Sailing into Futami Port on the island of Chichijima, a full 24 hours after departing Tokyo, feels akin to Dorothy waking up in Oz: Something says "this isn't Japan anymore" — except that, technically, it is.

Despite being 1,000 kilometers south of the capital, the Ogasawara Islands come under Tokyo's administration and the atmosphere could not be more different. Having never been connected to the mainland, the flora and fauna here is unlike that anywhere else in the world, so much so that UNESCO made the Ogasawara Islands a World Heritage site in 2011. And though the archipelago consists of over 30 islands, only two — Chichijima and Hahajima — are inhabited.

Getting there is a small adventure in itself: The only way is aboard the weekly Ogasawara Maru ferry. Onboard, we occupy middle-of-the-range, "premium berth" accommodation that consists of five double-berths in a cabin. Curtains provide ample privacy and our neighbors are courteous and heed announcements to keep the noise down at night. The food is perfectly adequate, the shared bathroom facilities clean and time passes pleasantly enough as the boat charts its course across the Pacific.