There was a traditional folk house inn on the island
I love to draw the Japanese archipelago, but there is one location where each time I draw it, I imagine incredible nature: The Goto Islands, which are 60km west of the Port of Sasebo, on Kyushu. The Goto Islands are located in the East China Sea, somewhat isolated from the rest of the Japanese archipelago. Most of the places I’ve included in the low-altitude, high-resolution tour are ones I’ve visited before, but the Goto Islands are different. Their topography is what led me to decide to visit. Exactly as expected, the islands offered simple, serene nature, rich fishing grounds and fertile soil suitable to crop cultivation and livestock; in this half-agricultural, half-fishing economy, the people lived quiet lives. >
The island I visited was Ojika. Apparently the other islands in the group were formed by marine uplift, but as the lone volcanic island in the group, Ojika shows traces of several volcanic craters on the shore, yielding magnificent scenery. A cape that was formed when the lava ran into the sea is called Hana (nose), and there is a place known as Nagasaki Hana that is covered in pasture grass where black cattle graze. This scene appeared as idyllic and tranquil as a landscape painting too good to be true. Cows were utilized in land reclamation projects on the island, and many lost their lives in the difficult construction work. On the shore, there is a shrine with a monument called Ushi no to (Cow Pagoda) for the repose of their departed souls.
I was enchanted by the white sand beach known as Kakinohama. The conditions of this beach, with its stones, sand and waves are the same on every coast around the world, but I was impressed by this scene, with its breathtakingly clear water and small unspoiled beach. In past years, the fishermen were able to bring in great numbers of abalone and turban shells, but in recent years, the hauls have decreased, due to the rising temperature of the ocean. Global climate change has affected this island too. However, the pure, empty seashore was very pleasant.
Ojika Island, somewhat humanoid in shape, is 30km in circumference, with four ports and villages moderately spaced around the island. Perhaps because the island’s past is one of interaction with various countries and regions, prospering because of its strategic position in trade and whaling, the people here have an enterprising spirit. They also have the inner strength to identify what they really need for their lives. And their faith in nature is powerful as well, as their island home is in a typhoon path. On this island, there are six refurbished traditional homes operated as inns.
There are seven traditional houses on the island that Alex Kerr refurbished in 2007 with the help of Ojika Island’s people and their skills. Carr is known for his success in the business of refurbishing traditional Japanese homes, based on his understanding of the beauty of the East. One is the restaurant Keisho Fujimatsu and the other six are private rental villas, each unique in appearance: Hoshu, Nichigetsu-an, Sakishoji, Oyake, Ichigo-an and Ichie-an. I stayed at the house known as Oyake, a samurai residence, which once belonged to the wealthy Kondo family. The traditional samurai-style house has been transformed in line with Mr. Kerr’s vision into an establishment in which to welcome and entertain people from around the world.
In considering Japan’s future resources, it is essential to approach traditions that contain overwhelming individualism, but due to the Meiji Restoration and our country’s defeat in World War II, the Japanese people have completely lost their confidence in their own culture. An outside eye with a strong sense of beauty is effective when considering high-resolution local creations that appeal in a global context, dispelling the clichéd image of tourism. At Keisho Fujimatsu, I came upon Alex Kerr’s calligraphy of 乾坤一擲 (Kenkon Itteki, or All or Nothing) and I was struck by the profundity of its meaning.
Around 1800, Nozaki Island, east of Ojika, was settled by Christians who brought their faith there, starting with just two families. At one point the population climbed to 650, but with rapid economic growth and changes in lifestyle, people gradually left the island. I went to visit an abandoned church in the middle of the island, which is managed by a staff member of Ojika Island Tourism who registered a legal domicile on the island. The brick church was both unexpectedly pleasant to behold, and in a better location than anticipated.