Bonin Islands: Wikis


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The Ogasawara Islands, south of Japan

The Bonin Islands, known in Japan as the Ogasawara Group (小笠原群島 Ogasawara Guntō ?) are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands, some 1,000 km directly south of Tokyo, Japan. Administratively, they are part of Ogasawara Municipality (mura) of Ogasawara Subprefecture, Tokyo. The total area of the islands is 73 km², with a population of 2440 (2000 on Chichijima, and 440 on Hahajima, the only two inhabited islands).

The only inhabited islands of the group are (Chichi-jima (父島), the seat of the municipal government, and Haha-jima (母島)). includes what is within Ogasawara Village.

In Japanese, the archipelago is called Ogasawara Group (小笠原群島 Ogasawara Guntō ?). By contrast, the term Ogasawara Archipelago (小笠原諸島 Ogasawara shotō ?), is a wider, collective term for all islands of Ogasawara Municipality, which also includes the Volcano Islands and a few isolated islands. The common English name for Ogasawara Guntō is Bonin Islands, from bunin, an archaic reading of 無人 (mujin), that means "no people" or "uninhabited."


Administrative and geographic taxonomies

Administratively, the Volcano Islands, Nishinoshima (Rosario Island), Okinotorishima (Parece Vela) and Minamitorishima (Marcus Island) are today part of Ogasawara municipality. Geographically, they are not traditionally considered part of the Bonin Islands, which are the Mukojima, Chichijima, and Hahajima island clusters.[1] In other words, the historical ambit of the Bonin Islands (Ogasawara Guntō) is not the precise equivalent of the Japanese governmental unit.[2] The Bonin Islands is a geographical term excluding the other islands which are today associated within the boundaries of a collective term, Ogasawara Shotō.

The Bonin Islands consist of three subgroups, which are listed along with their main islands:

  • Mukojima Group (聟島列島 Mukojima Rettō) - formerly Parry Group
    • Mukojima (聟島, literally: Bridegroom Island)
    • Yomejima (嫁島, literally: Bride Island)
    • Nakōdo-jima or Nakadachijima (媒島, literally: Go-between Island)
    • Kitanojima (北ノ島 or 北島, literally: Northern Island)
  • Chichijima Group (父島列島 Chichijima Rettō) - formerly Beechey Group
    • Chichijima (父島, literally: Father Island),
    • Anijima (兄島, literally: Elder Brother Island)
    • Otōtojima (弟島, literally: Younger Brother Island)
  • Hahajima Group (母島列島 Hahajima Rettō) - formerly Baily Group
    • Hahajima (母島, literally: Mother Island)
    • Anejima (姉島, literally: Elder Sister Island)
    • Imōtojima (妹島, literally: Younger Sister Island)


Minamijima, a small island in Chichijima group


Discovery and colonization

The first European discovery of the islands is said to have taken place in 1543, by the Spanish explorer Bernardo de la Torre.[3]

  • Bunroku 1 (1592): Ogasawara Sadayori claims to have discovered the Bonin Islands, and the territory was granted to him as a fief by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.[4]
  • Kanbun 10 (1670): The islands are discovered by the Japanese when a ship bound for Edo from Kyushu is blown off course by a storm.[5]
  • Enpō 3 (1675): The islands are explored by shogunate expedition, following up "discovery" in Kanbun 10. The islands are claimed as a territory of Japan.[6]
  • Bunkyū 1 (January 1862): The islands are re-confirmed as a territory of Japan, following "discovery" of the islands in Kanbun 10 (1670) and a shogunate expedition to the islands in Enpō 3 (1675).[7]

The islands remained uninhabited until Nathaniel Savory, an American, landed on the island of Chichijima in 1830 and formed the first colony there.[8] Another party arrived in 1846 on board the whaler Howard, and settled initially in South Island. One of them, a woman from the Caroline Islands called Hypa, died in 1897 aged about 112, after being baptized on her deathbed.[9] In 1853, Commodore Perry visited the islands and bought property at Port Lloyd from Savory for $50.[4]

These groups were collectively called Islas del Arzobispo (Archbishop Islands) in Spanish sources of the 18th-19th century. Japanese maps at the time seem to have been rather inaccurate and therefore considered by some[10] to be deliberately misleading. It is thought that this was an attempt to discourage colonization attempts by foreign nations. Frederick William Beechey used the Spanish name as late as 1831 and believed that the Japanese Boninsima referred to entirely different islands.[11]

The Ogasawara Island communities were under-developed in the early Shōwa period.

