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The camellias’ island

Non molti sanno che, a poco più di un ora e mezza di navigazione da Tokyo, è possibile immergersi in un Giappone inedito, lontano dalla frenesia della metropoli, che richiama le atmosfere più intime dei leggendari capolavori in bianco e nero di Yasuhirō Ozu.

by the Nanban Team

Starting from the picturesque Takeshiba port near Hamamatsuchō station, you can sail with a colorful high-speed vessel to the shores of the volcanic island of Oshima, the largest in Izu’s archipelago; otherwise, for lovers of slow travel, you can go in the evening to take the old ferry boat that takes eight hours, after a comfortable night on board.

After one hundred kilometers of sailing, the spectacle that is offered to those who venture into the archipelago is majestic: the still active volcano of Mount Mihara dominates the entire island, once a favorite destination of hit-and-run tourism of the inhabitants of Tokyo fleeing from the hot metropolis, nowadays less and less a destination of both domestic and foreign tourism.

The outcome is an exclusive, yet intact place that invites to peace and contemplation of a wild and harsh nature, but also to the pleasure of an exotic trekking towards the top of the volcano, an easy visit for anyone: in fact, it is possible to access the crater of Monte Mihara both on horseback and minibus, although the most striking way remains a hike through one of the tracks that cross the lunar landscape of the island.

"Over 5,000 specimens and 450 varieties of camellias provide a breathtaking blossoming, unique throughout Japan"

If you happen to go between January and March, the show is surprisingly remarkable: thanks to the fertile volcanic lands, over 5,000 specimens and 450 varieties of camellias provide a breathtaking blossoming, unique throughout Japan, a real pride of the island and the subject of a special Camellia Festival (in Japanese, Tsubaki Matsuri), during which women wear elegant traditional dresses.

Camellias are of great importance in Japanese aesthetics and, more generally, in Japanese culture, and have always been recalled in displays, paintings and haikus. But in addition to this, they are also exploited for the production of essences and infusions, as well as for the production of oil, once used to nourish the hair of the inhabitants of the island: today, more prosaically used to dress salads and fry tasty fish and vegetables’ tempuras, which can be savored on the island all year long.
And if gastronomic and sport wellbeing is not enough, you can always nest in one of the many onsens - the classic thermal baths - another of the extraordinary attractions of the archipelago.