Written by Madison Paden ’22
Early in the spring semester, I decided to book an extra week of solo travel in Japan. So when my classmates were boarding the plane to go back to the United States, I was catching the jet ferry to explore Tokyo’s subtropical islands to the South. Few people outside of Japan know of the Izu Islands. When I arrived, many of the locals were surprised that I was American. They assumed I must be a Tokyo native because the islands are not well known abroad. I only found them after searching for, “best beach Tokyo area.” Still, despite their lack of notoriety, these islands did not disappoint.
The first island I visited was Oshima. This island is most famous for having the volcano Godzilla was thrown into and its black sand beaches. I stayed at Book Tea Bed Hostel for three nights. I spent my days relaxing and exploring the island. The most stunning part of the island was the natural scenery. I was surrounded by beaches and mountains.
One of the days, I hiked the active volcano at the center of the island. The trail took me past old hardened lava flows and rocks. These lava rocks were everywhere, even on the beaches. I also spent a lot of time on the beach, climbing rocks and enjoying the sun. Each evening, I visited the island’s open air onsen (a Japanese public bath, think large shallow hot tub) and watched the sun set on Mount Fuji. The onsen was definitely my favorite part of the island. It was a great way to relax at the end of the day and it only cost 300 yen or about 3 dollars!
On day four, I was ready to go to Niijima. Only when I showed up to the port where I was supposed to board the boat, it was closed! I flagged down a janitor who spoke no English and asked what was happening through pantomime and Google Translate. I discovered that the island had two ports and that the ferries switched which they operated out of daily. The port I needed to be at was on the other side of the island. Luckily, the janitor was on his way to the other port and volunteered to drive me and I arrived on time.
Niijima was even more beautiful than Oshima. The beaches and white cliffs made me feel like I was in paradise. I only stayed one day on the island but loved every minute of it. After arriving, I went on a lookout hiking path. The trail led to the top of a cliff and the view of the ocean was spectacular. The next day, I rented a bike and explored the far side of the island. I found a secret surfing beach and watched the waves.
My trip to the Izu Islands was the perfect beach getaway. It made me appreciate taking time for solo travel and taught me to show up for transportation early. I was at the port almost two hours early, which is the only reason I had enough time to get to the other port and make my boat. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from locals. Every person I asked was happy to help me. I hope this encourages you to extend your study abroad and explore the country solo.