青ヶ島

Next week, people across Japan will be celebrating Tanabata, the age-old festival dedicated to the folk-tale of two lovers separated by the Milky Way, being reunited only once a year, on July 7th.

While in this romance story the Milky Way is nothing but an obstacle for the lovers, for the people of Aogashima, an island south of Tokyo, the Milky Way is an important part of their life and happiness. The uniquely shaped island has been gaining popularity lately, being dubbed a “natural planetarium.” Needless to say, the view of the night sky from Aogashima is outstanding.

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard about Aogashima, it’s 360 kilometers (224 miles) south of Tokyo and is home to a whopping 170 people– not exactly a bustling place.

▼ The volcanic island peaks high above the water and much of the 8.7 square kilometers (3.4 square miles) area is taken up by a huge caldera.

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As one would expect in a place surrounded by only deep, dark ocean, the night sky is nothing short of spectacular. The stars shine brightly and seeing the Milky Way is nothing out of the ordinary for the locals.

▼ Oh, the Milky Way? Yeah, that’s no big deal.

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▼ Thanks to the caldera and the stunning sky, the area is referred to as the “Starry Sky Coliseum.”

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▼ This Aogashima video doesn’t focus much on the night sky, oddly enough.

If staring at millions of stars isn’t quite awesome enough for you, you can also observe them from Ikenosawa Sauna, a geothermic hot spring that sits in the middle of the caldera. Now, doesn’t that just sound awesome?!

▼ And doesn’t this just look awesome!?

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Now that you’re probably itching to visit, keep in mind that there are only two, not very convenient, ways to reach the island. You can take the 70-minute plane and helicopter trip, which, isn’t cheap and can only take nine people per flight, or the 14-hour ferry ride. From what we see, though, it would be well worth the trip (granted you’re lucky enough for clear skies!)

Sources: CuRazy, Hakobune Aogashima
Images: Digital DJ Network JapanHakobune Aogashima (Toshihiko Igawa)