An island friend of mine, a JET program English teacher at Chichijima, Ogasawara, asked me a couple questions to post up on a display board in the highschool’s international room for their summer open house. I’m reminiscing now and thought to post it here as well.
How did you hear about Ogasawara?
My name is Kaori Freda and I was a volunteer WWOOFer at Pelan Village in Chichijima, Ogasawara. I had the incredible opportunity to work, live, and laugh with the Shimizu family for 6 months during 2015-2016. I’ve had equally amazing experiences WWOOFing in Morocco, Italy, and Saitama, Japan, but this was only the second time I was so inspired to change my lifestyle and become absorbed into my surroundings. I saw Pelan Village’s post for volunteers on the WWOOF website and thought to myself: “This is it. This is the place where my heart and soul will blossom, where I can rejuvenate while helping a peaceful and loving Japanese family who follow a grounded and welcoming way of life in nature.” And I really followed my heart on that one and came away from the experience understanding how a healthy and nurturing family lives together, communicates together.
What do you think about Ogasawara?
I think fondly of my time Ogasawara: never before had I been so deeply immersed in an island culture, with the sea at my doorstep (figuratively) and the fish streaming below my gaping eyes as I snorkelled every day. Nature on the islands is a force to be reckoned with and impacted the way I think now: now that I am back in a bustling city, I try extra hard to appreciate the greenery surrounding me because I lived in the middle of the coffee mountain in Chichijima. The community on Ogasawara is very nurturing and while I’m sure it can also become insular at time, it was so welcoming and kind to me. I love Ogasawara and I love the way the people care for nature by beach-cleaning, gathering up the feral cats that prey on the wood pigeons, and creating community.
Where is your favorite place in Ogasawara?
Undoubtedly my favourite place in Ogasawara were the snorkelling spots peppered around Chichijima. One time on New Years Ryo and his guests and I went out very early in the morning to greet the new year on our sea kayaks, despite the rain and rocky waves. I remember struggling to keep in line with the other kayakers, and finding such great joy when we parked our kayaks on the rocky beach and I finally got to snorkel, sans wet-suit. The water was blessedly clear, with streams of bright inquisitive fish flowing by beneath me. I can never remember the name of that particular spot but I do remember how lovely the coral and fish were- I felt like I was a stranger who had been invited to the deepest, richest part of a city in a mystical underwater world.
What did you find coolest about Ogasawara?
The community. I was inspired by the island’s little society: it was like a big family. I’m definitely going back for a month one summer soon!