Who’s up for an island adventure that leaves from downtown Tokyo?

They say its not so much the destination as the journey that matters, and if you’re the sort of adventurous traveler who likes to incorporate that philosophy into your itinerary, Tokyo has just the boat trip for you. Offered by ferry operator Tokai Kisen, it’s called the Idaten Mystery Ticket.

What’s the mystery? You won’t know where you’re going, or how long you’ll be there, until just before your ship leaves the Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal in downtown Tokyo.

That’s not to say you’ll be totally in the dark. There are five possible destinations, all islands in the Izu Archipelago that lies to the southwest of Japan’s capital city. Depending on which you end up being taken to, the amount of time you’ll spend on the island varies.

● Izu Oshima (4-hour, 55-minute stay)
Toshima (3-hour, 36-minute stay)
Niijima (2-hour, 45-minute stay)
Shikinejima (2-hour, 10-minute stay)
Kozushima (1-hour, 10-minute stay)

▼ Tokai Kisen’s promotional photos for Izu Oshima (伊豆大島), Toshima (利島), Niijima (新島), Shikinejima (式根島), and Kozushima (神津島)

All Idaten Mystery Ticket boats leave Tokyo at 8:50 in the morning and return the same day at 5:15 p.m., and are priced at 12,000 yen (US$77) for adults and 6,000 yen for children. Reservations are required and must be made at least one day in advance, but, again, you won’t know where you’re headed until the day of your departure when you show up at Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal.

Tokai Kisen just started offering the Idaten Mystery Ticket on May 23, and our Japanese-language reporter Mariko Ohanabatake was excited to try it out. After arriving at Takshiba and claiming her ticket, she was informed that on that day the boat was setting sail for Izu Oshima.

Unfortunately for Mariko, the weather was wet and rainy, but she still had a spring in her step as she walked to the high-speed jet boat that would take her to the island in one hour and 45 minutes. She was a little worried that the windy conditions might make for a rough ride…

…but the ship sailed so smoothly that she slept soundly for pretty much the whole thing.

The ship docked at Okada Port, and once she stepped off Mariko had roughly five hours for sightseeing. Had the weather been better, she would have headed for a hike on Mt. Mihara, the volcanic rise that the island formed around, but with the shower and winds both staying strong, she decided against it.

▼ Not that the island isn’t pretty in the rain too, though.

Mariko needed to find an indoor activity to enjoy, and she realized that since Izu Oshima is a volcanic island, it probably has onsen (hot springs) too! So she asked some locals, and sure enough, they clued her in to a place called Island Center Gojinka Onsen.

From the port, the easiest way to get to the hot spring is to take a bus to the Gojinka Onsen bus stop, from where it’s a seven-minute walk along the seaside street to the complex’s entrance.

▼ Gojinka Onsen entrance

Gojinka Onsen is full of the nostalgic rustic charm of a regional “kenkou land” (“health land”), as Japan calls this sort of low-key hot spring day-trip destinations.

In additions to the baths, there are saunas, a pool, and eating/snacking areas. It’s not trying to be a fancy resort, but instead a place where anyone can come and warm themselves up in the hot spring, chill in the relaxation spaces, then repeat the process as many times as they want. It’s a great way to get a taste of the local slow-paced lifestyle, and Mariko could have easily spent her entire five hours on Izu Oshima here with no complaints.

But Mariko knew she couldn’t get on the boat to go home without first trying the island’s special sushi, which is called bekko sushi, or, alternatively, shima sushi. So it was back on the bus for a ride to Chinooka bus stop, and from there a quick walk to Izanami, a small local sushi joint that Mariko had heard about.

▼ Izanami. It’s actually within walking distance (30 minutes) from Island Center Gojinka Onsen, but Mariko took the bus to stay out of the rain.

Bekko sushi is a type of nigiri sushi made with whitefish, so you might be surprised when you see it and it’s orange.

That’s because the fish is marinated with a soy sauce enhanced with shima togarashi, which is what the locals call Capsicum frutescens chili peppers. This gives bekko sushi a spicy kick that’s different from wasabi, and Mariko loved it! She paired her bekko sushi with an order of inarizushi (vinegared rice wrapped in fried tofu), and the contrast of spicy and sweet flavors between the two was just right, making Mariko very glad she’d stopped in here for lunch.

▼ Izanami is primarily a takeout place, but they do have an eat-in space as well, and they even gave Mariko a cup of green tea for free.

After finishing lunch, dessert was naturally the next thing on Mariko’s mind. Fortunately, right next door to Izanami is Chalon, Izu Oshima’s one and only cake cafe.

Chalon is also a bakery and pizzeria too, and those items did look great.

But Mariko was here for sweets, and the lineup of mouthwatering treats wasn’t making it easy for her to pick just one.

With much effort, though, she pared her options down and decided on the strawberry shortcake, which was so delicious she honestly felt a little moved eating it. She also treated herself to a cafe au lait made with milk from a local Izu Oshima dairy.

Before Mariko knew it, it was time to star heading back to the port to catch the ship home.

After one last bus ride, she was at the port early enough to do some souvenir shopping, picking up a pack of Oshima Butter…

…and then it was time to board.

Full, satisfied, and relaxed, Mariko slept the whole way back to Tokyo, arriving right on time at 5:15 p.m. at Takeshiba, from where it’s just a quick walk to the nearby stations to hop on a train or subway home.

The Idaten Mystery Ticket is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays until June 27, and Mariko highly recommends taking Tokai Kisen up on this unique offer. She does have two pieces of advice, though. One is that once you arrive at your island, make sure to check the bus schedules. With most of the Izu Archipelago towns being small, rural communities, bus service is much less frequent than in the big city, and online navigation apps, such as Google Maps, aren’t always accurate as to the actual schedules.

Second, make sure you check the weather forecast for the day of your departure, and try to have both some outdoor and indoor activity ideas in case you run into rain, like Mariko did. Basically, the more flexible your attitude, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of the Idaten Mystery Ticket, but then again that probably goes without saying when you’re buying a ticket for the destination of “somewhere.”

Related: Idaten Mystery Ticket official website, Tokai Kisen official website
Tokai Kisen five islands promotional image: Tokai Kisen
All other photos ©SoraNews24
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