OGASAWARA ISLANDS, Japan
GOOD FOR: Seeing an alternative side to Japan
The Ogasawara (or Bonin) Islands are something of an oddity. Despite lying 1,000km off Japan’s coast, the archipelago is actually administratively part of Tokyo prefecture. Yet the archipelago’s aquamarine shallows, sub-tropical jungles and white-sand beaches couldn’t be more different from the neon flash of the big city. These islands offer a side of Japan that few travellers ever see.
Ogasawara comprises 30-plus islands, but the majority of its 2,400-strong population live on Chichi-jima (Father Island). This is also where humpbacks (Jan-apr) sperm whales (May-nov) and dolphins (year-round) might be spotted offshore, and where you can kayak to a succession of glorious coves and beaches. Steep, eroded cliffs serve up fine viewpoints while, in the clear waters below, Second World War relics rust amid kaleidoscopic schools of fish. Inland, trails wind deep into Chichi-jima’s forests, where flying foxes and endemic birds flit between the trees.
Just a kilometre offshore lies a real treasure: the tiny, uninhabited isle of Minami-jima. It’s a key breeding ground for green sea turtles and only 100 visitors are allowed there each day.
GETTING THERE: Ferries leave from Tokyo for Chichi-jima every six days (every three days in high season); journey time is 24 hours.