“From here on giant deep sea creatures may appear. To avoid any accidents kindly be seated and keep your seat belts fastened.”
Heart skipped a beat after hearing that! It does not state Whales may appear; it clearly suggests human race knows next to nothing about ocean and we are currently in deep waters so any ‘giant creature’ may stop by to say hello.
This is a story of me and my sister travelling to the islands situated in Philippine Sea. Philippine sea is located in the western part of the North Pacific Ocean. The Niijima and Shikinejima islands! 160km from Tokyo. Takes about three and a half hours by fast ferry from Takeshiba port in Tokyo. There is also an option of slow ferry which takes six hours. Japan is an island country and there are many such islands. People usually prefer to go to Okinawa in the southern part of Japan. Problem with Okinawa is, there would be too many tourists and we are almost allergic to crowdy places.
That day we left home early and took the first ferry to Nii-jima island. Nii is new and Jima is island. 11km long and 2.5km wide, has a land area of about 23km. There are seven other islands situated near by. The ferry passed through deep sea.. day was bright and water looked amazing. Sperm Whales and Humpback Whales are observed around these islands. Also, there are ample amount of other deep sea creatures happily claiming it to be their home. Beginning of the ride we were excited but as the announcement of ‘giant creatures’ was made we suddenly became aware of the fact that we are floating above their homes!
We reached Niijima at 12. The island has two ports and an airport. We had booked a Japanese Inn (Ohnoya) for two nights. Other options include campsite and a hotel. Japanese Inns are expensive but they are good for cultural experience. The service was really nice.
We left our bags and first went to the Habushi beach. A nationally protected reserve, this beach is popular among surfers. Beach is 6.5km long and has gorgeous white sand! On one side there are roaring waves and on the other volcanic cliffs! The roar of the sea was almost scary. We tried to go closer but it was too steep and sand was too slippery to even think to go inside! Every single sound of wave echoed back from the cliffs.. Seeing that and other beached on both islands we kept on wondering why on earth Pacific was named Pacific! There is absolutely nothing peaceful about this ten thousand meters deep ocean which boasts to have the Ring of Fire! (Ring of Fire is an earthquake prone zone around Pacific). After enjoying the sky blue waters and white sand we left for lunch. It takes about 25 minutes from restaurants till this beach. But worth a visit. The best thing about islands is restaurants use fresh produce! The sushi we had for lunch was amazing. There are other Chinese and Japanese restaurants and all of them serve great food.
While walking or cycling around the island you will notice stone statues everywhere. These are made from Kouga stone, a stone found on Niijima. Moyai statue at Shibuya station is also made from the same stone. My sister declared the faces are ancient emojis! And we had a good time guessing each expression while walking.
Next on the list was Yunohama Onsen. Onsen is a hot spring bathing facility. There are two types one is indoor type which is mostly separate for men and women; you don’t need to wear anything here. Other one is outdoor type, which is called as Rotenburo. Rotenburo is co-ed and you will have to wear a bathing suit or a swimwear. Yunohama is an outdoor onsen. Ocean view while bathing in natural hot spring water; what more do you want! We enjoyed the sunset here. That was my sister’s first time to visit the Onsen and she just couldn’t leave the place! The sound of waves crashing on the rocks, changing color of sky, horizon and the near by cliffs which almost seemed like taken from the Avatar movie; everything was so soothing. This truly was the best Onsen I have ever been to. The everyday stress from Tokyo just melted in perfect water and we headed back to our sweet little Ryokan. Dreamless, peaceful sleep in the middle of not so peaceful Pacific!
Next day took a ten minute boat ride to another island called Shikinejima. We were allowed to stand on the deck. Enjoyed the color of the water and the view of other islands. Shikinejima is much smaller in shape. Although there are more ‘Avatar cliffs’ than Niijima. Population is just 600. There is an interesting hike on this island. All these islands are untouched and not too popular among tourists so the vegetation is different than the mainland. We got to see giant butterflies, even trees were different than mainland. It is a pleasant break from the cedar trees you get to see all the time on the mountains around Tokyo.
This tiny beautiful island has few beaches and two Onsen. The view is amazing and surprisingly little different than that of Niijima. When we reached the Onsen at Shikinejima it was 3 in the afternoon. The water was literally bubbling. So didn’t even dare to step inside. The view is spectacular though. Reddish yellow onsen water and deep blue ocean. Apparently the temperature depends upon the waves.
We returned to Niijima same day. Campers sometimes stay at the campsite in Shikinejima as the last ride is at 4 in the afternoon. While going back the pleasant ocean had changed its nature. Waves were pretty high. Enjoyed the Yunohama Onsen again and next day said good bye to this lovely island.
Best time to visit is May, when the weather is good. I would recommend this trip to people who want to go away from city life and enjoy serenity of nature. This is a perfect spot to unwind!
Hope you enjoyed my story. For more, visit my blog once in a while and leave a comment to encourage me for writing more