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A wooded island on the ocean
To the island
When the port came into sight, the color of the sea suddenly changed.

I opened my eyes wide as the sea in front of me looked different from the sea I had been seeing.

A tree stood on another small island slightly further away from the wooded island on the ocean.

“What is that?”

I asked the captain of the ferry and he answered, “That is the solitary pine.”

When the ferry approached the port, I could see streetlights along the pier. There were also large tires tied to the bow of the ferry.

As a ferry does not run on the street, of course, why are the tires tied there?

As that thought entered my mind, the tires hit concrete at the edge of the port upon arrival.

The ferry rolled, left the port, and then softly reached the shore again.

“The ferry would hurt if it hits the pier directly.”

When I said that, the captain answered, “Yes, the ferry is an important transportation here.”

Several cars lined up at the port. The passengers got off the ferry and walked toward the cars chatting to each other.

I looked around.

From dark green to blue, and then to ocean blue, the ocean spread smoothly.

There was a dark green, woodsy mountain surrounding the ocean.

Some tall trees were pushed out from the mountain as if struggling to see the ocean closer.

I started walking, following the road from the port to the hill.

To the beach
When I finished the winding road leading directly to the hill, I raised my voice after the ocean entered my eyes again.

The long beach all consisted of white sand and shaped a round bay. Knobbed trees surrounded the beach like they were depicting an arc.

There was a girl on the beach.
She was singing a song toward the sea, playing an instrument with tense strings.

Shodon nagahama ni uchage hikyuru nami ya
Shodon muerabue nu warai haguki

Uraura nu fukasa shodonura nu fukasa
Shodon muerabue nu umue nu fukasa

Although I did not understand what she sang at all, her singing voice seemed to reach the islands seen opposite in the distance.

I applauded to her song, and she greeted me with a bow and a smile answering, ”This song is ‘Shodon-nagahama bushi’.”

“This beach is called Shodon-nagahama. People from Okinawa frequently visited here in the old days. Then, one of them fell in love with a girl of this village, and he sang ‘The white teeth on smile of the girl from Shodon village is like white waves beating the shore.’ and ‘The thought of the girl of Shodon is deeper than the sea of Shodon-nagahama.’”

“And then, what happened to them?”

I asked, and she lowered her head.

“I have no idea. The man went back on his word and returned to his island, I guess.”

“Why do you think so? Is there any reason?”

I asked, and she said, shrugging her shoulders,

“He might have his own reasons.”

She laid down on the beach muttering “That’s silly!”, and closed her eyes after opening and closing several times.

To the road toward the ocean
After a short walk from the beach, a widely open rice field came into view. A narrow, straight path laid in the center of the rice field.

In the rice field, a man wearing a hat was watching rice plants, bending his body. I greeted him with a slight bow.

After he wiped his face with his towel, he said, making his tanned face wizened,

“In winter, you can see the sun setting from this rice field as if it follows this path down to the sea. In autumn, the rice plants trail and sparkle in gold. It’s so beautiful. Big, white migratory birds come here, too.”

“That sounds wonderful. It has to be beautiful.”

The tanned man made his face wizened again and replied, “Yeah, you should come to see them.”

Then, I headed to the beach again, walking on the path in the middle of the rice field that seemed like continuing to the sea.

With the children
As it seemed that the girl I had met went somewhere else, I could not find her. Instead, little children were playing on the beach.

“Where are you from?”

The children asked, looking at me with their pure eyes.

“Where am I from?”

When I repeated their question to myself, they individually asked me.
“Don’t you know where you are from?”
“Aren’t you an adult?”
“Are you okay?”

“No, I don’t know. I haven’t known it for a long time.”

When I said so, I felt something hot coming up from my throat. Then, the children told me to hold out my hand.

I opened my hand and held it out, and they placed three translucent greenish blue round-shaped objects on my palm.
“These are Sea Glass.”
“Broken glass becomes like this if it gets in the ocean.”
“Even broken glass becomes like this in the ocean.”

They said individually, the same as before, but more seriously this time.

“Broken glass just hurts us if we touch it directly.”

I muttered to myself, and they said individually again,

“No problem.”
“Although it hurts us, it becomes like this if it gets into the ocean.”
“It becomes like this if it gets in the ocean.”

Then, they said, “So, we give you them.”

“Are you sure?”

