Aogashima is a volcanic island located in the southern region of Japan. It is the southernmost and most isolated inhabited island, politically and administratively a part of Japan but geographically not part of the Japanese archipelago. The islands are bordered by the northeast Philippine Sea and are situated just north of the Ogasawara Islands, also governed by Japan. The island is approximately 358 kilometers south of Tokyo, Japan’s capital.
Aogashima is undoubtedly an attention-grabber as, atop an active volcano that shapes a large island, there exists human life and settlement. They have been living here for many years. The island is a caldera, a super-sized depression that formed after a volcanic eruption. Due to its long period of dormancy, the inner crater of the island is now concealed by lush green vegetation.
This remote and quiet town is a world apart from the hustle and bustle of urban life. What’s more fascinating is that historical records show that the island was uninhabited for hundreds of years, especially following its last eruption in the 17th century. There is no exact timeline indicating when and how people started living on the island. However, human life is now thriving here, just like in any other town.
Before the 16th century, there are no precise records of the islands in the history books. This might be due to the fact that it was an unmapped island without inhabitants at the time. Only from the historical records of the Edo period have volcanic activities on these islands been traced by historians and scientists.
From the late 16th century onwards, recorded earthquakes and eruptions have been documented, indicating that there were no inhabitants on the island. The settlement on the island began in the 17th century. Toward the end of the 17th century, a massive volcanic eruption occurred on the island, claiming the lives of around one hundred islanders.
In the last census, the population of Aogashimamura was around 170 people, which includes children and senior citizens. Everyone on the island knows each other by face or name. Interestingly, many island residents have familial relationships. However, there are newcomers from various parts of Japan who have chosen to live a simple life on this island.
Life on Aogashima is dominated by agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Farming is the main livelihood for the islanders, with crops such as rice, vegetables, and fruits cultivated on steep terraced hillsides. Despite limited arable land, the local community carefully maintains and maximizes its use. Fishing is also essential, with local residents casting their nets along the coast and relying on the sea for a source of protein.
The facilities on the island are quite limited due to the island’s small population. There is one elementary school, one junior high school, and one high school. All mail is sent to a single post office, which is delivered by a mailman directly to the recipient’s home. Since most of the people living on Aogashima share the same family name, the postman knows each individual by their actual name. There is a clinic available on the island, but no major hospital.
On the island, there is only one shop, one post office, and two bars. At these bars, tourists can taste local dishes and Aochu, a vodka-like spirit made from sweet potatoes with an alcohol content of 30 percent.
As for accommodations, there are several small and simple bed and breakfasts on the island. Furthermore, tourists can unwind in a sauna.
There are several possible reasons why the population on Aogashima is not particularly high, and accessibility is one of them. It is quite challenging to get in and out of the island. There are two different ways to access Aogashima, both of which are relatively costly. The first means of transportation is a ship that sails from Shihani Port on Hachijojima to Sanpou Port on Aogashima. There is only one trip in and out of the island per day. Even on days of bad weather, there will be no travel to the island.
The second means of transportation is by helicopter, which can accommodate approximately nine people per trip. One-way tickets will cost around 11,500 yen. Another reason people migrate off the island is the fact that there isn’t much to do in the area. There are no restaurants, not many shops, or anything of the sort on the island. This means there won’t be many jobs to choose from or many people to serve.
Despite its breathtaking beauty, Aogashima is an active volcano that may repeat its history of significant eruptions. Fortunately, with today’s advanced Japanese technology, they can detect eruptions earlier.”