The history of the islands was compiled by Lionel Cholmondeley over the course of several years; and his work was published in London in 1915.[4]

In 1917, approximately 60-70 island people claimed ancestry among to the 19th century English-speaking settlers; however, in 1941, no Bonin people would acknowledge descent from these early colonists.[12] The current residents include some who claim to be related to Nathaniel Savory.[13]

The Ogasawara islanders were relegated to an insignificant status up through the early Shōwa period.

World War II to present

In this photograph, the man at the well draws attention; but the photo also shows the "thatched roofs, weather-beaten unpainted sides and paper partions and windows" which were characteristic of the village in pre-war 1941.

During World War II, most of the inhabitants were forcibly evacuated to the mainland. There was a Japanese military base on Chichijima, whose officer in charge, Major Sueo Matoba (的場 末男 Matoba Sueo ?), was known for performing cannibalism and other acts on prisoners of war and was executed for his crimes after the war.[14][15] The Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 was one of the fiercest battles of World War II, was fought on an uninhabited island in this region of the Pacific.

The islands were occupied by the U.S. Navy from 1945, at which point the inhabitants of "Western" (mainly of mixed Anglo American or European, Filipino and Polynesian descent) were allowed back.[16] The islands were returned to Japan in 1968, at which time Japanese evacuees were allowed to return.

Now nearly all inhabitants, including those of Western ancestry, are Japanese citizens, and the Japanese language is used. Research indicates that an English-lexified pidgin (creole) was spoken on the islands during the 19th century.[17] During the 20th century, islanders of Western descent increasingly mixed Japanese with island English, resulting in a mixed language that can still be heard today.[18] Younger speakers are monolingual in a variety of Japanese closely resembling the Tokyo standard.[19] A bilingual dictionary, Talking Dictionary of the Bonin Islands Language (with CD-ROM), was published in 2005.[20]

A 25m-diameter radio telescope is located in Chichijima, which is one of the stations of the VLBI Exploration of Radio Astrometry (VERA) project, and is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Recent developments

Japan's Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have entered the Ogasawara Islands as a candidate World Heritage Site on the premise that the islands meet the three listed criteria for geology, ecosystems, and biodiversity.[21]

The giant squid (genus Architeuthis) was filmed off the Ogasawara Islands for the first time in the wild on September 27, 2005, and was captured in December 2006.[22]

Fictional references

The Ogasawara Islands have been referenced in a number of works of fiction. Bonin, by Richard Standish, describes itself as 'a novel', but claims to be an accurate history of the islands, based mainly on information from Nathaniel Savory's great-grand-daughter, and includes descriptions of maltreatment of the Anglo-Polynesian population by the later Japanese settlers.[23] The Sevii Islands from Pokémon, Fire Red and Leaf Green are based on the Bonin Islands. In the 1968 Godzilla film, Destroy All Monsters, Monsterland is located in the chain. In an English-dubbed version, it is referred to as "Ogasawara Island" as if it were a lone island of that name. In the television series The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, a fictional island in the chain, South Ataria Island (which would have laid at the southernmost position in the chain, surpassing Minami Iwo Jima), is the landing site of the SDF-1 Macross.[24] In the 1963 film Matango, a luxury yacht is set adrift and lands on an island. Upon approaching the island one of the crew members shouts: "I wonder if it's the Bonin Islands?"[25] The English subtitles for the film misspell Bonin "Bonan".


One can get from the main Japanese islands to Chichijima by way of the Ogasawara Maru liner, run by Ogasawara Marine Transportation. The ship leaves from Takeshiba port in Tokyo Bay, and the trip takes around 25.5 hours (in good weather). There are four or five crossings each month. The Ogasawara Maru is a 6,700 ton vessel, 131m long, with a capacity of 1,031 passengers.[26] To get to Hahajima, one must first get to Chichijima, and then cross by the liner Hahajima Maru.

Because a trip from the main Japanese islands to the Ogasawaras is very difficult, when people get severely ill or otherwise have an emergency, word is conveyed to Iwo Jima Japan Maritime Self Defense Force post, and a helicopter is sent to the islands. Emergencies can also be handled from the main Japanese islands by Japan Air Self-Defense Force airplanes or the Maritime Self Defense Force base in Iwakuni can convey evacuees to the main islands by seaplane, the ShinMaywa US-1. This seaplane is also used to transport the Tokyo governor and other VIPs.

