Tokyo is a city of great surprises, from sneaky back-alley bars to hidden gardens. But one of the biggest surprises that captures travelers’ attention is the fact that Tokyo metropolis includes a cluster of 11 remote, picturesque islands.
Boasting untouched beaches, pristine water and skies so clear you can read the stars, these islands are known as the Izu Islands. Despite their name, and the fact that they’re south of Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures, they’re for all administrative purposes part of Tokyo. These volcanic islands are the antithesis of big city Tokyo life: laidback, quiet, naturally diverse, spacious, and overflowing with incredible ocean views.
Izu Oshima is the largest of the group, with a population just shy of 8,000 and a landmass of 90.76 square kilometers. The smallest populated is Aogashima, with a population of 170 and a mass of 5.96 sq km.
Kozushima is the ideal island for those looking for a taste of everything. It has a population of under 2,000 and spans 18.58 sq km. It’s small enough to find an entire pocket of this beachy hideaway to yourself. But it also has plenty of attractions and interesting local businesses, so that there’s always someone to meet, something to do, see, eat, and explore.
A 45-minute airplane ride or four-hour boat journey from Tokyo, Kozushima is close enough for a long weekend adventure, a budget-friendly remote island escape and a whole new side of Tokyo.
Tip: Before you go to Kozushima, book some activities
To make the most of Kozushima, it’s worth doing a little planning. It’s not the most English-friendly location in Japan, but that untouched local culture is a large part of its charm. If you’re planning on learning more about Kozushima, joining a guided experience is beneficial. On Voyagin, you’ll find locally organized tours that are accessible to non-Japanese guests. We’ve included some links below.
The island is generally quiet, but during holiday seasons it can become very lively. There are only a handful of locals running tour operations on the island, so slots can fill up quickly. To avoid missing out, it’s best to book before you go.
Getting around Kozushima
Rental cars are available, however, for non-licensed folk, there are a few bike rental shops on the island. You can pick one up year-round from Kozushima Auto Service, which is located just five minutes from Kozushima Port. Rental Bike Suzuki, opposite Maehama Beach, is central and open during the summer. The shop rents push-bikes and mopeds, but for the latter a valid driver’s license is needed.
Things to do on Kozushima
A brief rundown of the beaches
Kozushima has four beaches. Maehama is the biggest and most central of them. Then there’s the smaller Nagahama and Sawajiri beaches, both beautiful with their green mountain backdrop.
The final spot, Tako Bay, is a popular destination at the foothills of Mt.Tenjo. Given the size of the island, it’s relatively easy to visit all four beaches in a day or two and pick your personal favorite.
While it may not technically be a beach, Akasaki Promenade is one of the island’s biggest attractions. The Akasaki Promenade is a wooden frame built around a stunning marine wonderland filled with colorful fish, rocky marine habitats and water deep enough to dive straight into.
Climbing the highest peaks
One of the first sights that will strike you when you arrive on the island is the rugged Mt. Tenjo. Sitting at 572 meters, it may not be the mightiest peak in Japan, but what it lacks in height, it makes up for in uniqueness.
Not to be confused with the mountain of the same name near Kawaguchiko, Kozushima’s Mt. Tenjo is a relatively easy hiking destination with some special attractions on its flat top.
At the top of Mt. Tenjo sits a crater peak; you can explore the crater loop trail, which runs like a surreal collection of incredibly diverse landscapes. Mt. Tenjo is home to four mini worlds: Urasabaku, Hairanaigasawa, Sendai-ike, and Fudoike.
The areas Urasabaku and Hairanaigasawa are like a moonscape—barren but stunning sand fields punctuated by rocky protrusions.
Fudoike and Sendai-ike are a contrast to the other two corners of Mt. Tenjo. With alpine scenery that’s green and mossy, these areas feature natural bowls that transform into ponds following periods of heavy rainfall. Because Mt. Tenjo is right in the center of the island, every position from the top offers a fresh perspective of Kozushima and the neighboring islands.
The best way to learn about the mountain is to sign up for a three-and-a-half-hour Mt. Tenjo Hiking Tour with Furuya-san through Voyagin. He speaks conversational English and runs tours twice daily, at 8:30am and 1pm. Depending on the time, he will pick you up from your accommodation or the Kozushima Sightseeing Information Center and take you to the walking trail. Booking link.
Exploring the island below sea level
From the highest peaks to the deep blue ocean, the island’s beauty goes way beyond sea level. Kozushima’s marine-life action makes it a popular diving location. The ocean floor is home to bright coral reefs, lobsters, turtles, and fish of every shade and color imaginable. Snorkeling is a great way to gauge what’s happening below the surface, but to experience all of the action, we’d recommend signing up for a scuba diving experience.
Suzuki-san from diving shop Nangoku is one of the most experienced divers on the island. In the Japanese winter, he heads off to Thailand to run tours there. His knowledge of both English and the ocean’s ebbs and flows will put even the most nervous diver at ease.
Suzuki-san runs beginner diving experiences daily. After a brief introduction and run-through at the shop, you’ll head to the Akasaki Promenade. It’s a wooden waterpark jungle gym that overlooks a vast collection of coral reefs and rock formations that play host to Kozushima’s fascinating underwater population. Booking link.
Stargazing on Kozushima
As well as being a master of Mt. Tenjo, Furuya-san also knows the island night sky like the back of his hand. You can soak up a little star know-how too if you join his stargazing tour.
Free from city light pollution and with incredible natural viewing platforms in the form of Mt. Tenjo and the surrounding area, Kozushima is one of the best places in Japan to witness shooting stars, the Milky Way, the moon, and the planets scattered across the black night sky.
With the assistance of his high-tech telescope, Furuya-san will run you through the constellations. He’ll also zoom in on nearby Saturn and point out some of the more legendary stars, including the ones that inspired Japan’s Tanabata festival. The experience kicks off around 7:40pm, just after dinner. Booking link.
Instead of just half-mindedly buying some omiyage before you head back home, why not sign up for a strap-making class? It’s only 40 minutes, fun, and a great way to connect with local artisans while creating a gift that’s truly one-of-a-kind.
During the workshop, you’ll make a keychain strap, using obsidian as the focal piece. Obsidian is a beautiful polished volcanic rock, and all the rocks supplied here are from Kozushima. So when you’re done, you can always carry a piece of this beautiful island with you. Classes are conducted in Japanese, but are easy to follow. Booking link.
Where to stay on Kozushima
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay on Kozushima, one very budget-friendly option is Goriza Guesthouse. This traditional-style, family-run accommodation is located a two-minute walk from Maehama Beach. Vacation House Familia is also a great choice. The breezy, modern guesthouse comes complete with a garden, terrace, and on-site bar for guests.
How to get to Kozushima from Tokyo
There are three main ways to get to Kozushima: ferry, high-speed jet boat, and airplane. Flying takes about 45 minutes, and flights depart from Tokyo’s Chofu Airport twice daily. It’s also the most expensive option, with tickets costing about ¥15,300 each way. The airline offers discounts if you book a round trip.
Jetspeed boat is the next quickest option: the journey from Tokyo Takeshiba Port to Kozushima Port takes about four hours and runs daily. Tickets for this trip are about ¥9,770 each way.
The slowest and cheapest choice is an overnight large passenger ship. Prices vary depending on the day and class of accommodation you want, so it’s best to check online for the most up-to-date deal.
Pro tip: For another Tokyo island option, consider Hachijojima.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.
The dystopian amusement arcade Anata no Warehouse near Tokyo will close its doors forever on November 17, 2019.