Jogashima 城ヶ島

by Daniel Simmons

Lovely Jogashima is little more than an hour’s journey from Yokohama, just off the southernmost tip of the Miura Peninsula, but its sea-carved bluffs and narcissus-and-pine-lined paths feel worlds apart from its big city neighbor.

The island, Kanagawa prefecture’s largest, was once a favorite cherry blossom-viewing destination of Kamakura shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo. The cherry trees are mostly gone now, but the hillsides are still abloom in most seasons: hydrangeas in June, lilies in July, and the island’s famous cultivated narcissus flowers in winter, all of them guarded by bamboo groves and gnarled Japanese black pine trees that stand stalwart against the sea winds. Here both sunrises and sunsets are tremendous, with views extending west to Mt. Fuji, east to the Boso Peninsula, and south to the vast Pacific. The island is only one square kilometer but a leisurely perambulation of its rocky shoreline will take at least a couple of hours, especially if you decide to picnic here or stop frequently for photos.

Certainly there is much to capture a photographer’s attention. The island is bookended by two picturesque lighthouses, one of them the second oldest in Japan (dating from 1870). Relentless Pacific waves have tunneled through a lonely finger of rock on the southern shore to form the striking Horseback Cave (馬の背洞門). A short walk away, cormorants nest among the guano-chalked crags, their long black necks angling back and forth in the sun. Kites, of both the manmade and avian varieties, wheel overhead through vibrant blue skies. And fishermen perch on scalloped volcanic promontories along the island’s west coast, waving their poles slowly back and forth like wands, casting languorous spells over the glittering deep.

For centuries Jogashima and the adjacent port of Misaki have been synonymous with fishing. The fish markets actually first opened here two thousand years ago but grew especially prosperous during the mid-17th century, when island fishermen began using larger-scale net captures to catch huge numbers of fish and rush them up the bay to customers in Edo.

The most popular seafood offering these days, advertised everywhere you look, is maguro, but visitors conscious of the global decline in tuna populations will find tasty menu alternatives at a restaurant called Seiryumaru in Misaki. (This suggestion comes courtesy of Sumiko Enbutsu’s Flower Lover’s Guide to Tokyo, an indispensable handbook for day trippers in the Tokyo area.) We especially recommend the chef-owner’s kinmedai, prepared in a “reishabu” that we’ve never seen elsewhere: strips of raw fish are dipped briefly in boiling water to scald the outside without cooking the inside, then served over ice in a bowl with side dipping sauces.

To reach Jogashima, take the Keihin Kyuko line from Yokohama to Misakiguchi terminal (about an hour, 550 yen). Catch bus #9 at stand 2 of the station’s bus terminal; half an hour later you can alight at the terminal near Jogashima lighthouse.