Enjoy the rich natural surroundings of the Ogasawara Islands: a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and one of Japan’s most intriguing hidden scenic spots

A natural paradise in the Pacific, rich in flora and fauna

The Ogasawara Islands are a cluster of over 30 islands, small and large, scattered across a wide area of the vast Pacific Ocean.

The islands—located far from the main Japanese archipelago—are home to numerous rare species of plants and animals, including several species that are unique to the islands themselves. This independently and uniquely evolved natural habitat is one of the major attractions for tourists visiting the Ogasawara Islands. Recognition of the islands’ precious and richly diverse natural environment led to their being listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in June 2011. Below, we introduce tourist spots mainly on the inhabited islands of Chichijima (“Father Island”) and Hahajima (“Mother Island”); parts of the Ogasawara Islands where people live.

A voyage by ship to the southern islands that are blessed by warmth and sunlight all year round

The Ogasawara Islands have no airport. Visitors must travel to the islands by sea, using the regularly scheduled passenger ship Ogasawara Maru, which operates out of Tokyo. Ogasawara Maru travels between Takeshiba Pier (Port of Tokyo) and Futami Port on Chichijima (Ogasawara Islands). The ship departs from Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal at 11.00AM, and arrives at Chichijima’s Futami Port at 11.00AM the following morning. The voyage takes a total of 24 hours. Typically, Ogasawara Maru makes around one voyage per week, although there are times when it operates at a pace of around once every 3~4 days depending on the season. Be sure to check the ship’s operating schedule via the Ogasawara Kaiun website.

Visitors can reach Hahajima (the other major tourist hub in the Ogasawara Islands) by boarding the Hahajima Maru, which operates out of Chichijima. Hahajima is located around 50km south of Chichijima. It takes around two hours from Chichijima’s Futami Port to reach Oki Port on Hahajima.

The Ogasawara Islands are part of the subtropics, and enjoy a mild subtropical climate. They are warm throughout the year, with little difference in temperature between summer and winter. The intensity of the Sun’s rays is also harsher than in mainland Japan, so visitors should not to forget to take appropriate measures against sunburn.

Chichijima and Hahajima both have various types of accommodation, consisting predominantly of minshuku (family-run Japanese-style bed and breakfasts) but also other types of accommodation including pensions (guest/boarding houses), hotels and dormitories, where visitors can also stay as long-term guests. Chichijima has a greater number of accommodation facilities than Hahajima, and also some facilities where the owners can understand English. Both islands have supermarkets, making it possible for visitors to buy food supplies and other daily necessities.

Experience the rich natural beauty of the Ogasawara ocean

The ocean surrounding the Ogasawara Islands is a deep blue, which is sometimes referred to as Bonin Blue. Visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the ocean from various vantage points around the islands, such as the Nagasaki Observation Point on Chichijima. The sheer, rugged cliffs and deep blue ocean beneath their very eyes often leave a strong impression on visitors.

Under the water too, of course, there is thrilling and emotionally moving scenery to be seen, with coral reefs, tropical fish, and schools of fish swimming back and forth in unison. Visitors to the Ogasawara ocean can enjoy a variety of marine activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, sea kayaking and fishing.

Enjoy the Ogasawara Islands’ rare and unusual wildlife, including unique species that can only be found here

Because the Ogasawara Islands have never been connected by land to any continent, their plant and animal life have evolved in a unique way. Some species of wildlife on the islands are now rare or endangered species.

The Bonin white-eye (meguro) is a species of bird that is unique to the Hahajima island chain
Munin-himetsubaki is a unique species of flower found only on the islands. It has a rose-like fragrance

Aside from those that have been developed into pleasure trails, the majority of other areas of the islands are designated as Forest Ecosystem Protection Zones. Visitors wishing to enter other forest or mountain areas will require the accompaniment of a permit-holding guide. Since there are many unique species of plant that are difficult to find without entering these forest or mountain areas, visitors are encouraged to explore and enjoy the Ogasawara Islands’ unique flora and scenery together with a guide, to ensure that they do not harm or destroy their unique plant and animal life.

The natural beauty of the Ogasawara Islands remains largely untouched, and the beauty of the evening sun and starry night sky are truly special. Visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy a relaxing time surrounded by nature. Why not visit the World Natural Heritage listed Ogasawara Islands and discover their rich natural beauty?

Photographs provided by: Ogasawara Village Tourism Bureau