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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Japan’s National Parks: Ogasawara National Park

For reasons unknown to me, I have actually written quite a bit about the Ogasawara area of Japan—a portion of Japan that I bet the vast majority of the country’s population has ever visited, let alone given much thought to.

Welcome to Ogasawara National Park (小笠原国立公園, Ogasawara Kokuritsu Kōen) located within the Ogasawara Islands—also known as the Bonin Islands—occupying 66.29 square kilometers of space some one thousand kilometers south of Tokyo - interesting enough, these islands are part of Tokyo’s political domain.

First off… the Ogasawara Islands/Bonin Islands consist of 30 subtropical and tropical islands. Bonin, is derived from an archaic word “bunin", meaning no people—uninhabited. However, there are two islands, Chichijima (父島) and Hahajima (母島), that are inhabited.

The Ogasawara National Park consists of some of those islands: Chichijima, Hahajima, Mukojima and one of the three so-called Three Volcanic islands: Kita Iwo Jima (北硫黄島, North Sulphur Island); Iwo Jima (硫黄島, Sulphur Island); and Minami Iwo Jima 南硫黄島, South Sulphur Island)—with Kita Iwo Jima ONLY being part of the park.

I see you recognize Iwo Jima—isle where the greatest battles of WWII on Japanese soil took place. The U.S. took it to pretty much end the war, but cleaning it out from a Japanese army that refused to surrender—that caused the U.S. to suffer more casualties of the next few months than those suffered by the Japanese.  Now you know what Iwo Jima means... sulphur island... that's gotta suck on so many different levels.  

After the U.S. finally returned the islands to Japan in 1968 after ‘holding on to them’ for Japan since WWII, Ogasawara National Park was established on October 16, 1972.

There’s probably not a heck of a lot to do at this park, but if you are a naturalist (keep your clothes on, buddy)… I mean someone interested in nature, if you were the type who has to see everything, you should note that there are 441 recorded native plants (most rare and only found here)…. and maybe you can spot a critically-endangered Bonin Flying Fox (a species of fruit bat), or the endemic Ogasawara Snake-Eyed Skink. Skinks look like snakes… but with legs! See HERE.
  • There are 195 known bird species on the island—14 of which are threatened;
  • 1,380 insect species (379 endemic);
  • 134 species land snails (100 endemic);
  • 40 species of freshwater fish;
  • 23 types cetaceans (whales, eh); 
  • 795 species of saltwater fish;
  • 226 species of hermatypic coral. 
… so… kindda cool. Just watch where you step… snails…

If I had a girl child, I would have named her Coral. True story. Here we see some aquatic life amongst the coral at Ogasawara National Park - notice how clean and clear the water is? 

I’ve never been to these islands, but… I would like to see the Ogasawara National Park.

Andrew "Loves escargot" Joseph

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