Sarushima (lit. “Monkey Island”) is a small, uninhabited island located off the coast of the Miura Peninsula in Tokyo Bay. Despite its name, Sarushima is unfortunately devoid of any real monkeys. Nevertheless, while it may be lacking in simians, Sarushima certainly makes up for it with its historical legacy and natural beauty. Disclaimer aside, let’s dive into the details.
Sarushima is the ONLY natural island that exists in Tokyo Bay and has historical roots dating back to Japan’s early years. Since the middle of the Edo period (1603–1868), Sarushima has played a critical role in monitoring shipping lanes in and out of the harbor. Even today you can still stroll through the ruins of old forts that were built into the island.
While the remains of gun batteries and the like will keep the history buffs busy for hours, Sarushima can also be a lot of fun for families or groups of friends too. The area where the ferry docks is home to a swimmable beach and many of the locals enjoy trekking here during the summer months for a waterside barbecue. Just be sure to come early during peak season to claim your turf.
Want to partake in the fun but didn’t pack your grill? Don’t worry! Sarushima has a rental facility that will hook you up with all the equipment you need to get the party started. Just bring your own meat and booze. You’ll find the equipment for your feast located under the small deck immediately past the beach. That said, readers who are longtime residents of Japan would do well to bring their own tools as rentals tend to get rather pricey.
How to Get There
The trip to Sarushima involves two legs. The first of these is easy, just take the Keikyu Line bound for Misakiguchi Station from Shinagawa Station. Be sure to check Jorudan or a similar service first to find out when your train departs. Taking the wrong train here can land you at Haneda Airport so double confirm before embarking!
You will want to get off the train at Yokosuka-Chuo Station and follow this map to Mikasa Pier. It’s about a 10 minute walk and will take you past the “Honch,” the nightlife district for the nearby naval base in Yokosuka. For the American readers out there, feel free to stop by here later for a taste of home after visiting Sarushima.
Once arriving at Mikasa Pier you will to need to purchase a round-trip ferry ticket for 1,300 yen from the booth. The island is located about 2 km off the coast and ferries depart every hour starting at 8:30 AM. When purchasing your ticket, be sure you do not mistakenly buy one for the nearby Mikasa Battleship Museum.
Exploring the Ruins on Sarushima
After disembarking from the Sarushima ferry you’ll find yourself on a small beach dedicated to barbecues and sunbathing. For those looking to celebrate the summer on the island, you’ll need to look no further than here. Note that the island has a set of bathrooms situated the patio directly behind the beach. There is also a small gift shop that sells Sarushima craft beers. Why an uninhabited island has its own brew is beyond me but in the heat of summer, no one’s really complaining either.
Those interested in catching a bit more than some rays, the other side of the island is likely to be of more interest. Here you’ll find all of Sarushima’s historical ruins and natural beauty. Simply follow the path up past the island’s only modern buildings to where it snakes its way up the hillside. Be sure to keep your eyes out for the free walking sticks that can be found at the start of the trail before making your way deeper into the island.
While exploring the island be sure to keep an eye on the time. The final ferry back to Yokosuka departs at 5:00 PM during most of the year (for December 1 to February 1, last call is instead 4:00 PM). Given that it’s quite a swim to shore, you don’t want to get stuck out there!
The entire expedition takes a little more than an hour but there are several spots along the way that you’ll want to keep an eye out for. I’ve uploaded a scan of the island’s pamphlet here for your perusal; some of my favorites are as follow…
- The Kiridoshi
This pathway was cut out of the island and passes through the heart of the tunnel. As you walk through this alley you’ll pass the remnants of barracks, ammunition depositions, and other military structures.
- The Tunnel of Love
It is said that couples who walk through this brick tunnel together will fall madly in love. Unfortunately, I was solo when I visited so I guess it’s just me and my iPhone for life…
- Nichiren Cave
This appears to be an ancient dwelling with roots dating back to Japan’s Jomon period (14,000–300 BCE). Makes you wonder what someone was doing living out here all those years ago…
- Fishing Spots
Both the Oimonohana and Yonenone are said to be great fishing spots that each have their own unique advantages and species of fish. Check the maps scattered around the island to find these!
- Gun Batteries
Littered about on the far side of the island from Sarushima’s pier lies a collection of gun battery sites. While only the base remains, it is still cool to see these examples of untouched history.
Until next time travelers…