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Oshima and its Black Desert

Oshima and its Black Desert

Oshima is the largest island in the Izu peninsula, as well as the most visited. It has an active volcano surrounded by black desert … the only desert in Japan! Let’s pay a visit with Airi-chan.

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First boat (Tokaikisen) at 7.35am from Hamamatsuchō (Tokyo). Arrive at 9.20. It’s a long walk to the volcano. There are buses, but we’d rather hire a car (through one of the 3–4 rentals waiting for tourists). At 10am, arrive at car park where trails to the volcano set off. Be careful though, the way back is a bit more precarious.

Mount Mihara

The main attraction of Oshima is Mount Mihara, the volcano. The last eruption dates from 1986, so it’s active.

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It doesn’t take long to walk round the crater. From up here, you can admire Mount Fuji while unearthing the trapped Godzilla.

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Godzilla isn’t the only one! The body of Sadako’s mother is also hidden here in the horror movie The Ring! Like the forest of Fuji-san, Mihara volcano was very popular with suicides when the film came out.

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Let’s go find our desert. Up on the crater, we follow the track to the right, and at the end of the loop turn right again to find ourselves on the path above. It runs alongside the black desert, straight to a village overlooking the sea. But on the map there seems to be a path crossing the desert, and that’s the one that interests us.

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We head right along yet another track. No directions. Seems ideal to me.

Ura-Sabaku Desert

I soon realize that these tracks are really dried-up riverbeds. By then we’re completely into unknown territory. Airi-chan seems tiny in this immense space.

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I open up Google Maps and trace out a few arrows. We’ll tour the volcano across the black desert, like this.

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In no time I find the desolate volcanic landscapes that I’d come to see. The contrasts are magnificent.

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On this side there’s no shelter from any eruption. I think the tourist office wouldn’t recommend this route – so much the better for anyone wanting to spend time in such a vast space with nobody else around.

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We have walked …

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on the Moon!

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Plant life gradually reappears. It looks as if the east side of the volcano has been most affected by the eruptions.

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It’s getting harder to walk, the vegetation is sticking to us, the earth is sucking us in, the lie of the land is misleading us.

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We never thought the tour would take so long. The wildness of this terrain just made us miss the last boat back to Tokyo. But we’re rewarded by a magnificent view and the end is in sight – not much further.

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I’m thinking of staying at an onsen and leaving tomorrow, but Airi-chan has to get to work early. And there’s only one way: take a small plane to Chofu, not far from Tokyo. Ah, the airport known for plane crashes? Seems like the adventure isn’t over yet!

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This is the last of the 8 kilometres in this weird setting, with just time for a break at the observatory near the car park.

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It’s time for the plane, hurry! But first a quick flashback.

Oshima and the Mystery Cloud

I had visited Oshima a year earlier with Airi-chan, but in totally different conditions.

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Even in good weather, Oshima volcano is often enveloped in a thick cloud, with strong winds and mists that take the skin off your face. Here’s a live memory from Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/5i1ii2LGKy

If you see a funny little cloud over the island before you set off, a change of plan might be wise. Be warned!

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As we couldn’t really enjoy the volcano that time, we turned our attention to the local wildlife.

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Mmm, no. That day out wasn’t a load of laughs.

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So back to the plane. The flight went well, although far from pleasant for anybody with a fear of flying: the turbulence really shakes you up! But the view over Yokohama and Tokyo is well worth it.

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We’ll soon be back on the Izu islands because they hold such promise of adventure, so watch this space.

Who Am I

I am Jordy Meow, a French photographer living in Japan. I explore discover offbeat and lesser known places in Japan. Wish to see more, or to help me? Here is my Patreon.

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