Ogasawara Village operates a bus service on Chichijima and elderly passengers may use a "silver pass." There is also a sightseeing taxi service, a rental car company, motorized scooter rental services, a bike rental service, and other amenities. Bringing one's own automobile onto the island is extremely difficult and costly.

Issues with improved transportation

The world's first 'techno superliner', the Super Liner Ogasawara (which was to be commissioned in 2006), with a maximum speed of 70 km/h, 14,500 tons gross tonnage, was expected to shorten the voyage to Ogasawara to about 17 hours and carry up to 740 passengers.[27] However, the project was canceled in July 2005 due to rising fuel prices and the loss of ¥2 billion[28].

The Ogasawara Islands have no airport, and there is no prospect for one being constructed. However, there was talk for several decades of building one. Anijima and Chichijima were once designated possible construction sites, but because there are numerous valuable, rare, or endangered plant species forming a unique ecosystem in the vicinity of the proposed sites, issues of nature conservation were raised. Although construction of an airport was desired by some, a desire to keep the natural beauty of the islands untouched created a movement to block it. The airport issue was quite controversial on the islands.[29]



The Ogasawara Islands were formed around 48 million years ago. They are a part of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc known geologically as a fore arc. They lie above a subduction zone between the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate. The Pacific Plate is subducting under the Philippine Sea Plate, which creates an oceanic trench to the east of the islands. The crust of the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands was formed by volcanic activity when subduction began 45–50 million years ago, and is composed mostly of an andesitic volcanic rock called boninite, which is rich in magnesium oxide, chromium, and silicon dioxide. The Ogasawara Islands may represent the exposed parts of an ophiolite that has not yet been emplaced on oceanic crust. The rocks of the Volcano Islands are much younger; Iwo Jima is a dormant volcano characterized by rapid uplift and several hot springs.

Most of the islands have steep shorelines, often with sea cliffs ranging from 50 to 100 meters in height, but the islands are also fringed with coral reefs and have many beaches.[30] The highest point lies on South Iwo Jima, at 916m.


Ogasawara subtropical moist forests

The Ogasawara Islands form a distinct subtropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion, with a high degree of biodiversity and endemism. The islands are home to about 500 plant species, of which 43% are endemic. The forests are of three main types:

  • Type I: Elaeocarpus-Ardisia mesic forest is found in the moist lowland areas with deep soils. The forests have a closed canopy with a height of about 15 meters, dominated by Ardisia sieboldii. Elaeocarpus photiniaefolius, Pisonia umbellifera, and Pouteria obovata are other important canopy species. These forests were almost completely destroyed by clearing for agriculture before 1945.
  • Type II: Distylium-Raphiolepis-Schima dry forest is found in drier lowland and upland sites with shallower soils. It is also a closed-canopy forest, with a 4 to 8 meter canopy composed mostly of Distylium lepidotum, Rhaphiolepis integerrima, Schima mertensiana, Pouteria obovata, and Syzygium buxifolium. The Type II forests can be further subdivided into:
    • Type IIa: Distylium-Schima dry forest occurs in cloudy upland areas with fine-textured soils. These forests contain many rare and endemic species, with Pandanus boninensis and Syzygium buxifolium as the predominant trees.
    • Type IIb: Raphiolepsis-Livistona dry forest is found in upland areas with few clouds and rocky soils. Rhaphiolepis integerrima is the dominant tree species, along with the fan palm Livistona chinensis var. bonensis, Pandanus boninensis and Ochrosia nakaiana.
  • Type III: Distylium-Pouteria scrub forest is found on windy and dry mountain ridges and exposed sea cliffs. These forests have the highest species diversity on the islands. Distylium lepidotum and Pouteria obovata are the dominant species, growing from 0.5 to 1.5 meters tall. Other common shrubs are Myrsine okabeana, Symplocos kawakamii, and Pittosporum parvifolium.

Several bird species are or were endemic to the islands, including the Japanese Woodpigeon (Columba janthina) and the Vulnerable Bonin White-eye (Apalopteron familiare), formerly known as "Bonin Honeyeater". A small bat, Pipistrellus sturdeei is only known in one record and has not been seen since 1915. The Bonin flying fox (Pteropus pselaphon), also called the Bonin fruit bat, is endemic to the islands. It is currently listed as Critically Endangered, and a survey published by the Ogasawara Office of Education in 1999 estimated their number to be around 100.[31]


Flora has evolved differently on each of the islands. The Ogasawara Islands are sometimes referred to as the Galapagos of the Orient.[32]


Ogasawara Village operates its public elementary and junior high schools.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education operates Ogasawara High School [1] on Chichi-jima.


