Nakajima Island: The Neverland

I woke up on a wonderful sunny day, ready to go to Nakajima Island. I took a train to Takahamako port and I waited for the first boat to Nakajima. After a half hour trip, I got to the island. I thought I’d start my journey from the biggest one, and then try to reach the others of the Kutsuna archipelago on the same day.

On the boat, I met a very nice woman called Mayumi, who explained to me how it would have been impossible to go to more than one island on the same day because of the big distances between them. She said that I could have visited just one for a day trip. So I decided to stay in Nakajima, which was the most impressive. She offered me a ride because her husband was waiting for her arrival in the port, with their two children. I got in the car with them and she brought me to a very nice restaurant. I ate a delicious marinated fresh fish with little tomatoes – it reminded me of Italian flavors because of the tomatoes and the marinated sauce with balsamic vinaigrette – she ordered an amazing salmon sandwich with avocado and black bread and a pizza.

After lunch, I met a very interesting lady called Hiro, who was the owner of the restaurant. She came from Hokkaido island and she spoke English well. She said: “If you want to visit the island, there’re some people in the afternoon who conduct tours there”, “Of course I want to go!” I said. Therefore, she gave me an appointment for the afternoon. In the meantime, Mayumi introduced me to the English teacher of the school, so I could speak with him since she knew very few English words. He was a shy Japanese guy, who spoke good English and tried to explain everything about his island in the best way. They showed me a little part of the island, and we stopped on the seashore to take pictures and walk on the white sand. Even though I couldn’t bathe, it was a pleasure just feeling the sea breeze and the warm sun on my skin. Mayumi gave me a delicious ice-cream, and some figs from her garden, she acted like a mom and I felt so pampered. It’s unbelievable how people could be so nice and amazing, although you have never seen them before.

At three p.m. they brought me back to the restaurant, where Miss Hiro, with other two people, was waiting for me. There was Yuki, a pretty girl, who worked for the Japanese channel NHK. She was making a report about Nakajima, and she needed someone who brought her to the island. Then, there was Yuki – yes, they have the same name, it isn’t a mistake – a young farmer from the island, who came to picked us up with his little van. He had a lot of orange plantations and he knew the region very well. We went up and down the hills, seeing amazing landscapes unlocked in front of my eyes and impressing me with the beauty of nature. The hills were covered with the orange and green tea plantations, stunning green dales filled the horizon and came down till the sea. Yuki showed us a typical farm house, a very old house full of furniture and very, very cheap to rent. I was thinking to move to the island, and start a new life as a farmer! Life is very simple there because you don’t need many material things; it’s very different from the rest of Japan, and this dazzled me. On the island, there was just a supermarket, a school, few restaurants and beautiful nature. During the trip, they tried to speak English with me and we could have a great conversation about several topics, especially about the island activities. I found out that the cost of life there is cheaper than the rest of Japan, as they grow all the raw materials, and there’s a lot of sea products and water, so they don’t need anything from the mainland. The island is completely self-contained.

Before we went back to the port, Yuki took two fishing rods and a pair of rain boots for me. He brought us to the rocks to fish in the sea. For me was the first fishing experience in the sea and I was thrilled. Yuki caught two fish, but she was excited too. He demonstrated us how to cast the line and how to wait for fishes. Yuki caught out three fishes very soon, I waited a long time, before catching three too. Obviously, we set the fishes free in the water, but we enjoyed it so much. It was a great experience.

The time passed so fast and I had to come back to Matsuyama soon. I was very lucky because Yuki – the girl – came back with me and Yuki paid the ferry for us. We stayed on the deck and, while we were talking, an amazing sunset popped up in front of us. We looked at the horizon in silence because the scenery was stunning and we were totally absorbed by it.

The island is a sort of Wonderland, where people live together in harmony and seems they are all friends. It’s a very different reality, from the cities of the mainland. I saw beautiful white beaches that soaked into the blue water of the Seto Inland Sea. It reminded me of Sicily, the wonderful Italian island, with its orange plantations, the high hills, the green landscapes and the amazing sea views.

Nakajima Island is like Neverland and I felt like Peter Pan. I think that nobody could get old there.

Matsuyama and Gogoshima… Starting out in the Shikoku region

This summer I saw stunning sunsets and wonderful landscapes in Japan, and most were in Shikoku and its little islands. I was alone, and I often spent my time sitting down on a rock or on a beach or simply on a bench, just enjoying the view and thinking about my life.

