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  • ONLY in JAPAN

  • I'm in Tokyo.

  • Yes this really is Tokyo.

  • It's about 360 kilometers away from the city center and

  • I'm on this tropical island in the middle the Pacific for an entire week.

  • There's lots of things to see and do here, but the thlabe

  • Welcome to Aogashima.

  • Central Tokyo is one of the world's biggest and most well known cities, but it's a lot bigger than many people think

  • Besides the mountains to its west, Tokyo includes many Pacific islands.

  • The closest ones have airports. There's Aogashima at the end, but Tokyo doesn't stop there.

  • You have to stretch out over 1,800 kilometers,

  • 1,100 miles away from the city center to islands that include Iwo Jima and Okinotori.

  • Further south than Hong Kong. Ogasawara island is a 24 hour ferry ride, but they're all administered by Tokyo.

  • Aogashima is our destination. Tokyo's Jurassic Park looking island with a volcano inside a volcano.

  • Maruyama is the volcano inside this crater, a jungle, and the town sits 200 metres above the sea in the north.

  • Getting there means a long ferry ride or a flight from Tokyo to nearby Hachijojima.

  • Where you have to change to another ferry or, one of Tokyo's most unique forms of public transportation,

  • the helicopter. That's right Tokyo has buses, subways, ferries, and helicopters.

  • It's eleven thousand five hundred and thirty yen, or about a hundred dollars for the 20 minute ride.

  • You have to reserve a month in advance because it only seats eight.

  • The helicopter departs Hachijojima airport after the ANA flight returns to Haneda airport in Central Tokyo.

  • 9:20 a.m. daily.

  • Tokyo's island helicopter system has ten daily flights transporting commuters and tourists over the Pacific.

  • The other way is by ferry,

  • but Aogashima's port is very tough to dock at and trips are sometimes canceled or turned back in route.

  • Helicopter is the most reliable method.

  • There's Aogashima now.

  • On the approach you can see that the town is high off the sea.

  • Many residents come to the heliport. The owner of the inn I was staying at was there to pick me up.

  • I think helicopter is the best way to get to Aogashima.

  • The community on the island is small and close. When one student left the island for summer break, she was given a wonderful send off.

  • Aogashima is officially 358 kilometers from Central Tokyo.

  • It's also the smallest town in Japan, with only 160 residents.

  • The post office, it's where the only ATM is. The power plant.

  • The main road. An official city sign for Tokyo's most peaceful avenue.

  • The traffic light.

  • There's only one here and it's used in front of the school to teach kids that yeah,

  • there are traffic lights out there in the world.

  • There are vending machines and izakaya too. This pub was closed because the owner was away for a wedding.

  • But this one was open. From 6:00 p.m., Monji Izakaya may be the liveliest place on the island.

  • The food is good and yes, they have karaoke too.

  • Aogashima's famous for its shochu, potato distilled alcohol.

  • And Akira-san gives an amazing tour that includes a lot of tasting.

  • By the end of it I tasted over 12 different shochus including this one.

  • But seriously, the island shochu is really good. Most people bought the premium label and they got to put it on themselves at the factory.

  • I stayed at Tametomo, a cozy inn and just a couple of minutes walk from the heliport.

  • It was an incredibly comfortable stay with free coffee and tea, and three meals a day.

  • Besides the two izakaya there's no restaurant on the island. So it's a good idea to sign up for the meals.

  • This is Kyoko-san, and for over a week she made my stay a lot of fun, and I felt like I was part of

  • a family just after a couple of days here.

  • The food is home-cooked island fare, and very good.

  • Upon request you can get a bento to eat out. That allows you to explore the island and stay energized.

  • Yoshino-san came to pick me up in the morning for a trip to the crater.

  • It's a long hour walk from the town, or a 10 minute drive.

  • The town is about 200 meters up, and the crater is at the bottom so, there's a tunnel, a long one lane tunnel.

  • The openings are a little wider to allow traffic to pull to the side.

  • Welcome to the crater. That's Maruyama in the center, all of it covered in jungle.

  • Few people live down here. Those clearings are mostly vinyl covered farms.

  • There are no taxis here so people rent a car, walk, or hitchhike.

  • There's some good hiking around Maruyama, and a viewpoint to see the island.

  • It's mostly pristine jungle.

  • The side near the port has the most activity.

  • Basically it's a lot of green down there.

  • Summers are hot, but it's about to get even hotter.

  • This is a unique volcanic steamer open to the public for cooking.

  • One resident has prepared quite a feast for lunch. Fish, vegetables, eggs,

  • and a steamed cake.

  • Yoshino-san and I had our lunch prepared by Kyoko-san at the inn. Lots of vegetables in a bag with curry sauce.

  • Egg.

  • Yoshino-san: Mystery.

  • John: Mystery, LOL.

  • They'll be in there for 30 to 45 minutes. There's a lever under the steamer to turn it on and off.

  • Yep it's on. All that steam coming naturally from the ground.

  • After 40 minutes lunch was ready, and served in a nearby picnic area.

  • The volcanic steamed lunch is a real Aogashima treat, and inside that mystery foil, delicious fish.

  • But I was curious about Maruyama in the center.

