Tokyo Island Trip: Slip into Serenity at the Hachijo View Hotel on Hachijojima
On Hachijojima Island, located about 300 kilometers from the urban areas of Tokyo, visitors can enjoy nature and rich history. Read about the must-visit places on this island and the Hachijo View Hotel, a lodging facility recommended by MATCHA.
Hachijojima: An Island with a Fascinating History!
Hachijojima, one of Tokyo's remote islands, is located 300 kilometers away from urban areas and has a population of approximately 7,000 residents. The flight from Haneda Airport is only 55 minutes. With the average temperature hoovering around 17.8 degrees Celsius, Hachijojima is called "the island of eternal spring."
Warm-weather plants, such as hibiscus, can be seen in every corner of this island. Seafood is also abundant thanks to the Kuroshio Current (Japan Current). Therefore, many visitors are lured to this island because of its cuisine.
The Statue of Ukita Hideie
Although Hachijojima is currently known as the "subtropical island nearest to Tokyo," it used to be a penal colony. History shows that 1,900 people were exiled to the island during the Edo Period (1603-1868).
The most famous among the exiled may be Ukita Hideie, the daimyo (feudal lord) of the Bizen and Mimasaka Provinces, who was sentenced to the island after suffering a defeat in the Battle of Sekigahara (*1). His wife was Gohime, the fourth-born daughter of Maeda Toshiie, lord of Kaga.
They were cruelly separated by fate. The life on Hachijojima was not kind to Hideie, but he persevered with the help of Gohime, who sent him provisions (rice, clothing, and allowance) once every two years.
After Gohime passed away and Hideie died on the island, the Maeda clan continued to send provisions to Hachijojima for about 260 years, well into the Meiji Period (1868-1912). There are places on the island where visitors can learn about the history of the penal colony.
*1: A decisive battle that took place in 1600. Forces led by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) defeated the coalition let by Ishida Mitsunari.
Hachijojima: Must-Visit Places and Popular Cuisine
The following are some popular destinations to visit on Hachijojima Island.
Photo by Pixta
Visitors flying to Hachijojima will be able to see Mt. Hachijo-Fujii, as shown in the photo, from above. The volcano, formed by an underwater eruption about 10,000 years ago, rises to 854 meters above sea level.
A hiking course leads to the mountaintop starting near Fureai Farm, which can be reached by rental car or taxi. The climb takes about an hour. Hikers will enjoy a view of the lush green mountainside and ocean reflecting the color of "Hachijo Blue."
Be sure to wear shoes fit for trekking and check the weather before heading out. A strong sea wind sometimes blows in Hachijojima, so climb down in case of rough weather.
Fureai Farm, located halfway up Mt. Hachijo-Fujii, is a perfect destination for families.
Guests can watch the cattle grazing along with spectacular views. On the day of our visit, we encountered a cute newborn calf.
The island's central area, along with the Hachijojima Airport, can be viewed from the observatory on the farm. By checking the flight schedule in advance, visitors can even watch the landings and take-offs of airplanes.
Ozato Tamaishi Wall
The Ozato district in the western area of the island used to be its political center, where the jin-ya (Edo Period shogunate office) was located. Visitors should not miss out on seeing the tamaishi (round stone) wall, a legacy of that era. The wall surrounded the jin-ya, guarding it against attacks.
The exiled people painstakingly carried the stones from the beach and constructed the wall employing a method called "roppo-zumi" (hexagonal dry-stacking method). There is a unique atmosphere on the grounds, which is quite different from the mainland.
Osaka Tunnel Observation Deck
Osaka Tunnel runs through Mt. Mihara, another volcano on the island. A panoramic view of Mt. Hachijo-Fuji and Hachijo Kojima can be enjoyed from the observation deck located at the tunnel entrance.
The aforementioned tamaishi stones were carried from the beach on the lower left-hand side of the photograph to the jin-ya about a kilometer away. Visitors can imagine the hardships of exiled residents from this view.
Kihachijo Meyu Workshop
Kihachijo is a locally produced silk fabric that is woven in three colors (yellow, reddish yellow, and black). It is one of the three major tsumugi (pongee) in Japan, and according to one theory, kihachijo is the origin of the island's name.
Kihachijo Meyu Workshop is the only studio in Hachijojima that handles dyeing and weaving in this traditional style. Visitors can also purchase kihachijo wallets and card cases.
The sight of local women working at the studio left a strong impression on the writer, who hoped that this precious tradition would be passed on to the next generation.
Nambara Senjojiki, on the west coast of the island, is a place to experience the grandeur of mother nature. Hachijo Kojima, a deserted small island, can be seen across the water from this lava plateau, created by Mt. Hachijo-Fuji's eruption in 1605.
