Don’t get me wrong, Tokyo is a stimulating city full of lights and sounds and good ramen. But I needed to escape!
Tokai Kisen Large Passenger Ferry
Tachibana Maru, a long haul large passenger ship from Takeshiba station in Tokyo
So at 10:30pm, stowed away inside the bows of the Tokai Kisen Large Passenger Ship, I left the buzz behind.
The ship has three levels, and each level has a different layout of bedding, from hotel-style rooms…
To hostel bunk beds…
To my ..urr.. room. Clearly I’m a cheap-skate! At 16000¥ a return journey, it’s the cheapest way to travel there. Book here.
To be honest though, sleeping on the floor feels like home for me after tenting in the wet the last month. The marked space came with a pillow and for an extra 100¥ each you could rent soft blankets, so it was actually really comfy 🙂
After an 11 hour slumber with the waves rocking me to a peaceful state, I sit up and immediately feel a chronic wave of seasickness. The sea is especially choppy between Miyakejima and Hachijojima so probably best to stay sleeping for this part of the journey.
After checking in to SeaDive, a diver’s backpackers just 5 minutes walk from the ferry port, I headed 50 minutes walk into the town centre for breakfast. There are a couple of bigger supermarkets and cafes, and you can get cash, gas and rental cars here.
I managed to snap up a Rental Kei Car from the Mobil Gas Station for 3000¥ per day. Super cheap! It was a busy Japanese holiday so cars were scarce but after some negotiation, they happened to have one manual car left. Sweet.
Dairy Farms and Cafe
Hachijo Island Jersey Cafe is a smart little cafe with black decor. Perfect place for the Tokyo weekender to ease into Island life with a cafe latte made with local cows milk.
For the slightly adventurous traveller on a hot sunny (or rainy, in my case) they have soft serve ice cream made from Yuyu Farm’s local produce, situated at the base of Hachijo-Fuji (Mt Nishi).
Remember my blog about the various floral ice cream flavours at Izu Oshima? Hachijojima also sells Ashitaba ice cream, in case you were missing it.
It’s bright green like green tea ice cream but the flavour is much more subtle.
Another dairy farm on the island called Fureal Farm is in a far more picturesque location. Half-way up from the summit of Hachijo-Fuji, overlooking views of Mt Mihara and the town below, cows graze peacefully on this mountainside.
Upon arrival, an impeccably dressed farmer hands us bamboo branches and the surrounding Japanese tourists start calling loudly and I wait as the cows come closer to seek out the treats we have for them. They seem clean and well looked after, probably the quality of life for these cows beats any other.
Mt Nishi, like Mt Kaimondake in Kyushu and Mt Yotei in Hokkaido, has also been nicknamed after Mt Fuji due to its conical shape.
Turning right, instead of left from the junction leading to Fureal Farm, is a parking spot next to a small trailhead sign for the Hachijo-Fuji hike.
Caution, the hike may be short at 50min, but it is a steep climb up hundreds of steps! Recently they have added a asphalt pathway up to ease the aching legs but I decided to take the original route.
Climbing around the ridge gives a great 360˚ view of the island and crater, and the track changes from a varied rock scramble over waves of magma with hidden cracks and caves, to a muddy grassy path, to a red and black sandy trail.
Hachijojima has a few onsens to dip the aching muscles in after a days hike or a dive. Most of them are located in Nakanogo, which can be accessed by the bus. There is also a “BASUPASU” which you can buy from the driver for 1000¥, which gives you unlimited onsen and bus travel for two days.
Located near a late-night onsen called Yasuragi is a great foot onsen, which gives you a relaxing view out to sea.
For those who are too shy to take their kit off, Uramigataki Onsen is a mixed outdoor onsen overlooking a waterfall. This onsen welcomes bathing suits, and has parking, a changing area and toilets nearby. This one is also free!
Sueyoshi Onsen Miharashi is the furthest onsen away on the bus route, but is another bathing suit mixed onsen, looking out to sea.
Feeling peckish after a 50 minute hike through young wet cedars and palms to Hakataki Falls in the Nakanogo area, I felt like a pick me up.
Hidden in what looks like a quiet old Japanese summer house is Kominka Nakanogo Cafe.
Kominka Nakanogo Cafe is unbelievably cute. Sat around a traditional Japanese fire pit with dark wooden beams and paper screens surrounding you, nothing could be cozier. Apart from being sat on square cushions wrapped in their fluffy blankets you can borrow.
Their menu comes wrapped in mauve felted paper and it’s not in English which makes it a great chance to practice some katakana reading skills.
They have hot and iced coffee, green and black tea, hot chocolate and a selection of juices.
Their toast menu is extensive, and apart from the hot dog that smells great from across the next table, I highly recommend having their cheesecake. (Cheesecake, toast and hot dog is all the same said in Japanese so don’t panic!)
Furui Sato literally translates as old village, and these buildings definitely encompass that meaning. At 450 years old and made entirely from wood and straw, these thatched houses have been attended to carefully to preserve them.
I arrived at the car park and proceed to take pictures of their exterior, and a lady from the car park instantly ushers me inside calling “gakusama!!” (which means customer). Two kind old ladies appear into the dim tatami room smelling of woodsmoke from the tiny fire pit in the centre of the floor.
A big rusted ironware pot hangs over the fire from the ceiling. A rare sight in old Japanese buildings nowadays.
They serve up matcha with little ashitaba flavoured sweets and we make small talk in Japanese. These ladies have lived in Hachijojima all their lives and take part in the community’s Taiko group.
Gesturing to the huge Taiko, the oldest lady invites me to play with her, either side of the Taiko holding thick wooden drumsticks, she plays the bass rhythm whilst I am taught a simple beat over the top. Elated that I remembered what I was taught in Ninomiya, the ladies were surprised how well I picked it up.
I was really surprised by the helpfulness of the locals living on Hachijojima. What happened next in the supermarket that evening had me both a little scared and curious as to how far friendliness will go on this island…