  • Maru meaning circle. Yama, Mountain. The island is scientifically considered a complex Quaternary volcanic island.

  • The ridges on the side of Maruyama are man-made. They were used to plant flowers in the rows.

  • But if you want to go inside this class C volcano, you'd better bring someone local,

  • and Akira-san from the shochu factory volunteered to guide me.

  • He's one of the only people who still wanders into the center of the crater, and he knows the island's long history.

  • We wandered off the trail into the dense jungle. The humidity level in here was insanely high.

  • This is really dangerous going into the center of the...

  • Center of Maruyama.

  • I'm glad Akira-san is with me because I wouldn't be able to do this alone.

  • This area used to be inhabited.

  • Akira-san went even deeper.

  • There weren't any visible landmarks and he navigates from memory.

  • We're going now down deep into the crater.

  • There's a lot more mosquitoes. Just go slowly. I should have worn pants and a long shirt but,

  • you know what, let's go with it.

  • I'm glad I have socks on at least.

  • So between the two ferns here.

  • These two trees. There used to be a house.

  • Centuries ago they really seemed to like to barbecue stuff on the island.

  • So this is the center here. This is where it erupted about 200 years ago and people...

  • So this is the place where the last eruption was

  • about 200 years ago, and after the eruption people lived down in here.

  • Now you can't see

  • from the drone from above what's down inside there so, I thought that was pretty cool that Akira-san showed us

  • some of the history of the island.

  • Even though

  • it's a jungle down there, LOL.

  • This is the oldest tree on the island. A lot of the younger residents don't know about it, but it's believed

  • to have survived the last eruptions between 1781 and 1785.

  • And it was beautiful enough to make me a real tree hugger.

  • Not far from Maruyama is Akira-san's farm, where one of his produce is the island's passion fruit.

  • Almost all of the produce on these farms are eaten by the farmers because there's no marketplace to sell them.

  • In the evening Akira-san came to the inn with a pot of the islands famous dish, Torinabe.

  • Torinabe uses the bones and meat from older hens when they can no longer lay eggs.

  • Like a fine wine, age gives extra flavor and the dish contains more bones than meat.

  • Torinabe is really about the dashi or soup stock.

  • The next day I decided to leave the inn and town for a night to live out in the jungle.

  • Today I'm moving from Onyado the inn to the camp spot,

  • and this is the only store on the island and I need to come here to get some supplies.

  • The store has just about everything you need for an adventure.

  • The family run supermarket also runs a rent-a-car business, and offers guide services.

  • Fresh produce come from the local farms are from nearby

  • Hachijojima on the ferry, when it's running. There's even ice cream, and a lot of food with a longer shelf life.

  • In some ways this could be considered the center of town.

  • The hour-long hike to the crater from the town splits at the tunnel, where the old road is now a hiking trail.

  • The jungle has taken over much of it.

  • If you want a camp, there's a campsite, but call ahead to let the staff know you're there.

  • So the camp area in Aogashima is free.

  • There aren't that many people that come here. There aren't that many facilities to speak of but there's a place to pitch your tent.

  • It's quiet; its natural,

  • and it's jungle. It really is, the only clearing is where volcanic gas is still leaked out of the sand and rock.

  • Volcanic Sauna Steam Bath

  • This is the island sauna powered entirely by the geothermal energy below. It's open from afternoon to 8:00 p.m. and costs 300 yen.

  • There's a shower and bath but we're here for this, the sauna.

  • Woah! So hot!

  • Oh my gosh. It's like I've just entered the surface of the sun. It's all coming out of this heater here.

  • Ah. I don't know how this can be healthy it's so hot.

  • You can hardly breathe. It's like... like I'm breathing water.

  • I gotta get out.

  • It's just too hot.

  • In only 90 seconds my skin got this red. You spend a couple of minutes in there

  • You go back outside, it's not that hot anymore.

  • That's a sauna. Outside, that's just summer.

  • This is the Aogashima's port or Sanbō.

  • A ferry is scheduled to come five to six days a week, but some of those are canceled due to rough seas or high winds.

  • It's the cheapest way to get to Aogashima but,

  • it's not dependable so if you have to catch a flight back home, you'd better take the helicopter.

  • It's about a three hour trip from Aogashima to Hachijojima.

  • There's no beach on Aogashima, and the only way to access the sea is here.

  • It attracts a lot of people to come catch dinner.

  • In the summer kampachi or giant almaco jacks are easy to catch.

  • It's also a great place to relax.

  • Favorite Spots on Aogashima

  • That down there is Akira-san's ranch where I filmed the opening.

  • It's a majestic view and I learned about it, from Moemi.

  • She's the island's nurse stationed on Aogashima for six months.

  • She showed me one of her favorite places on the island.

  • We had to go up an overgrown path that led to this hill.

  • From here there are long views to Hachijojima that include the green pastures of the island.

  • Down below was the sea.

  • I asked Moemi about her story.

  • I'm really glad I ran into Moemi on the island.

  • The people I met here became my friends, and that is what makes this island special to me.

  • Aogashima is more than just an island.

  • I've been on the island for a few days now and in order to get from one side of the town to the other,

  • you can walk around which takes you a couple minutes longer or you can go the direct route.

  • Which