The Ogasawara Islands are an archipelago of 30 tiny tropical islands. Only two of the Islands are inhabited — Chichi-jima (父島) and Haha-jima (母島) . The only way to get to the Islands is a ferry from Tokyo. The voyage takes 25.5 hours in good weather.
Being so remote — the evolution of species on the Islands was unique. The Islands are nicknamed the "Galapagos of the Asia".
Discovered by Samurai?The islands are named after a Ronin (a Samurai without a master) — Ogasawara Sadato. In 1727, this Ronin claimed that his ancestors discovered the islands. He further claimed that in 1593 the warlord leader of Japan (Toyotomi Hideyoshi) granted the islands to his family.
His story wasn't believed. In fact, he was caught forging documents and punished. Strangely, his name stuck to the archipelago.
In English, the archipelago is often called the Bonin Islands. This comes from an older Japanese name that meant "uninhabited".
American SettlementThe first settlement (1830) on the Ogasawara Islands was lead by an American named Nathaniel Savory. The settlement included Americans, Hawaiians and Europeans.
In 1862 the Islands became part of Japan. The colonists were granted Japanese citizenship. Limited immigration from Japan began. Many of the residents of Ogasawara today are descended from the original colonists.
WWIIAll civilians were forced from the islands during WWII. One of the fiercest battles of the war happened on the archipelago — on uninhabited Iwo Jima.
The Ogasawara Islands were the last land returned to Japan after WWII. They weren't returned until 1968. At that time all of the Islands residents were allowed to return (after 24 years).