  1. ^ Freeman, Otis W. (1951). Geography of the Pacific, pp. 229-235.
  2. ^ "Bonin Islands," Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 06, 2009.
  3. ^ Welsch, Bernhard. (2004). "Was Marcus Island Discovered by Bernardo de la Torre in 1543?" Journal of Pacific History, 39:1, 109-122.
  4. ^ a b c Cholmondeley, Lionel Berners. (1915). The History of the Bonin Islands from the Year 1827 to the Year 1876. London: Constable & Co.
  5. ^ Tanaka, Hiroyuki. (1993). "The Ogasawara Islands in Tokugawa Japan," Kaiji Shi Kenkyuu (Journal of the Maritime History).
  6. ^ [see above]
  7. ^ Tanaka, Hiroyuki (1993). "Edo Jidai ni okeru Nihonjin no Mujin Tou (Ogasawara Tou) ni tai-suru Ninshiki" ("The Ogasawara Islands in Tokugawa Japan"). Kaiji Shi Kenkyuu(Journal of the Maritime History). No. 50, June, 1993.
  8. ^ Asia Society of Japan, Long lecture.
  9. ^ Hypa, the Centenarian Nurse, by Rev A F King, The Mission Field, 43, 415-421, 1898
  10. ^ Beechey, Frederick William (1831). Narrative of a voyage to the Pacific and Bearing's Strait, to co-operate with the polar expeditions: performed in His Majesty's ship Blossom, under the command of Captain F.W. Beechey, R.N., F.R.S. &c. in the years 1825, 26, 27, 28. London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley. pp. 237–240.  
  11. ^ Rein, J. J. (1884). Japan: Travel and Researches, pp.533-534.
  12. ^ National Geographic, October 1944, pp. 387-388, 404.
  13. ^ "父島の宿". Retrieved 2007-09-05.  
  14. ^ Welch, Jeanie M. "Without a Hangman, Without a Rope: Navy War Crimes Trials After World War II," International Journal of Naval History. Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 2002).<?ref> Future President George H. W. Bush's plane crashed in the ocean near Chichijima, but he was rescued by an American submarine.
  15. ^ "Story of George H. W. Bush World War II Experience," CNN. December 20, [[2003.
  16. ^ Trumbull, Robert. "Bonin Islanders Seek U.S. Tie But Remain International Pawns; Descendants of Americans Ask Citizenship in Vain--Fight Return of Japanese," New York Times. March 11, 1956.
  17. ^ Long, Daniel; Peter Trudgill (2004). The Last Yankee in the Pacific: Eastern New England Phonology in the Bonin Islands. Duke University Press. doi:10.1215/00031283-79-4-356.  
  18. ^ Long, Daniel (2007). English on the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-6671-3.  
  19. ^ linguistic culture
  20. ^ Long, Daniel; Naoyuki Hashimoto (2005). Talking Dictionary of the Bonin Islands Language (with CD-ROM). Nanpo Shinsha. ISBN 978-4861240447.  
  21. ^ "Ogasawara Islands - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Retrieved 2007-09-06.  
  22. ^ "Japanese Researchers Capture Giant Squid".,2933,238263,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-06.  
  23. ^ Standish, Robert (pseudonym of Digby George Gerahty). (1943). Bonin, A Novel, London: Peter Davies.
  24. ^ Macross Compendium Atlas Listing
  25. ^ Matango - 00:17
  26. ^ "おがさわら丸 (Ogasawara Maru)". Retrieved 2007-09-06.  
  27. ^ "Super High Speed Ship (Techno Super Liner) for Ogasawara Line Naming and Launching Ceremony". Retrieved 2007-08-24.  
  28. ^ "Japan pulls plug on Techno Superliner". Retrieved 2007-08-24.  
  29. ^ McCormack, Gavan (August 1999). "Dilemmas of Development on The Ogasawara Islands". Japan Policy Research Institute. Retrieved 2008-01-17.  
  30. ^ coral reefs
  31. ^ "Ogasawara subtropical moist forests". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2008-01-17.  
  32. ^ Yamaoka, Fumiko (May 12), "Saving an endangered bird in 'Orient's Galapagos'", The Japan Times,  


See also

External links

Coordinates: 26°59′53″N 142°13′05″E / 26.99806°N 142.21806°E / 26.99806; 142.21806

