I am ecstatic to announce that at October’s end, I will be meeting up with my good friend and fellow Reedie Mick Song to WWOOF on a nearby farm. We’ll be commiserating, traveling, farming, and sharing good experiences together for an entire week!
My island destination.
After that, I’ll meet my future host in Tokyo to take the Chichijima ferry for a 25 hour trip to the recently designated Word Heritage Ogasawara Archipelago (also known as the Bonin Islands), smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They are comprised of about 30 different islands, although Ogasawara’s main inhabited islands are Chichijima, (父島 “Father island” in Japanese), and Hahajima. Somehow, these islands far far away from the mainland are still defined as part of Tokyo prefecture.
Bonin actually originates from the Japanese word bonun, which means uninhabited. The Islands were colonised in 1830, and generally held in Western control until they were given back to Japan after WWII. I’ll be on Chichijima, working at a ecological resort and touring business that was created 25 years by a Tokyoite who decided to leave the city for tropical paradise.
Apparently when he moved to the island, land wasn’t up for sale, so he worked for an agricultural nonprofit for 7 years before his boss offered him a parcel of land. At first, he wasn’t sure because the property was surrounded by jungle and he had dreamed of an ocean view. But later, he returned to the island and climbed atop a tree. There, he witnessed a glorious sunset and soon after, decided to buy the land.
New to construction and architectural planning, he worked relentlessly over the course of a year to build a Hinoki kit log house, and since then has been a prolific house builder, completing more than 11 tiny houses.
His wife seems really lovely, and is a yoga instructor on the island. She has been my main correspondence and although I don’t yet know very much about her, she has been incredibly helpful. She seems to love to cook, to advocate for an inner awareness of the body’s energies, and holds yoga classes on the beach during sunset. Together, this amazing couple regularly holds summer sea-kayaking, surfing, and fishing camps for kids.
I found this opportunity through WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and am hoping it is going to be as amazing as my agricultural and cross cultural experiences in Morocco and Italy. I’m really hoping it is a good fit, that I become strong and resilient, and that I can stay until mid-to-late summer.
Wish me luck!
When I die, can you throw my ashes from the top of this mountain? Please?
Lonely planet says that it will make for “a rustic and authentic Ogasawara experience. [Live] in a sustainable eco-retreat in a leafy mountainside setting, with basic wooden cabins, solar showers and bush toilets. The operators grow their own food.”
For at least three months, I will be doing some heavy lifting, chopping trees, paving forest trails, and helping to build houses. Winter is mild on the islands, although typhoons are a common occurrence and it is advisable to own a wet suit before entering the water. I’ll get to snorkel, scuba-dive, swim (AHEM, overcome my fear of drowning), fish, sea-kayak, and surf the waves.
Since the island has only been sporadically inhabited in the last couple hundred years, there is a strong endemic tropical flora and fauna population. It’s common to see lots of fish swimming on by in the gorgeous turquoise water.
While the island produces prohibitively expensive coffee ($8/cup) and fine sea salt, they rely heavily on the mainland’s agricultural sector for produce. Thus, there doesn’t seem to be much of a local cuisine. My hosts hope to amend this problem by advocating for self-sufficient local farms.
There is a one-man-band tofu factory on the island so that’s a great start!
They keep a blog and regularly post pictures of triumphant little kids on kayaks who have made big catches. Apparently the fish are so abundant that even ignorant tourists with rental gear can succeed at catching something.
The name of the island translates to Coffee-yama, or Coffee Mountain. The islanders grow bananas, mangoes, coffee, and all sorts of weird fruit. I’ll be there for a few months, until after New Years. They have an innovative bathing and washing system using local coconut soap, baking soda, and vinegar instead of regular detergents, which would pollute their crops. Also, you must wipe with leaves. I love it.
Detailed instructional posters aid nature’s way.
Just one of the Archipelago’s many gorgeous beaches. From architectureoftravel’s blog.
What a gorgeous view!
Is this even real?!
Then, I’ll either stay on longer or finally visit my 86 year old grandmother in Nagasaki. I sent her a box of local Japanese pears, cake, and sweets the other day and she called me. I could barely understand her Japanese but suffice to say, she was happy, really surprised to receive a box from me, and invited me to visit her anytime. She kept on saying something about kaki (柿), or persimmons.
At any rate, I still have a few weeks until I hop onto the Ogasawara-maru ferry. I’ve heard the 25 hour ferry trip is a rough ride, with people crammed like sardines on yoga mats on the floor, for a mere $250.
The last time I was on a ferry I was travelling from Italy to Croatia with a great group of Reedies and one NYU student. It was maze-like, tensions were high, I bonded with a bestie, and there was this creepy Mario theme song playing incessantly.
I can’t wait to make another memory.