I was so surprised, and because of it, a sensation ran through my chest.

“No problem.”
“They are yours.”
“Our pleasure..”

The children said so, and ran away on the beach, saying “Goodbye”.

Even broken things can get beautiful.

Even abandoned things have their second chance to be beautiful, again.

I softly clasped the Sea glass left in my palm.


To the bus
As I walked out of the beach, I found a small bus stop standing alone. After a while, also a tiny, red and cream colored bus arrived.

“This bus will be on a break for an hour.”

The bus driver said and I answered, “It’s all right.”

“We will arrive before the sun sets and it will be beautiful today.”

“Sure.” I answered and got on the bus.

The bus ran on a winding road and took a break along the way.
I changed to another bus and it ran on a road above a waterfall.
It was almost sunset when the bus arrived at the bus stop with a white bench by a creek.

“Be careful of habu snakes when you walk at night.”

The bus driver said and waved to me.

Again, to the ocean
When I passed under a big tree and arrived at the beach, I found a big rock on the right.

The rock was so huge to estimate how many houses had to be piled up to be of a comparable size. There were colorful rocks on the shore, different from the white sand beach I had visited back in the day.

I sat down on one of them that looked like a seat.

The sun started to slowly set to the west.
The colors were changing with the tone of the sunlight.

The color of waves were changing from light purple, pink, red, and then to gold.
The color of the air was also changing from light purple, pink, red, and then to gold.

The Sea glass that I received from the children clattered in my palm.

“Be careful of habu snakes when you walk at night.”

When the bus driver said so, I felt,

Scary.

The color of the sunlight was changing again with the waves. Beautifully. Clearly.

Scary.

Why did I have such a thought?

If there is something scary, the only thing is to blend into the silent night.

No, it might not even be a scary thing.

We have already blended into the night, morning, glassy water surface, wind quivering trees, and the wooded island on the ocean.


I still remember an image of his white teeth and how his smile made me happy. Even when I close my eyes, these images do not disappear. Actually, it feels as if my eyelids are a screen and my brain is a projector. Although I try to banish my thoughts, memories and past, they do not disappear.

Perhaps, it is a common thing.

However, I could not wipe this adhered misery nor move from there.

At such time, I came to Kakeroma Island.

A tropical island with a population not more than 1,400.

Of course, it has the beautiful sea and mountains.

There was no wonder that my heart was cured here after a few years.

But, then, what is the next?

As I thought of it, I thought it would be better if I write.

Regardless, I want to throw away everything.

Although I wanted to do it, I couldn’t.

Now, I believe that “to lose” means “to earn losing”.
Then, I also believe that the things I lost can return to my hands in unexpected ways.

That is what I learned in Kakeroma Island, a wooded island on the ocean.

To the people I haven’t met and the future we haven’t known, I wish to make a toast on the beach a few seconds away from my house.

November 2015
From Kakeroma Island, Kagoshima
Akiko Mitani
About Kakeroma Island, an island that seems to float in the middle of the ocean.
15 minutes by boat from Koniya, a town in the south of Amami-oshima Island, Kagoshima.
Kakeroma Island is a peaceful island with a population of 1,400, which has tiny villages along its ria coastline.
Akiko Mitani

An author, was born in Tokyo, Japan. She moved to Kakeroma Island, Kagoshima in 2013. While writing novels and columns, she started “ILAND identity”, an apparel brand in the autumn of 2015, to produce and sell products to promote the cultural value of Kakeroma Island.
Akiko Mitani’s Works
“Rokudenashi 6TEEN (Losel of 16)” (Shogakukan)
“Haraguroi 11 nin no onna (Wicked 11 girls)” (yours-store).
“Kougecho” (Short stories, available on the web)

Kaoru Aoki
In 1977, he was born in Niigata, Japan. In 1999, he graduated from Tama Art University, Faculty of Art and Design, Department of Painting, Oil Painting Course. After working as a graphic designer and a teacher for special support education schools, he moved to Kakeroma Island in 2012 and started his career as a portrait painter. In the same year, he received the new face award of the 59th All Japan Portrait Exhibition. In July 2015, he opened a guest house “Kamudy” in Kanyu village of Kakeroma Island, as a place to match the locals and newcomers.

IPERUIPE
http://iperuipe.jp/

Kamudy
http://kamudy.com/