I took a direct train from Okayama city, which has a long bridge that connects the mainland with Shikoku island. The journey took about two hours by bullet train, and I arrived in Matsuyama in the early afternoon. I walked for twenty minutes to reach the Apa hotel, and I was extremely tired because of the weight of my backpack. I really don’t know why it always grows heavier as I move about. Anyway, the hotel was very convenient and in a wonderful location. It was in front of a green park and the paths to the castle. The Apa is a famous Japanese chain of cheap hotels, and all the rooms are fully equipped with many amenities. In the common areas there are some vending machines, a Laundromat and a microwave. It has also a dedicated manga, in which the characters of the story stay at the Apa hotel. My room was on the seventh floor, so I had a wonderful river view, and I could see also the castle.

At five in the afternoon I left the hotel, and went walking through the park. When I saw one of the paths to the castle, I tried to follow it. The slope was a bit steep, but the weather wasn’t hot, and there was a pleasant breeze. I’d stopped in front of a historical building, which was the gardens of the castle, but it was closed because of the late time. I could hear classical music coming from inside, and, considering that there wasn’t anybody around, I started to dance in front of the big wooden doorway. I felt like a princess, dancing for my king… but there wasn’t any king. Then a boy ran through the path, and broke the magical atmosphere! Then another person arrived, and I realized that I wasn’t alone any more. I started to walk again, certain to reach the top of the castle. On the street I met a very strange Japanese man, who was talking with some Smurfs – some plastic miniatures representing the blue creatures from a famous cartoon – which he put on a big felled tree trunk. He really scared me, because he had been having a serious conversation with them, and I found it a very strange behaviour. I started to walk faster and pass behind him, scared he could follow me with his Smurfs. I think that it’s very funny now, I’m laughing while writing it, but in that moment it was very frightening. Anyway, I left him behind, and finally I reached the top of the hill and what I saw was amazing. The view up there was stunning, and I could see through the city till the coast. The sky turned orange and then red… It was the sundown time, a marvellous sunset. The atmosphere turned weird, and a lot of black birds were flying all around and broke into the red sky. Suddenly, everything changed and I found myself moving into a fairytale. The lovely cold wind raised my hair, and I stood on the top of the castle looking down to the sea, where it met with the sky and both turned into one. I had a lump in my throat because I was surrounded by the beauty of nature, and I was completely pervaded by emotions. Even though there were few people up there, I felt thoroughly alone, just me and myself, fighting against my demons and trying to find the answers to my life. With a dark sky I went back through the path, so I was in the wood, and I heard the real sounds of nature, as a beautiful soundtrack for my return downhill. When I entered in my room, I was quite shocked from the sensations I felt, but also reassured.

The morning after I walked through the city for a while, then in the afternoon, I decided to go to the coast and see the sea. I took a train to Takahamako port. The journey was about 40 minutes, but while the train was running it started to rain. I was a bit worried because I wanted to sit down on the beach and breathe the sea breeze. When the train stopped, I was so happy because the rain also stopped. While I was walking through the pier, the sun started to shine and I could feel the warmth of the sun’s rays all over my skin, a pleasant sensation. I climbed over a little wall on the sidewalk, and I fell from a ladder into a white and deserted beach. I went up the rocks, which formed a sort of bridge over the sea. I sat down there – me, the sun, and the wind. I live in a city, so for me it’s very strange to find deserted places where I can sit down and think. I spent about one hour there, dancing and singing, then I went back to the pier and took a little boat, and I reached one of the islands in the Seto Sea. It was the nearest one because it was already 4 p.m. I arrived at Gogoshima island after 15 minutes. It is very little, but extremely beautiful. I walked the road over the sea, searching for an isolated place to sit down. I saw a little, lonely beach under the road, but I should have come down from the top of the street. I held a rope, secured firmly to the railing, and falling down to the beach. I gripped the rope and I dropped from the rocks, even though I had some problems reaching the ground, and I scratched myself on the rocks. I did it and I felt so lucky because nobody could have known where I was, and it seemed I was abandoned on a desert island. I sat on the sand for a while, before trying to reach the top, climbing the rocks with the rope. The wall was very steep, and I found it harder than coming down. Anyway, I loved the adventure and I felt alive when I did something that few people could have done. Sometimes my friends think I’m mad, but I love the way I live, even though it’s a bit unconventional. I went back to the little port and I waited for the boat to the mainland. Another day had passed by, but it was another amazing day!

In my room I planned the boat trip for the day after. I wanted to go to Nakajima island and visited the other islands nearby.