Japan’s hidden tropical island: Aogashima

Tofugu has a short article on this unusual and beautiful Japanese island: Aogashima.

Aogashima (“blue island”) is a tropical, volcanic island in the Phillipine Sea. Despite being over 200 miles away from the country’s capital, Aogashima is governed by Tokyo. In fact, a whole stretch of tropical and sometimes uninhabited islands called the Izu Islands are technically part of Tokyo. Volcanic islands? Not typically what comes to mind when you think of Tokyo.

As you might imagine, Aogashima isn’t the most crowded place in the world. As of this year, only about 200 people live on Aogashima. The island only has one post office and one school.

There are two ways on and off the island: by helicopter or by boat. There’s only one, small harbor where the boats go in an out of, and it seems to be a little unreliable. Because Aogashima is so remote and isolated, it can sometimes be hard to get a boat to or from the island safely.

A fellow named Izuyan has been traveling to isolated islands of Japan and taking excellent photos. Here's his Flickr set for Aogashima.

Japan’s Hidden Tropical Island: Aogashima(Via imgur)


  1. Japan could solve its financial troubles by selling that place to any number of evil genius types.

    They could sweeten the deal by offering to carve the face of the villain in that  outcropping of white rock.

      1.  late-to-the-party threadjack!
        here’s a screenshot I grabbed to get a sense of scale as to where this isle actually is, so no one else has to do it.

          1. No, but it’s roughly the equivalent of Florida, if I read the map right.  Still probably pretty nice most of the year, I’d wager.

    1.  Seriously, I think that cone in the middle opens up to reveal the death ray.

    2.  To the best of my knowledge, volcanic magma rock is never white, so I’m thinking it’s guano – perhaps not the best choice of media for portraits of evil villain overlords. :)

    1. Actually that would be the Ogasawara Islands where Monster Island aka Monsterland is located. Most notable being the location where a giant squid(of course) was caught on film live for the first time and Iwo Jima.

    1.  It’s good to see, that I wasn’t the only person whose first thought was “Wow, that totally looks als computer generated.”

  2. While, yes, this is a cool volcanic island and not what one expects when one thinks of Japan, I have to find the line “Despite being over 200 miles away from the country’s capital, Aogashima is governed by Tokyo” amusing. Normally, being over 200 miles from a country’s capital isn’t very noteworthy, unless you are talking about Liechtenstein or something. 

    1. Okay, the point was that it is part of Tokyo rather than just being governed by it?

      1. Yeah, the assertion is that it’s much closer to other Japanese states (prefectures) but is governed by the prefecture of Tokyo-to which, like NY, is the name of both a city and a state. Check this google map and you can see on the left it’s listed as “Aogashima Tokyo, Japan”.

        I still find the part that goes “Volcanic islands? Not typically what comes to mind when you think of Tokyo.” to be the most odd considering that Japan is a volcanic island and that you can see the country’s biggest volcano from tall buildings in Tokyo’s center.

    1.  As long as there is no outbreak on the island, then it’s the worst place to hide.

      1. treetop sentry point/lookout + 500 rounds of .223 (accounting for errors and practice) = safe from zeds.

      2.  President Madacascar disagrees and would like to have a word with you, but he can’t because they just


  3. Do they have high-speed internet and UPS?  Because I am _so_ moving there if they do…

      1. Actually… this company seems to offer 1Gbps connections there and I imagine they’d have Kuroneko Yamato (Japanese UPS).

        For anyone else wanting to nerd out on this I found a few interesting things:
        This page has links to their town’s newsletter (with pictures!).
        This link is supposedly for a live camera (which I cant see through the work firewall)
        This page sells local specialty products, including a type of sho-chu.
        Japanese Wikipedia entry for the island.
        Geologic survey of the island (?)

  4. It probably had an underground base in WW2, or at least something like the bunkers atop Diamond Head in Honolulu.

    1. LOL, you stole my comment!  First thing that came to mind when I saw that picture was Myst!  

    1. Beat me to it, I was gonna say that if they ever came out with SimIsland, this is very much what my island would look like.

  5.  I think I remember seeing a pic of this place in some obscure travel book in Japan- I can’t believe that place exists. It’s the most beautiful island I’ve ever seen. Stunning. I must go there now!

    This is why I love BB- even when I thought I’d seen all Japan, something even more beautiful than Rishiri island pops up. Thanks Mark!

