The Bonin Islands, known in Japan as the Ogasawara Group are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands, some 1,000 kilometres (540 nmi; 620 mi) directly south of Tokyo, Japan. "Bonin Islands" is the common name in English for Ogasawara Guntō, from the Japanese word bunin, meaning "no people" or "uninhabited." The only inhabited islands of the group are Chichi-jima , the seat of the municipal government, and Haha-jima which includes Ogasawara Village.
Ogasawara Municipality (mura) and Ogasawara Subprefecture (Tokyo Prefecture) take their names from the Ogasawara Group. However, Ogasawara Archipelago, may also be a wider collective term that includes other islands in Ogasawara Municipality, such as the Volcano Islands, along with other small, uninhabited and isolated islands. A total population of 2,440 comprising 2,000 on Chichi-jima, and 440 on Haha-jima lives in the Ogasawara Group, which have a total area of 73 square kilometres (28 sq mi).
Because the Ogasawara Islands have never been connected to a continent, many of their animals and plants have undergone unique evolutionary processes. This has led to the islands' nickname of the "The Galapagos of the Orient", and their nomination as a natural World Heritage Site on June 24, 2011. 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. 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.
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 long tons (6,800 t) vessel, 131-metre (430 ft) long, with a capacity of 1,031 passengers. To get to Hahajima, one must first get to Chichijima, and then cross by the liner Hahajima Maru.
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.
Flora has evolved differently on each of the islands. The Ogasawara Islands are sometimes referred to as the Galapagos of the Orient. These islands are home to the northern most outliers of the Clinostigma genus of palms. C. savoryianum is endemic and has been planted in mediterranean climates often with success. As well species of Metrosideros live here as well. 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 range of the Bonin Petrel extends beyond the Ogasawaras to include other islands in the northern Pacific region. There are two restricted-range species of birds on the islands the Japanese Woodpigeon (Columba janthina) and the Vulnerable Bonin White-eye (Apalopteron familiare), formerly known as "Bonin Honeyeater". The Japanese Woodpigeon was extirpated in the Iwo Island groups in the 1980s. 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.
The Ogasawara Islands have been referenced in a number of works of fiction. Bonin, by Robert Standish, describes itself as 'a novel', but claims 'this book is an accurate history of the Bonin 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 and authorities, and a detailed map of the Chichijima group (on the back end-paper), including over 50 English place-names. The Sevii Islands from Pokémon, FireRed and LeafGreen are based on the Bonin Islands.