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Japan's Newest Island

July 15, 2014


Like a movie baddie, the entirely new island that's sprouted from the waters of Japan is both ominous and beguiling.

Published on Jul 15, 2014


Cue the ominous mood music. Having recently risen from the volcanic depths of the ocean like a super villain from a lair, the brand-new Niijima island just might send a shiver up your spine. It started out as a volcanic outcrop, which more often than not erode and sink back into the sea—but this smoldering newborn Japanese landmass 1,000 kilometers due south of Tokyo has staying power. Let us be clear: a speck of land that didn't exist before last November has now grown to the point of earning island status. And it's expanding. We're not blaming Dr. No just yet, but something unusual is afoot in the Pacific. At last count, Niijima had widened to a kilometer across—attaching itself to its nearest neighbor, Nishino-shima—and peaked at around 60 meters. That's right, it has absorbed another island, and even stole its name. Now known as Nishino-shima, it's become the newest spot on earth for anyone who loves to tick remote islands off their to-visit lists.

Nishino-shima
Kuniga beach, Nishino-shima

But this voyage is not for the faint of heart. To get there, it's at best a 25-hour sail aboard the Ogasawara Maru (ogasawarakaiun.co.jp/english) from Tokyo's Takeshiba pier to the Ogasawara group, a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of 30 pristine islands, though only two are inhabited. The archipelago is known for its clear waters, home to Indo-Pacific bottleneck dolphins, humpback and sperm whales, and big green turtles. For the moment, those sea-borne diversions are welcome since Nishino-shima is still active, which means setting foot on the island is prohibited, on account of nuisances like scalding hot lava. For now, visitors can only sail around the new landmass, watching geology do its slow work. Still, do you know anyone else who has been there?

 

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