It is also a famous spot to view the sunset, as many people gather to see the sun setting over the horizon. However, please be careful since the terrain is rugged.
The statue of Ukita Hideie and his wife, Gohime, is located near the beach. After being exiled, Hideie spent his entire life on Hachijojima. His descendants, who take care of the grave, are still living on the island.
Yellow8 Café Bar is situated by the beach road near Nambara Senjojiki. Tiramisu embellished with the number eight ("hachi" in Japanese) on top, and pasta using local ingredients are popular dishes at the stylishly designed cafe. Opened in April 2021, it has already become a fashionable spot.
Ryozanpaku is an izakaya (Japanese pub) that serves local cuisine. The eatery is not only popular among tourists but also locals. It would be wise to make a reservation. The menu is filled with local specialties such as shima zushi.
On the day of the visit, the writer tried some popular dishes.
Shima zushi is made with marinated fish, sweet-tasting rice, and karashi (Japanese mustard) instead of wasabi. Unlike ordinary sushi, it is eaten without soy sauce.
Kinmedai (alfonsino) is caught in the fishing grounds near Hachijojima. Freshly caught kinmedai simmered in sweetened soy sauce is a delicious dish. You'll be able to enjoy its rich flavor with every bite.
The photograph above is not aojiru (leafy green-vegetable drink), but rather ashitaba beer made from a local plant. Since the Edo Period, ashitaba (angelica keiskei), known for its vitality, has been regarded as a "medicinal herb bringing youth and prosperity" to Hachijo-jima.
The ashitaba tempura was delicious. The flavor of the plant stands out by sprinkling a little salt.
Hachijo View Hotel: A Superb Place to Stay on Hachijojima
Picture courtesy of Hachijo View Hotel
The photograph shows a facility reminiscent of a tropical resort. Hachijo View Hotel, located halfway up Mt. Hachijo-Fuji, offers sprawling views of its surroundings.
Various Types of Guestrooms
The renovated guestrooms. Picture courtesy of Hachijo View Hotel
Although the hotel temporarily closed due to the pandemic, some of its guestrooms were renovated into Western-style rooms. They are spacious and filled with sunshine, making this hotel an ideal place to enjoy your vacation.
Picture courtesy of Hachijo View Hotel
There are also tatami rooms like a ryokan (Japanese inn), where guests can view the ocean and spend their time leisurely.
Hotel visitors can enjoy choosing a room according to their preference.
Shochu Bar Smile and Shop Hachijo
Picture courtesy of Hachijo View Hotel
Smile, the hotel bar, offers shochu (Japanese liquor) distilled on the island. It is said that the exiled people from Satsuma (Kagoshima) started making the distilled spirits on the island.
Smile is currently closed due to COVID-19
Shop Hachijo, the gift shop, handles local crafts and specialties, including kihachijo, shochu (distilled spirits), ashitaba products, and ramen. It is the perfect spot to look for souvenirs.
Countermeasures Against the Spread of COVID-19 Infections
The hotel is taking various measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections. This includes sanitizing the entire facility and instructing staff to wear masks.
Guests will have their temperature checked at the entrance. By using the QR code shown in the photo, they will also be asked to fill out the necessary form before checking in at the hotel.
The rooms are equipped with sanitizers and air purifiers, so you can feel at ease during the stay.
Breakfast is served in the hall, where tables are laid out with ample social distance between guests. Partition screens are also set on the tables to prevent infections. At the buffet table, touchless aero glove dispensers distribute polyethylene gloves for guests when serving meals.
The hotel is employing these countermeasures against the spread of COVID-19 n order for guests to feel at ease during their stay.
The Reasoning Behind the Hotel's No-Dinner Decision
Recently, Hachijo View Hotel has suspended its dinner service. Mr. Miyashiro, the general manager, explained the reasoning behind the move.
"The decision was made to help other eateries. On a small island, we have to support each other."
Due to the pandemic, the number of visitors dropped, affecting the local economy. In order to co-exist, the hotel decided to partner with restaurants and start a shuttle service between the eateries and the hotel. This way, the whole island survives as a sightseeing destination.
"We are also using locally sourced products at breakfast in support of the local food movement."
An Exquisite Island Trip
We were very moved by the idea of co-existence and the stunning scenery surrounding the hotel. If you're looking for the perfect island getaway, Hachijo View Hotel will not disappoint!
Main image courtesy of Pixta
Written by Jacky Chen
Supported by the Tokyo Branch of Japan Ryokan & Hotel Association