SARUSHIMA (MONKEY ISLAND), YOKOSUKA
Last weekend – as Tokyo was in the grips of a major heatwave – we headed off to Sarushima, an uninhabited island off the coast of Yokosuka known for its clear waters and thickly growing trees. Nicknamed ‘Monkey Island’, there are actually no monkeys to be seen – the name instead coming from a legend in 1253 when a monk named Nichiren was sailing to Kamakura. Legend has it that a storm blew up and the ship lost control, only for a white monkey to appear and guide the ship to the island.
Sarushima itself has a lot of history. It was once a fortress that protected Tokyo Bay, and civilians were forbidden to set foot on the island. Today, the walls of the fortress still remain, and you can explore these ruins which are now covered in green moss and strangled by the thick roots of trees. While the island’s small beach gets crowded on the weekends, the cool jungle-like interior remains quiet – apart from the steady cacophony of insects to keep you company (check the video below). Surprisingly, this place is just over an hour from my house, and it’s hard to believe a place like this exists so close to central Tokyo.
Sarushima Island is a ten-minute ferry ride from Yokosuka’s Mikasa Pier. The first ferry from Mikasa to Sarushima leaves at 8:30am, with the last return to the mainland at 5pm. Daily ferry schedule from March to November. (Ferry runs on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays only from December to February.) 1300 yen for round trip ferry fare (adult) + 200 yen entry fee to Sarushima.