and beautiful, it serves as an escape from the mania of modern Tokyo. It’s possible that Aogashima just might be worth getting blown to melty bits by a volcano.
Know Before You Go
The island is notorious for its limited access. There is one ferry from Hachijō-jima Island per day, but it reportedly has a 60% chance of getting cancelled due to mists and winds, which sometimes affect it for about a week. There is also one helicopter per day—whose chance of cancellation is about 30%—but it is limited to only 9 passengers. Since it is the only access for the island's inhabitants as well as people visiting it on business, the booking may be full for a month straight or more.