Enjoy the Tokyo Islands on a Shoestring
If you are looking for some great spots to camp around Tokyo, than the laid-back Izu Islands (Izu-shoto) are one place you should definitely pay a visit. This group of volcanic islands stretch south-east from the Izu Peninsula and can be reached by either high-speed jet ferry or overnight ferry from Takeshiba Pier near Hammatsucho Station. Of the nine inhabited islands it’s possible to pitch a tent on the following seven namely; Izu Oshima, Niijima, Shikinejima, Kozushima, Miyakejima, Hachijo-jima and Aogashima.
Over the past few years I have been fortunate to camp on five of the islands and I can’t recommend them highly enough. While all but one of the campgrounds I’ve stayed at have been free, they are barebones meaning you need to be fully self-sufficient in respect to bringing your tent, food and fuel. They also tend be located far from supermarkets and local conveniences. The campgrounds work as a “free tent site” which means you can set up your tent anywhere you wish within the designated area and run on a first-come first-served basis. During Golden Week and the summer vacation the campgrounds are very busy with students and families however during the spring and autumn they are relatively quiet especially on weekdays.
# 1. Izu Oshima – Toshiki Campground
While I quite like the Toshiki Campground it’s a massive pain to access by public transport. From the main Okata Port you need to transfer to a connecting bus at Motomachi Port. In total you’re looking at over an hour of travel. On the upside the campground is in a sheltered woodland area alongside the ocean. The facilities are basic with cold outdoor showers, communal BBQs, a sheltered food prep area and a large pavilion.
Toshiki Beach has natural tide pools ideal for snorkelling and swimming. At night-time you are rewarded with terrific views of nearby of Toshima and Niijima Islands. Like all the public campgrounds on the Izu Islands you can camp free of charge. For reservations contact the Oshima Town Office. Day trips include climbing Mt. Mihara, taking in the view from the Habu Port lookout and wandering the southeastern coast to Fudeshima Island with a profile reminiscent of a fude or paintbrush.
# 2. Niijima – Habushiura Campground
A short bus ride from the Nishiki Port takes you to the well-equipped Habushira campground located a 3-minute walk from the white sandy Habushiura Beach. With space for 200 tents the campground is the largest on the Izu Islands. Reservations are not required but you need to register at the administration building upon arrival.
Facilities include showers (cold), loads of barbecue grills and outdoor seating fashioned from local koga stone. A nice thing about both the Habushiura and Kamanoshita campgrounds are the smartphone charging stations. These free to use self-supporting solar stands includes both USB 3.0 ports and multi-connectors for iPhones, Type C and micro USB. Activities include cycling along the coastline, hiking up to Fujimi-toge lookout, visiting the towering sandstone cliffs at Secret Point and enjoying the free outdoor Yunohama Roten hot spring.
# 3. Shikinejima – Kamanoshita Campground
Shikinejima has two public campgrounds the Kamanoshita which opens during the off season and the Oura Campground which operates during Golden Week, July and August. Note camping is not permitted on the island from December to February. From Nobushi Port it’s a 20-minute walk to the Kamanoshita Campground and is conveniently located near some shops and supermarket.
The campground itself is rather small though can officially accommodate 30 tents. The campground is enclosed by trees providing shelter and protection from the elements. Before pitching your tent, you are required to register at either the tourist office at Nobushi Port or the Shikinejima Village office. Highlights on the island including the beautiful Kamanoshita coast, clambering up to the Takamori Lighthouse and kicking back in the free ocean hot springs a short walking distance from the campground.
# 4. Kozushima – Tako Bay Campground
On my trip to Kozushima I decided to sidestep the two free campgrounds, Sawajiri and Nagahama in favour of the Tako Bay Campground. At Sawajiri you camp either directly on the beach or on a grassy easement which didn’t really appeal and Nagahama was too far from the places I wished to explore. Tako Bay lies in the foothills of Mt. Tenjo a popular hiking destination. The campground here is both sheltered and well equipped providing excellent value for only 400 yen a night. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made online up to 5 days prior to the arrival date.
In the reception building there is a microwave and hot water dispenser, a common area with fridges and a coin laundry. A nice surprise was to find that not only does the campground offer hot showers, but it also houses a small sento or communal bath house, a godsend after a long day of hiking. Unlike the public campgrounds it’s possible to rent equipment such as blankets and sleeping bags for 200 yen per person per night. The main obstacle with this campground is access as its unfortunately situated on the opposite side of the island. Here you have two choices, cough up for a taxi fare or heavy pack it for the 4-kilometre trip as public transport is rather limited.