2021.07 Discover Kozushima: Tokyo's Secret Island Destination
Is this still Tokyo? A small group of islands within city limits
Main sights: Akasaki Promenade, white sand beaches and unique geological features
The northwest coast of the island hosts many of Kozushima’s natural wonders, so thrill seekers, nature lovers and beachgoers will all want to make the trip at least once during their stay. If you’re just coming to relax along long stretches of white sand and azure blue waters, you can find it a little further south at Maehama beach. Along with snorkel gear rental, dive shops and restaurants with beach views, motorcycle and bicycle rentals can also be found here on the island’s more-populated west side.
Kozushima’s sole microbrewery and distillery are also near Maehama Beach. Get out of the sun and enjoy a cold pint of craft beer at Hyuga Brewery, or check out Kozushima Sake Brewery, which also makes shochu, a Japanese liquor distilled from grain. You can pick up a bottle of Moriwaka here, a special oak cask shochu unique to the island.
One of Kozushima’s most popular summer attractions is the raised wooden Akasaki Promenade spanning 500 meters along the rocky northwest island coast, with the sea just a few meters below. Many come to take the plunge from the two promenade walks built as 3-meter high “exits” into the sea. Calm, pristine inlet waters provide great snorkeling visibility and coral reefs and multi-colored fish can be seen at several sites along the walk. If you’ve forgotten your gear, snorkeling sets can be bought here, alongside refreshments, in the summer months.
As part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and as one of the 11 Tokyo Treasure Islands, Kozushima boasts pristine natural landscapes across the island. Formed in the Paleolithic period, Kozushima’s obsidian cliffs are one of the most unique geological features here. Obsidian—volcanic glass—is found in abundance on the island and archeological digs in the Kanto area have unearthed stone tools dating back to the Jomon period (approximately 13,000–300 BCE) that used obsidian from Kozushima.
Hyuga Brewery offers locally made craft beer in a stylish interior.
Photo credit: Hyuga Brewery
The locally made Moriwaka shochu, a Japanese liquor, being carefully stored at Kozushima Sake Brewery.
Photo credit: Kozushima Sake Brewery
Popular with snorkelers, swimmers and divers alike, the Akasaki Promenade offers a day of fun in the water.
Beyond the beach: Breathtaking day hikes, hot spring bathing and star gazing
Although many visitors are immediately attracted to the white sands of Maehama Beach, the waters and sands surrounding the island are just a fraction of Kozushima’s allure. The island offers myriad activities for nature lovers, including some superb trekking routes.
Adventurous travelers will want to follow the hiking trails to summit the volcanic ridges of Mt. Tenjo. This 572-meter ascent is a serious climb, best taken in the morning (4–5 hours round trip), and rewards hikers with sweeping views of the ocean below from the summit of Kuroshima Trail. While walking the crater loop, you’ll find desert landscapes, small ponds and a sacred spot called Hairanaigasawa, the origin of the islands’ pristine freshwater springs that’s dedicated to the Gods of the Izu Islands.
Those less inclined to make the hike can drive from the Shiratori Trailhead to the 6th station, where the summit is just a 30-minute walk on foot. For a less strenuous trek, Matsuyama Promenade, with peak heights of 175 meters, offers beautiful coastal views on the east side loop overlooking Takou Bay. At Takou Spring, visitors can drink pristine water directly from the freshwater springs.
Kozushima’s Hot Spring Health Center is a perfect place to unwind after a long day of summer fun. The facilities offer mixed-gender outdoor baths (bathing suits required) and remain open until after dark for stargazing. The indoor facilities include saunas and jacuzzies in addition to a more traditional Japanese bathing experience. The health center’s oceanfront location makes the open-air baths a highlight for outdoors lovers. Views from the bath are sublime and looking out over the ocean to see the horizon merge into the milky way is a remarkable experience.
Stargazing is not a typical Tokyo pastime due to light pollution, but the activity is a source of pride on Kozushima. Designated as an International Dark-Sky place by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), Kozushima is dedicated to the preservation of the night sky by reducing light pollution, among other initiatives. Miura Bay Observatory and Akasaki Promenade provide clear views of the Milky Way and star clusters to the naked eye, unimpeded by artificial lights. (Yotane Square is another option for those without their own transport and walking from town.) The Kozushima Tourism Association has trained locals as stargazing guides who offer a night sky-viewing workshop through the Kozushima Marugoto Planetarium. Likewise, Wataru Furuya’s Full Earth star gazing tour is an exceptional way to learn about the marvels of the nighttime skies.
Kozushima offers unobstructed views out into the Milky Way, making stargazing a major draw to the island.
Photo credit: Wataru Furuya (Full Earth)
Unique stays: Ryokan accommodations, camping, and glamping on neighboring Shikinejima
Camping out under the starry sky is perhaps the best way to enjoy the island’s breathtaking beauty. Located along the ocean, the Tokyo Metropolitan Takou-wan Park Family Campground offers everything less-experienced campers will need for a successful stay. Staff are onsite 24 hours a day and large rental tents pitched on elevated decks can be reserved for anyone who doesn’t bring their own. If you choose to bring your own tent, there are cheaper campsites available. All sites have access to toilets, showers, vending machines and an outdoor cooking area. Make sure to reserve a spot before you visit!
If braving the elements still doesn’t appeal to you, you may choose to stay at one of the island’s friendly family run ryokans, a tradition style of Japanese inn. Most are located around the Maehama Beach area and offer air-conditioned rooms alongside special gourmet meals showcasing the local catch of the day.
Traveling to neighboring Shikinejima to luxuriate in a glamping experience at Nagi Glamping is an attractive option for epicureans and pleasure seekers. This establishment is equipped with air-conditioned yurts, showcasing an attractive new way to camp in comfort. The yurts sleep up to four people and are six meters in diameter, including comforts like beds and bedding, a refrigerator, carpeting, a sofa and a table. Your stay includes a beautifully prepared, “Omakase Course" dinner with dishes made with seasonal ingredients and fresh seafood from Shikinejima, alongside a selection of Japanese alcoholic beverages.
Between Kozushima and Shikinejima, visitors to Japan have a fantastic chance to venture outside of the city and get swept up in the allure of Tokyo’s picturesque islands. With so much to discover, including invigorating outdoor activities, tranquil beaches, breathtaking natural scenery and delicious local cuisine, the Izu Islands truly offer something for everyone.
One of the best ways to enjoy your island getaway is to take advantage of Kozushima’s superb camping options.
Photo credit: Tokyo Metropolitan Takou-wan Park Family Campground
If you have a few days to explore the islands, Nagi Glamping offers an overnight option when visiting next-door Shikinejima.
Photo credit: Nagi Glamping
Due to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, business hours may be subject to change; please check with the venues before visiting.
Hot Spring Health Center (Japanese only)
Mt. Tenjo (Site translation via Google Translate)
Miura Bay Observatory (Site translation via Google Translate)
Akasaki Promenade (Site translation via Google Translate)
Nagi Glamping (Japanese only)
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
Kozushima Tourist Association (Site translation via Google Translate)
Shikinejima Tourist Office (Site translation via Google Translate)