Reported by Billy
We (five of us) had a wonderful Golden Week trip to Niijima Island, thanks Yumiko for organizing! We took an overnight ferry from Takeshiba Pier Friday after work. The ferry stopped at a couple other islands to let off passengers, and we arrived Niijima early about 7 am (and came back on the following Tuesday).
On our first day on Niijima a really nice friend of Yumiko’s who lives on the island drove us around for sightseeing. Niijima is a volcanic island surrounded by beautiful blue ocean, and many other islands could be seen in different directions. The rocks on Niijima are special.. not usual dark volcanic rocks but somehow lighter in color and good for making glass. They are very light for their size and you can easily pick up a rock of a size that would normally be too heavy to budge! The rocks are also easy to carve into, and there are big and little statues all over the island made from these rocks of mermaids, animals, polynesians etc..
A dark point about Niijima is there are deer traps everywhere. Although I never saw a deer, I saw dozens of deer traps, which consisted of giant springs connected to wire nooses placed atop wooden traps covered with some leaf litter. These traps placed at openings (maybe natural deer trails) where the shrubby forest that covers the island meets the side of roads or meadows. There is a sign near each trap that warns you not to step there and have your leg ripped off. Because some kanji is difficult for me, the first time I found a trap I actually touched it with my hand before I realized what it was, but luckily did not apply enough pressure to spring the mechanism.
We stayed at a kind of hotel/retreat owned by the city of Shibuya-ku. Breakfasts and dinners at the Shibuya-ku accomodations were fantastic big Japanese style meals. The resident manager of the accomodations even went out and caught us fresh fish which he served as sashimi, and also served us fresh vegetables he grew himself. If you live in Shibuya-ku I highly recommend those accomodations. Really cheap even with the meals, thats your taxes hard at work – otsukaresama desu!
Between the meals we entertained ourselves in various ways. The island had a lot to offer in terms of onsens, sightseeing, and water sports like surfing or snorkeling. I had a wet suit so really enjoyed snorkeling on Niijima, and even more so on Shikine island. Shikine is a mere 10 minute ferry ride from Niijima and a jewel of the pacific.
We had great neighbors at the Shibuya-ku accomodations, and we got to know a couple nice families with really wonderful kids. While drinking with one of the dads, he convinced me to try a really strange food called kusaya, which is small fish preserved in the smelliest liquid you could ever imagine. If you hold your nose shut the taste is ok but the smell is unworldly, impossible to describe.