  6. I’m willing to bet that boat and helicopter are the only way off 99.999% of all islands.

    1. Even Easter Island is accessible by space shuttle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_abort_modes#Chile

    2.  I’ll take that bet. If it’s true that there are 180497 islands in the world, then you’re asserting that boat and helicopter is the only way off 180497*99.999%=180495 of them. So if there are 2 islands with a runway large enough for an aeroplane, you’d lose the bet. There are 20+ commercial airports in the Greek islands alone…

      1. Touché. I have to admit that I didn’t even consider airplanes. Still, the vast majority of islands are tiny specks in the ocean only accessible by boat or helicopter.

    3. You can get a train to the British Isles until we flood the tunnel to stop all the Euro crisis refugees trying to get in. Haha.

  7. I see people living inside a caldera. And I thought residents of Portland were crazy.

    This will not end well.

    1. If I read the translation of their town newsletter correctly, the last eruption was in the 1700’s.   The main economy appears to be salt production and some agriculture.

      Can you imagine being a teenager on the island?  Any place you go, your parents are going to hear about it within minutes.   For younger kids, it’d be paradise.  Imagine the adventures.

      1. The main economy appears to be salt production and some agriculture.

        That sound’s like a real cliché – “We are an island. Our main exports are salt and water.”

        Imagine the adventures.

        Not to speak of all the hilarious ways to DIE.

      2.  True enough, but it is difficult to distinguish a dormant volcano from an extinct one. Fourpeaked mountain in Alaska had been silent since 8000 BC when it erupted in 2006. Pinatubo, in the Philippines, also seems to have dormancy periods on the order of several thousand years between eruptions.

  8. I first noticed this when I watched the film Inugami a few years ago, but there is something about rural Japan that reminds me so much of rural Kentucky (USA). 

    The lush greenery, the amazing hospitality of the natives (until you cross them), the hillsides, the highway cuts, the rundown tourist destinations.

    Simple, rich, flavorful foods. Odd traditions that you just go along with for the hell of it. the contrast between folkways and modernism. The  pragmatic balance between industrial resource exploitation and natural beauty exploitation.

    The only difference is that I’ve spent some time in rural Kentucky, and no time at all in rural Japan. But looking at that obscene greenery overwhelming the planned tourist locales in Aogashima reminded me of so many similar planned-yet-forgotten tourist spots in Boone County, KY.

  9. “As of this year, only about 200 people live on Aogashima. The island only has one post office and one school.”
    Only one? I would think the selling point would be that even though there is only 200 inhabitants they actually have a school and a post office.

    1. Those are areas where swaths of trees have been cut down.  Based on aerial imagery, it looks like they are working their way around the Maruyama dome in a clockwise fashion. The older cuts on the north side of the dome appear to have filled in to some extent, while the newer cuts are on the southeastern side of the dome.  Maybe it’s a sustainable forestry strategy.

      1. I wonder how that wouldn’t lead to rapid erosion and deadly mudslides. Maybe they’ve got advanced tech to keep the soil intact?

        It’s also interesting that the inner valley hasn’t been clear-cut for crops, husbandry, habitation, etc. Reminds me a bit of the Eden Initiative in Anno 2070.

    1. Holy cow, a disco ball!
      Those not shaking their booties, sit on the edge of the dancefloor, seiza-style.

  10. Not sure if anyone here grew up playing D&D, but this is almost identical to the island in the Expert Set module “The Isle of Dread”.

    1. Aye. I had that module and still remember the flooded corridors of the submerged inhabitants of the island. I seem to remember a rather beautiful elf raising a sail on the cover as well!

  11. If we’re discussing cool/lesser known Japanese islands, may I invite curiosity seekers to throw Minamitorishima into your morning google mix?

  12. Looking at the Island I was curious how in the world you even got there by boat.  The steep rock cliffs surrounding the island don’t look inviting at all to a boat, and I can’t imagine that they would want to haul everything in or out of the island all the way up the side of the caldera and back down. 

    According to Google Maps they have a tunnel from the center of the island out to a small pier on the coast.   That must have been an expensive tunnel for 200 people.  I wonder if it also does double duty as flood relief during the rainy season?

    Most of the buildings on the island look to be barns, so I’m guessing the culture is very very rural there. 

  13. This island can be seen on GoogleEarth.  At least a couple of the photos show what looks like volcanic gasses or steam; the volcano may not be completely dormant.  The road looks like the path that goes over the pali (cliffs) on Molokai, down to Kalaupapa Peninsula.  Some of the path is concealed by rocks and greenery and is invisible from most vantage points.

  14. This is clearly where they keep their giant robots, to be launched when the alien invasion comes.  Proof: http://www.flickr.com/photos/izuyan/5668663141/in/set-72157626606763266

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