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BONIN ISLANDS, called by the Japanese Ogasawara-Jima, a chain of small islands belonging to Japan, stretching nearly due north and south, a little east of 142 E., and from 26° 35' to 2 7° 45' N., about 500 m. from the mainland of Japan. They number twenty, according to Japanese investigations, and have a coast-line of 174.65 m. and a superficies of 28.82 sq. m. Only ten of them have any appreciable size, and these are named - commencing from the north - Muko-shima (Bridegroom Island), Nakadachi-shima (Go-between Island 1), Yome-shima (Bride Island), Ototo-jima (Younger-brother Island), Ani-shima (Elderbrother Island), Chichi-jima (Father Island), Haha-jima (Mother Island), Mei-jima (Niece Island), Ani-jima (Elder-sister Island) and Imoto-jima (Younger-sister Island). European geographers have been accustomed to divide the islands into three groups for purposes of nomenclature, calling the northern group the Parry Islands, the central the Beechey Islands and the southern the Coffin or Bailey Islands. The second largest of all, Chichi-jima, in Japanese cartography was called Peel Island in 1827 by Captain Beechey, and the same officer gave the name of Stapleton Island to the Ototo-jima of the Japanese, and that of Buckland Island to their Ani-jima. To complete this account of Captain. Beechey's nomenclature, it may be added that he called a large bay on the south of Peel Island Fitton Bay, and a bay on the south-west of Buckland Island Walker Bay. 2 Port Lloyd, the chief anchorage (situated on Peel Island), is considered by Commodore Perry - who visited the islands in 1853 and strongly urged the establishment of a United States coaling station there - to have been formerly the crater of a volcano from which the surrounding hills were thrown up, the entrance to the harbour being a fissure through which lava used to pour into the sea. The islands are, indeed, plainly volcanic in their nature.


The diversity of nomenclature indicated above 1 Referring to the Japanese custom of employing a go-between to arrange a marriage.

These details are taken from The Bonin Islands by Russell Robertson, formerly H.B.M. consul in Yokohama, who visited the islands in 1875.

suggests that the ownership of the islands was for some time doubtful. According to Japanese annals they were discovered towards the close of the 16th century, and added to the fief of a Daimyo, Ogasawa Sadayori, whence the name Ogasawarajima. They were also called Bonin Jima (corrupted by foreigners into Bonin) because of their being without (bu) inhabitants (nin). Effective occupation did not take place, however, and communications with the islands ceased altogether in 1635, as was a natural consequence of the Japanese government's veto against the construction of sea-goingjvessels. In 1728 fitful communication was restored by the then representative of the Ogasawara family, only to be again interrupted until 1861, when an unsuccessful attempt was made to establish a Japanese colony at Port Lloyd. Meanwhile, Captain Beechey visited the islands in the "Blossom," assigned names to some of them, and published a description of their features. Next a small party consisting of two British subjects, two American citizens, and a Dane, sailed from the Sandwich Islands for Port Lloyd in 1830, taking with them some Hawaiian natives. These colonists hoisted the British flag on Peel Island (Chichijima), and settled there. When Commodore Perry arrived in 1853, there were on Peel Island thirty-one inhabitants, four being English, four American, one Portuguese and the rest natives of the Sandwich Islands, the Ladrones, &c.; and when Mr Russell Robertson visited the place in 1875, the colony had grown to sixty-nine, of whom only five were pure whites. Mr Robertson found them without education, without religion, without laws and without any system of government, but living comfortably on clearings of cultivated land. English was the language of the settlers, and they regarded themselves as a British colony. But in 1861 the British government renounced all claim to the islands in recognition of Japan's right of possession. There is now regular steam communication; the affairs of the islands are duly administered, and the population has grown to about 4500. There are no mountains of any considerable height in the Ogasawara Islands, but the scenery is hilly with occasional bold crags. The vegetation is almost tropically luxuriant - palms, wild pineapples, and ferns growing profusely, and the valleys being filled with wild beans and patches of taro. Mr Robertson catalogues a number of valuable timbers that are obtained there, among them being Tremana, cedar, rose-wood, iron-wood (red and white), box-wood, sandal and white oak. The kekop tree, the orange, the laurel, the juniper, the wild cactus, the curry plant, wild sage and celery flourish. No minerals have been discovered. The shores are covered with coral; earthquakes and tidal waves are frequent, the latter not taking the form of bores, but of a sudden steady rise and equally sudden fall in the level of the sea; the climate is rather tropical than temperate, but sickness is almost unknown among the residents. (F. By.)

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