National

'You can't go home': Monthlong escape to Ogasawara Islands a hit with teleworkers

JIJI

Liner service Ogasawara Kaiun Co. is looking for participants for a 28-day, 27-night tour to the Ogasawara Islands, an archipelago of over 30 subtropical islands some 1,000 kilometers south of central Tokyo, highlighting a special chance to escape into nature.

The company operates the Ogasawara Maru ferry, the only way of accessing the island chain, which takes 24 hours each way from Honshu.

The tour — promoted with the catchphrase “You can’t go home for nearly a month,” highlighting the commitment involved in the tour and the limited means of transportation — is gaining popularity among teleworkers and others, the operator said. For the upcoming tour in January next year, 16 people, or 13 groups, have already signed up.

The ferry connecting central Tokyo and Chichijma, the main island of the Ogasawara chain, undergoes regular checks in Yokohama every year during the off season when the ocean tends to be stormy. There will be no regular means of transportation to and from the island chain between Jan. 20 and Feb. 6.

In 2011, the tourist association of the village of Ogasawara first organized the tour, aiming to take advantage of the ferry service suspension.

The number of participants has been increasing, despite one year when no one applied for the tour. In 2019, eight people took part in a 26-day, 25-night trip.

Average January-March temperatures in the Ogasawara chain, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, are around 17 to 18 degrees Celsius.

Visitors can enjoy swimming in the ocean and whale-watching in the middle of winter, as well as tasting sea turtle-based cuisine.

The 2019 tour participants were mainly in their 30s or 40s, many of them teleworkers.

“I was able to refresh myself by changing my environment,” a participant pursuing a creative career said.

“I had lots of time to relax by myself,” another participant said.

During the stay, some participants cooked for themselves. Some typed away on laptops on the beach, while others took part-time jobs, an Ogasawara Kaiun staff member said.

“Everybody found their own way to enjoy their stays,” the 37-year-old female employee said.

Unfortunately, the upcoming tour might be the last chance to be “trapped” on the islands for a long stay, because an alternative ferry will be in service during the Ogasawara Maru suspension period in 2021, enabling people to go back to Honshu.

“I hope (information about) the tour will spark people’s interest in Ogasawara, even for those who can’t stay a long time,” she added.