There is no air flight between the mainland of Japan and the Ogasawara Islands, and the only way is to go aboard a weekly ferry which takes 24 hours. Thus, I took a regular air flight from Haneda Airport, Tokyo, to the Ioto Islands (or the Iwo Jima) on the morning of June 29, and was sent to the Ogasawara Islands from the Ioto Islands by helicopter of the Air Self-Defense Force. I stayed there for two days for the purpose of observing environmental protection sites and activities.
When I arrived at the Chichijima Islands on the afternoon of June 29, I was welcomed by nearly 100 villagers led by the village chief and the chairman of the assembly of Ogasawara Village. A young lady put on a lei around my neck. I was also greeted by many children. A welcome party was held at the village’s public hall in the evening. I greeted them, “I have been anxious to come to the Ogasawara Islands once in my life, and at last, my dream has come true. I will do my best for the sake of the Ogasawara Islands. I am from Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture, which is now famous for the birthplace of the new era’s name, Reiwa.”
Historically, in 1876 (Meiji era 9), the Islands were internationally recognized as the territory of Japan. In 1944 (Showa era 19), along with the worsening situation of the Second World War, nearly 7,000 residents of the Islands were compelled to evacuate to the mainland of Japan. Following the War, the Islands were governed by the US army from 1946 (Showa 21), and in 1968 (Showa 43), the Islands were returned to the Japanese government under the agreement between the governments of the US and Japan.
In the prewar days, the residents of the Ogasawara Islands used to grow abundant subtropical fruits and vegetables and capture a large volume of bonito, tuna and whale. There were also European and American people who were engaged in the fisheries, and they adapted themselves to local society.
The Ogasawara Islands are located about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo. The Islands consist of about 30 islands. In order from north to south, the Islands comprise the Mukojima Islands, the Chichijima Islands, the Hahajima Islands, the Ioto Islands (the Iwo Jima), and the three isolated islands of Nishinoshima, Minamitorishima, and Okinotorishima. Only two islands of Chichijima and Hahajima are inhabited.
All residents on the Islands have been longing for the construction of an airport. At my meeting with the leaders of Ogasawara Village, I carefully listened to their explanation about the current plan on the airport construction. It is essential to conduct environmental impact assessment (EIA) when constructing an airport.
There are many beautiful sceneries as resources for tourism in the Ogasawara Islands. It is well known that the Islands were registered as the UNESCO’s World Heritage site in 2011. Through my on-the-spot observation tour on the site, I was impressed at how well these beautiful sceneries were protected under the orderly administrative regulations.