Aogashima Island Travel Blog / Tourism Guide

How to get to Aogashima; Tokyo Ai-land Shuttle(Helicopter)


How to get to Aogashima (Japan)

Aogashima is a Japanese island, which has residents, in the southernmost part of the Izu Islands. It is also called "Onigashima" because it has unique topography inaccessible to people. And also, you can see the compound volcano on the spot. Aogashima is about 360km away from Tokyo’s urban area and about 70km southward from Hachijo-jima, and there is no direct public transport from the mainland to the island.

The route I took this time.

Out of the remote islands in Tokyo, Aogashima is the hardest to go to and some say that it is harder than Ogasawara. The reason is because of the low in-service rate.

In order to go to Aogashima from the mainland, you go over to Hachijo-jima and transfer to a ship or a helicopter. The ship is a cargo-passenger ship called Kanju-maru and plies between Hachijo-jima and Aogashima one round trip a day (except on Sundays). However, it is said that the in-service rate of the ship is below 50% because the Kuroshio Current often lashes the sea into fury and the port facilities in Aogashima are meager. Actually, when I went over to Aogashima, the ship was canceled for a week because of a high wave by a typhoon.

A realistic means that you can take to go to Aogashima is a helicopter, Tokyo Ai-land Shuttle. Tokyo Ai-land Shuttle is a public transport starting from Hachijo-jima, connecting among Izu Islands. It is especially utilized as a means to go to an island which has the low in-service rate of the ship. It is said that the helicopter is resistant to wind and rain and the in-service rate of the helicopter is more than 80%. On the other hand, the number of passengers is limited to 9 people, which means it has poor transportation capacity. So it is inundated with reservations by phone a month ago because visitors want to make a reservation for the one round trip a day. If your flight is canceled, you will be on the waiting list for someone else’s cancel after the next day even if you can make a reservation luckily.

The sightseeing in Aogashima has a rule under which you must be ready to be trapped in there for at least one week if you get there (lol). So you should allow a margin of some days for the travel.

In my case, I went to Hachijo-jima by ANA Flight from Haneda Airport first thing in the morning and after that, I transferred to Tokyo Ai-land Shuttle departing at 9:20 and arrived in Aogashima at 9:40. This was my journey. This may be the fastest route to Aogashima and you can arrive there in two hours from Haneda Airport. The inhabitants of the island and people who visit there on business often take this route. So I recommend this route to people who do not have time to spare.

Hachijo-jima Airport

I took a flight departing at 7:40 from Haneda, arriving at Hachijo-jima at around 8:30. It was almost on time. I hurried to go to the reception desk because I did not have much time for check-in for Toho Air. (I was advised not to check my baggage at ANA so that I could transfer smoothly.)

ANA airplane arriving at Hachijo-jima
Arrived at Hachijo-jima Airport by ANA flight.
A window for Ai-land Shuttle at Hachijo-jima Airport
A Toho Air check-in counter.

There was a Toho Air check-in counter in a corner of the airport, where I measured my baggage and paid for it. The security check started past 9:00AM. There were only nine passengers, so it finished soon. And I waited in the departure lounge, watching our helicopter refueled. During that, a woman who was probably an employee of Toho Air talked to me cheerfully. (She was the woman who dealt with my check-in.) It was cloudy and visibility was poor in Aogashima on that day, so the flight was "conditionally" ok to make. But the employee said, "Today’s flight will be fine because a veteran pilot is going to operate the helicopter." Ai-land Shuttle is resistant to wind and rain, but it is said that low visibility is an enemy and the flights to Aogashima which has a high altitude are often "conditionally" ok to make.

Entrance of the departure lounge
Waited until the security check starts.
Departure lounge of Hachijo-jima Airport
Waited in the departure lounge.
Ai-land Shuttle that can be watched from the departure lounge
Our helicopter refueled.

It is said that the reservations for the flights get full during Obon in August, but sometimes, some groups of people suddenly cancel their reservations and the number of passengers is only three or four people. Incidentally, it has charter flights(Later mentioned) during busy seasons of August and has one more round trip service in the morning and in the evening, but all the flights on that day were completely full. If I cannot take my flight, I am sure that I will have to stay in Hachijo-jima. "I have never been to Aogashima," said the woman. I wondered if she does not want to go to Aogashima in spite of working at the airport.

The cabin of Tokyo Ai-land Shuttle

Ai-land Shuttle
It is time for the long awaited boarding.
Landscape of Hachijo-jima
Took off from Hachijo-jima Airport.

You can take a seat freely on Ai-land Shuttle. There are alternate seats for two persons and one person on it and seats for four persons in the rear. You can sit wherever you like, which means "First come, first served." I did not feel the cabin was cramped and the helicopter did not shake very much. However, because of the noisy sound and strong vibration of the helicopter, you will not be able to talk on it.

Inside of the helicopter after take-off
Looked down on Hachijo-jima from the helicopter.
Hachijo-jima that can be seen from the helicopter
Looked down on Hachijo-jima.
The cabin of Toho Air
The number of passengers is limited to 9 people, but I did not feel the cabin was small.
The scenery that can be seen from the helicopter
The sea I saw from the cabin during flight
Aogashima that can be seen at distance
Aogashima came in sight far ahead.

Aogashima seen from the sky

The helicopter approached Aogashima very fast. I hardly believed that it flew 70km.

Preparing for landing
The helicopter was beginning its landing approach.

Aogashima which is seen live was really spectacular just as rumored. It was cloudy, so I regretted that I could not take a picture of the full view, though.

Aogashima seen from the helicopter
Aogashima I looked down on from the sky was really spectacular.

Aogashima is surrounded by a sheer cliff, and there is a village on the cliff with an elevation of 200 meters to 300 meters. Conversely, there are no other areas where people can live and some areas where people cannot even get close. I wonder how the inhabitants live and how the island is. I cannot stop being excited.

A distant view of northern Aogashima
The village can be seen on the sheer cliff.

The helicopter landed safely through a break in the clouds. Many inhabitants of the island were gathering around the Aogashima heliport.

Ai-land Shuttle preparing for landing on Aogashima
The helicopter was prepared for landing on the Aogashima heliport.
People looking up at Toho airplane
The roar of the helicopter reverberated through the village.
Ai-land Shuttle landing on Aogashima
Arrived in Aogashima.

The helicopter took passengers on board quickly at the heliport and went back to Hachijo-jima.

A graveyard beside the heliport
There is a graveyard around the Aogashima heliport.

There is a graveyard around the heliport. On that day, an event called "Haka-kari" took place there, which was an act of mowing by all the inhabitants all together.

What the charter flight of the village is

The ship to Aogashima has the low in-service rate and the use of the helicopter is often the only way to land on Aogashima. But the riding capacity of the helicopter is nine people, which we cannot say it is adequate transportation capacity. Therefore, the Aogashima village has two charter flights at most in the morning and evening. The check-in counter for the charter flights is just the village office and the reservation form is separate from Toho Air.

To begin with, Ai-land Shuttle has a service schedule like going around Izu Islands. And the charter flights travel earlier than an Aogashima flight in the morning and in the evening after all the service. Each request is made by the village.

The charter flights travel on condition that there is a prospect that nine people will gather. But there are more passengers than usual during Ushi-matsuri (Ushi Festival) and Obon, so the village office accepts the reservations from about three weeks ago. I also made a reservation for a charter flight for a return. Ai-land Shuttle has paid off as it is said "the more it flies, the more deficits it gets." So we should appreciate it even if we just have the charter flight fly.

Next : Aogashima Village

Visit Day
2011/08/07 - 10
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