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Lost Islands Words and photos by Tim Hornyak

Hachijojima

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familiar conical shape greets overnight ferry passengers arriving in Hachijojima from Tokyo. The volcano dominates the island and looks like a perfect miniature of Japan’s icon, Mount Fuji, complete with the signature cloud cap. Hachijojima, a former destination for political exiles 290 kilometers south of the capital, initially conjures other breathtaking spots in the Pacific, such as Maui. This unlikely corner of the metropolis (the island, as part of the Izu chain, is administered by the Tokyo government) shines with jade pastureland and aloe vera groves. Hachijo-Fuji, as the mountain is known, is a mere 854 meters tall, less than a third of its eponym, yet it offers some of the most rewarding hiking in all of Tokyo. I was soon scootering up grassy flanks overlooking an airstrip that serves 40-minute flights from Chofu. I parked near a cattle ranch and continued up on foot, surprising iridescent skinks and a snake before arriving at the crater trail. The hour-long trek along its rim offers dizzying vistas of Hachijo-Koshima, a neighboring isle, and Mount Mihara, Hachijo’s other peak. The shadowy crater teems with dragonflies and jungle vegetation, a Japanese Lost World. Although footing along the volcano’s edge requires caution, I found the low bushes full of magnificent green-gold beetles. But as soon as the moist clouds set in, I headed down the mountain. The following day I was exploring the shallows at Nambara,

48 June 2009 iNTOUCH

which are full of rainbow-colored fish and sheltered from the ocean waves. The warm waters here are fed by the Kuroshio Current, home to sea turtles and hammerhead sharks, and Nazumado Point in the northwest is one of Japan’s top diving spots. But one of Hachijojima’s most exquisite water experiences is the inland Uramigataki onsen. The free, single public bath, tucked away in foliage below a road in the island’s southern Nakanogo district, overlooks a waterfall cascading into a semitropical forest. I almost expected Ricardo Montalban from the 1970s TV series “Fantasy Island” to appear with margaritas. My stay ended with a drive around the southern Sueyoshi district, pausing at Noboryutoge (Climbing Dragon Pass) for a stunning crepuscular outlook on Hachijo-Fuji. A tangy dish of shima-zushi (island sushi, with mustard instead of wasabi) was the perfect finish to my stay. A ferry the following morning took me north, past Mikurajima (population 270), its sheer cliffs jutting from the crashing sea, to the foreboding island of Miyakejima. As the boat approached Sabigahama port, I was struck by the surrounding landscape. Many of the bare trees stood dead like frozen ghosts on the slopes of Mount Oyama. The island has seen few visitors since it erupted in 2000, forcing an evacuation that lasted five years. I soon discovered that Oyama hasn’t quite settled down. The peak itself remains off-limits, and it’s still dangerous to linger in parts of the island

iNTOUCH June 2009  

Tokyo American Club’s monthly magazine, iNTOUCH

iNTOUCH June 2009  

Tokyo American Club’s monthly magazine, iNTOUCH