Ogasawara

The captain and crew shut the door of the Ogasawara Maru

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船長と他の制服を着た乗務員が小笠原丸のドアを閉めます。今回で、小笠原の写真ツアーは終わりです。また今度、もう一度、小笠原丸に乗りたいです。

I thought there’s no better end to this travelogue about Ogasawara than this photo of the captain and crew getting ready to shut the door to the ship prior to departure.

Strange Tokyo Bay view of working ships

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東京湾の中で、ひき船とクレーンは海の商業のしるしです。

There’s something very unknown and exciting in seeing working vessels in a modern harbor. Returning to Tokyo, in the foreground is the Ogasawara Maru’s light fixture. In the center of the frame a tugboat pulls a barge with a giant crane. The vista is wide open, and the sea moving at its own pace.

Elaborate send-off ceremony on ferry’s departure

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小笠原から船が出るときに、儀式があります。陸上では、はっぴを着ている人が太鼓を演奏します。港では、小さな船がたくさんついてきて、さよならのあいさつとして、皆一緒に海に飛び込みます。

When leaving Ogasawara, there is an elaborate send-off. Men, women and children in Shinto happi jackets pound drums and ask for a safe voyage. A flotilla, including kayaks, fishing and diving boats, follows the ship through the harbor. And as the boat nears the edge of the open sea, in a scene that all the regulars seem familiar with, people in the small boats dive and jump into the sea in showy unison.

Truly, this is the most jolly transit send-off I could imagine.

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Fallen leaves are purple, gold, silver, and rust colors

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3月に落ち葉を見て、驚きました。紫色や金色や銀色や錆びたような色です。小笠原の季節と東京の季節は、全然違います。

I was surprised to see these fallen leaves in March. I guess subtropical Ogasawara’s seasons are very distinct from Tokyo.

Only recent human history: American, Japanese, American, Japanese ownership of Ogasawara

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小笠原の人間の歴史は二百年くらいしかありません。第二次世界大戦のトンネルもアメリカの教会まだあります。

What’s surprising about Ogasawara is that there are no indigenous people. First settled in the mid 1800s by Americans who departed from Hawaii, the Japanese seized it during their colonial expansion, retaken by the United States after World War II, and then returned to Japan in the 1970s.

There are numerous reminders of the war. Inside the many hills you still see dank tunnels created for the island’s defense. Apparently there was no land war here, unlike (somewhat nearby) Iwo Jima. There’s also this incredibly forlorn-looking, Saint George church in the main port village. I love how the entry walkway does not meet the current sidewalk.

It’s odd to be in a place with such little human history. The English name for the islands, Bonin, is a mispronunciation of the Japanese words “no people” (bu nin, or mu nin).

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Giant tree fern with unusual trunk

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森林生態系保護地域のなかで、「丸八」という木生シダが見えます。巨大な木生シダはニュージーランドとサンフランシスコを思い出します。

Inside the fenced-in Nature Sanctuary, we saw this lovely native fern tree.

Stylish Tokyo dog in a wetsuit on Ogasawara’s Miyanohama beach

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砂浜で会ったおしゃれな東京の犬はウェットスーツを着ています。3月の海の水はきれいですが、まだ寒いです。

I had a nice chat with this dog’s owner at Miyanohama beach. It turns out she lives 1 or 2 kilometers from me here in Tokyo. Her orange windbreaker was almost as stylish as this incredible dog wetsuit. I think he needs a surf board. In March, the water is still cold so I guess this is also practical.

Native palm trees in Chichijima

Noyashi_Chichijima

小笠原に自生するヤシの種類は二つあります。ビロウヤシはうちわ形の葉があって、辺りの植物より背が高いです。ノヤシは羽のような葉と木の幹に金の輪があります。

Ogasawara has two native palm trees. Both have very simple common names in Japanese: biroyashi, which means fan palm or Chinese fan palm,  and noyashi, a feather palm that uses the “no” of Nakano, which means field or rustic. The noyashi has beautiful, almost golden leaf bases on its trunk.  Below, in a nature sanctuary on the east side of Chichijima, the biroyashi rise above the low scrub on steep cliffs.

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Finally on land, in Chichijima, after 25 hour boat trip

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やっと、小笠原の父島に着きました。東京の中で、一番遠い場所です。「遠隔地」と呼ばれています。火山で作られた島は大陸につながっていませんでした。だから、自生する動物と植物がたくさんあります。タコノキという植物がタコみたいです。

A large crowd meets the ferry in Chichijima. Small hotels meet their guests, locals welcome their returning family and friends. There was even a steel drum band. Once on solid ground, in an island with a full-time population of about 2,000, you feel that you are in the most remote part of Japan. Well, certainly, it’s the most remote part of Tokyo.

What makes Ogaswara islands a world heritage site is that these volcanic islands have never been attached to a continent. Many of the plants and animals are unique to the islands. There’s been a lot of effort recently on Chichijima to control feral populations of goats, cats, and rats that are disturbing the  local habitat.

Local nature guides showed us around the island by day and by night. We learned about some unusual plants and even saw giant bats with “tanuki” faces. There are many beautiful coves with clear water, and steep hillside walks. Below is the takonoki tree, or octopus tree, named because of the shape of its aerial roots and branches. It also creates giant, nubby fruit.

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Escape by boat to nature sanctuary on the very far side of Tokyo

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最近、東京から離れることを考えていました。3月に、小笠原の父島に旅行しました。交通は船だけで、25時間かかります。小笠原丸のデザインが好きです。逞しくて、効率的で、簡素です。

April 1 is the start of the business and school years in Japan. Recently my thoughts have turned to escaping the city, which I recently accomplished. What better than a long sea voyage to the remote island of Chichijima? Sub-tropical and isolated from continental evolution, Chichijima is part of the Ogasawara islands one thousand kilometers south of Tokyo. Administratively, they are part of Tokyo. Yet a far side of Tokyo removed from ordinary urban life.

Of the two options, we chose the 25 hour ferry boat from Hamamatsucho over the mega-cruise ship out of Yokohama. Given the amount of time in transit, the boat itself is a major element of visiting the islands. This large ship called Ogasawara Maru carries up to a thousand people as well as all supplies, cars, and even livestock for the few thousand inhabitants of this island group.

The design evokes Japanese efficiency and optimism of the 1980s, sturdy, reliable, with few frills and no luxuries. I love the dolphin artwork, and brass rails. Unfortunately, because of the weather and conditions, the captain’s tour was canceled on both directions.

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This small ship that goes to Tokyo city’s outer islands, including Oshima and Ogasawara

さるびあ丸という船は、東京の浜松町から小笠原島に行きます。25時間もかかる旅行ですが、行きたいです。

I like this night view of the Salvia Maru (さるびあ丸) ship that goes from Tokyo to the distant islands administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, including Oshima off the Izu peninsula and Ogaswara, which is a 25 hour trip by boat with no airplane service. This boat looks kind of small for traveling in the Pacific Ocean, doesn’t it? At the Hamamatsucho pier.