Jogashima Island: A gamble while in the car pays off with wild & majestic views
June 22, 2008
Jagged lava rocks slice into the ocean like rows of sharp shark teeth. Waves shoot blowhole-like streams of cold waterinto the air. The wind whips away your voice, and occasionally your footing. There are no barriers, no safeguards separating you from the brutal dance of rock, wind and water. Only bits of fishing gear and litter snared in the rocks remind you that humans inhabit this place.
We had candy in the car. We would survive. So we ignored our homebound exit on Japan’s Yokohama-Yokosuka Highway Sunday and drove to the end of the road to see what would happen.
We ran out of road. Doh! Guess we should have expected that – we were on a peninsula, the Muira peninsula, and had a three-in-four shot at hitting water.
But lo! A bridge appeared – the Jogashima Ohashi – so we paid 150 yen to the toll collector, drove 1,900 feet across it and parked the car. We made it … somewhere.
It only took a few minutes of exploration to realize that we, in our slightly hung-over boredom, unwittingly happened upon the natural equivalent of Blackbeard’s treasure.
Since Jogashima Ohashi was built in 1960, it has connected those seeking something wild and unexpected with exactly that, Jogashima Island.
Though not uninhabited – the streets are paved with kitschy shell shops and waving cats -- much within Jogashima’s four-kilometer circumference is recklessly beautiful.
Jagged lava rocks slice into the ocean like rows of sharp shark teeth. Waves shoot blowhole-like streams of cold water into the air. The wind whips away your voice, and occasionally your footing.
There are no barriers, no safeguards separating you from the brutal dance of rock, wind and water. Only bits of fishing gear and litter snared in the rocks remind you that humans inhabit this place.
Inland is a different story. If Jogashima’s shoreline is Finland, than inland is Ireland, green and grassy. Buzzing bugs bathe in sunny pools of calm water. It’s pastoral without the pasture, as what appears to be the start of a grassland trail ends in a wild green tangle after a few steps. The distance between these worlds is spanned by "Umanose Domon," a natural bridge called the "Horse’s Back."
The odd hole-in-the-wall formation has a magnetic quality; we and the smattering of other Sunday tourists meandered towards it, playing on the rocks, skipping stones along the way.
We hoofed it in our silly Tokyo shoes; becoming heavier with each misstep, each splash of water on the face, each squish of mud between the toes. The city’s weight was no match for this place, and the years peeled away as nature’s largesse humbled us back into the giddy kiddies we once were. A staircase at the natural bridge leads to a bamboo trail that takes walkers along the ridge for an eyeful of distant shorelines, including Izu and Boso peninsulas and Ooshima Island.
It eventually leads to Jogashima’s east end park, and also, amazingly, right back to the parking lot where we stashed the car. Adventure-sated, we headed home.
Ignorant victims of the spontaneous road trip, we missed a lot of Jogashima’s sights.
The Internet tells me the island holds a seabird rookery and a lighthouse designed by French engineer Léonce Verny, the man who also conceived of Yokosuka Naval Base.
We saw the obelisk, but we didn’t visit the museum dedicated to Japanese poet Kitahara Hakushu. We didn’t scuba dive Jogashima’s "Big Crevasse" or "Higajimane Reef." And we missed out on the local cuisine that the Misaki area is famous for – fresh, raw "maguro" tuna.
We just ate our candy … that we left in the car the entire time.