The Dog Days of Summer: Vacation Edition

The weather has heated up, humidity is pushing people to their breaking point.  The sun pretty much reaches full force at 4:30 in the morning. Sandals are the only reasonable footwear, and school kids are running wild at 11 am on a Wednesday.  There is no getting around it, summer is in full swing. But rather than complain about the ever present bead of sweat trickling down my neck, I put my mind to greater feats: planning my August vacation.

Now, if you are paying attention, the obvious question is didn’t I just take vacation. The answer is yes, but spring vacation was a long, pain-staking three months ago, and summer deserves it’s due. By some fault of life, this summer’s vacation is a paltry seven days; however, with some good planning, I shall be enjoying a more acceptable 11 day vacation.

Of course my first instinct is to book a hotel for ten nights and live it up away from Tokyo, but I learned the hard way, that every trip must end at least one day prior to vacation ending or work will not be pleasant to return to.  This I learned coming back from winter vacation after midnight and waking up in the morning and dragging myself to work. Three words: Don’t do it. However, I also know that I enjoy a nice day of cleaning and packing before any trip. This leaves me with a viable nine days for actual vacationing.  Turns out that is more than enough.

My first plans for this summer included any island close to Japan, but not Okinawa (since I went there last August already). The unfortunate thing about vacationing in Japan is that the entire country takes vacation time at the same time. Try finding a cheap flight overseas when you are competing with literally every other person in a country.  Ticket prices almost double around the three major vacation periods (Golden Week, early May; Obon, early August; and New Year’s, ‘nuff said). After looking up airfare prices to Guam, Bali, the Philippines and others I felt my heart break a little bit more with each new country.

Then, I started looking back at my list of places I was interested in traveling within Japan.  First, I looked into Izu a hot-spring rich resort area. Next I looked at Takayama, a beautiful historic town. These were both great options, but I have been vowing for the last four trips I had taken that I deserved a real island getaway. Could I really deny what my heart wanted. I find time and again that self-denial is not my strongest trait. So, I started looking up islands in Japan.  There are the Izu islands, not too far away by ferry, and probably very pleasant in their own right, but my heart was set on something more exotic, and if not exotic, then remote. Finally, I was reminded of a place someone had told me about a few months ago.

Ogasawara. I beautiful and tiny island chain of islands about 1000 km (621 miles) off the coast of mainland Japan. There are no flights to the island, in fact, the only way to get to Ogasawara is a 26 hour boat ride.  This place definitely qualifies as remote, but getting away this far has its benefits.Image

This island chain has been dubbed the Galapagos of the east. As it is so far from any continent, the evolution of plants and animals is utterly unique. The Ogasawara Islands took biological shape over millions of years as flora and fauna gradually crossed the 1000km kilometres of ocean from Polynesia, south-east Asia and south-west Japan, thanks to the wind, or the birds, or logs floating on the ocean waves. They settled on the islands, the various species evolved uniquely according to their environment, becoming distinctive species. They were mostly undisturbed by humans until settlement began in 1826.

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To begin with, going to this island felt like a dream, simply because of the long time it takes to get there. But after finding a great deal, three nights, four days on the island and two days on the boat, I found myself committed. The island is full of activities both in the water and on land.  There are forest treks to take a look at the unique fauna, and evening tours to see glowing mushrooms and the absolutely breathtakingly clear skies. In the water there are amazing coral reefs, sea-kayaking, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving and snorkeling.

If the island delivers on half the promises websites seem to be offering it sounds like a piece of paradise. Now, I’m just left with one very important question. What does one wear to paradise?

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