Dear prospective Ogasawara visitors,
As you might know, Ogasawara is a subtropical climate, subject to windy typhoons just as often as it is blessed by gorgeous sunny days. This blog post will give you a range of ideas on what to do on a rainy day so you can make the most of your visit to the islands.
Pelan Village offers yoga classes a few times a week- it is a lovely way to relax and stretch while listening to the gentle pitter-patter of rain coming down outside. Classes on are a donation basis, so you don’t have to stretch your pocketbook by much. If you’d rather, you could always put on a yoga Youtube video and stretch out in your own room.
If it happens that the skies decide to rain cats and dogs the day before your boat departs for Tokyo and you are despairing that you haven’t yet snorkeled, never fear. Just remember that you’re going to be dripping wet snorkeling in sun or rain, and put on some flippers and a snorkel! The seas are full of vibrant fish and thriving coral around these parts. If you are lucky, you might even spot a manta ray or some small reef sharks visiting the reefs to nap amongst the corals (never fear, there has never been a shark attack on the island). You can either rent snorkeling gear from Pelan, various dive shops (Surf Shop Rao, for example, although it is on the other side of the island, far fro town) along the main road in town, or buy your own (it would probably cost you $25 or so to buy a mask- the flippers are far more expensive but not necessary). Do make sure to respect the coral and not to rest your feet or flippers against the coral- a mere finger’s brush could really hurt the ecosystem.
You might want a life jacket but I never use one since I like to dive down for a closer look at giant clams, sea stars, and abandoned shells on the ocean floor. You might see an octopus scuttling along the sand.
Kominato has some nice snorkeling spots off to the right, but my personal favorite is Ogiura beach- walk all the way to the right, set your things inside the fox-hole carved into the cliff (a relic leftover from WWII when the US and Japan were duking it out on the island) and head straight towards the surf- if you veer around the cliff on your rightmost side you can swim to a small beach where there is a little hammock swing.
You can sing to your heart’s content at either Hibis or Radford. Getting drunk while singing is a prerequisite (not really) and an A+ way to befriend the locals, provided you’ve invited them along. The draft beer on the island is a little pricey- probably about $9-$10 a pop, but pretty tasty. Oh, and, its really hilarious when the Japanese try to sing American lyrics- they sing in a kind of soft and lispy way and it is bound to make you smile from ear to ear.
Restaurant or pub-hop
I highly recommend visiting Green Pepe for a sizzling cast-iron pan full of delectable tidbits. Green Pepe has been around for 30 years and is owned by an incredibly talented artist who studied in Paris (and is a great Bosch replica artist) and his wife. The walls are covered with paintings and knickknacks from all over the world, ranging from prints autographed by John Lennon himself, to Parisian statuettes, to old fashioned telephones and clocks. It is located in town on the road behind the main street facing away from the beach front towards the mountains. There are tables and a long bar so you can either have a dinner party or drink yourself silly (or both?)
If you are not adverse to rain, then I highly recommend taking a rainy day hike to the Okamiyama Shrine up on the mountaintop (be careful to note the steep stairs, typical entrances to Japanese shrines- there are hundreds of them and you are likely to quickly run out of breath). There, you can ogle the architecture and pay your respects to the spirits and make a wish. If you’re more inclined to enjoy the rain in a more natural environment, then take a 15 minute bus from town to the mountainside, where you can stop off at Kominato to take a hike to Buta Beach- its about an hour and a half hike and you’ll enjoy an incredible view. If you bring along a magnifying glass or viewfinder, you can really enjoy all the incredible and miniscule plant and animal life- Ogasawara is home to dozens of endemic species of ferns and they range from extremely hairy to baby-butt-smooth. Bring along a digital camera and document your adventure!
Visit the aquarium
This is a great thing to do with the kids. There is an aquarium near the Fukushi community center, close to the boat loading dock (a 5 minute walk from town, towards the mountains). There is a fun shallow pond area in front where kids can literally brush fish teeth with long poles (the fish will swim up and expose their bellies for a good tummy rub too) and inside the aquarium, you’ll find a rotating display of tiny fish, a turtle or two, and a couple dozen tanks full of larger fish ranging from parrotfish, angelfish, hairy crabs, etc. There are also a couple display cases full of taxidermied seabirds and crustaceans.
Take a boat to Hahajima
I think the Hahajimamaru boatride costs around $40 and takes 5-7 hours. This tiny island is similar in size to Chichijima but unlike Chichijima (which is home to 2,000 people), only has 400-500 residents. So this is a great place to chill out and really appreciate nature. Although I’ve never been, people say it is even more beautiful that Chichijima. You can read about one foreigner’s experience on Hahajima here.