Monday, August 4, 2014

Okinoshima-cho, Okinoshima Day 3

The sun setting as I approach Dogo

Okinoshima is the most populous of the four towns, at approximately 15,000 people. The entire population occupies the largest island of Dogo, as well as the uninhabited islets of Okinashima, Obanashima, Tsunameshima, Shijikijima and Ombeshima . This is obvious from the first arrival. The port at Okinoshima was the most prominent and developed of the four ports I had seen on Oki. The most discernable difference was this is was made from glass and concrete, unlike the wooden pavilions I had seen in Dozen.

The port at Dogo on Okinoshima

Over one hundred years ago, famed travelor Lafcardio Hearn was also impressed by the modern appearance of the port of Okinoshima.

“Saigo was a great surprise. Instead of the big fishing village I had
expected to see, I found a city much larger and handsomer and in all
respects more modernized than Sakai; a city of long streets full of good
shops; a city with excellent public buildings; a city of which the whole
appearance indicated commercial prosperity. Most of the edifices were
roomy two story dwellings of merchants, and everything had a bright, new
look. The unpainted woodwork of the houses had not yet darkened into
grey; the blue tints of the tiling were still fresh. I learned that this
was because the town had been recently rebuilt, after a conflagration,

and rebuilt upon a larger and handsomer plan.”

The ferry from Dozen to Dogo

The port also boasted an arrival platform similar to those in airports, where residents can early await the arrival of guests. I spotted my host there. He was easy to find, being blonde and over six feet tall. At the arrival platform I bid goodbye to my ship companions and hopped in the car with my host.

That evening we dined at the home of a local woman from Okinoshima. She was close to seventy, with a grown daughter and grandchildren in elementary school. The menu was a Japanese-European fusion of croquettes, pasta salad, chawanmushi, and purin. We dined in traditional Japanese fashion, sitting at a low table on the tatami floor. The conversation hovered around the future plans of all foreigners at the table, including myself, who all planned to leave Japan in August. We also talked about our host’s family. The woman’s daughter had married an American man fifteen years ago and moved with him to the United States. She showed us their wedding photos and pictures of their children.

When we returned to the home of my foreign host, we ended the night by eating ice cream and watching an American movie. Just after midnight I made my futon in the guest room and fell asleep just before midnight.

An excellent home-cooked dinner

My bed on Dogo for the night


The next morning I struggled to awake even with the blaring ring of my alarm. It was the third and final day of my 3-Day Walk. I had only 12K to walk but I could already tell that it would be challenging. My feet were incredibly sore from the previous days, I had blisters on every toe, and I was drain from a night of restless sleep. I dressed and quietly slipped out of the house at 6:45 am, careful not to wake my still sleeping host.

The house where I stayed was a 20 minute walk from the port, about 1.5 kilometers. I left my suitcase at the house, where I would return to get it later, and quietly walked to the pier.

After reaching the pier I boarded a chartered bus that drove us to the starting point, which took nearly an hour. I napped on the way to catch up from last night’s lack of sleep. The starting point was in an open field in front of a camp site.  Based on the course map, this would be an interior walk through the island, and we would only be briefly near the shoreline.

At 8:30 promptly we started out walking to the coast, were I was met with the same solitary white lighthouse that I had seen from the ferry to Oki. Now I was on the land behind the lighthouse, looking out into the sea that brought me.

The course then had us turn around and walk back through the campsite. It was mostly a flat paved path that ascended only slightly uphill to end at a peaceful lake. The water was so still and calm that it perfectly reflected the green mountains behind it.

The perfect mirror

After walking around the lake, the path lead back down the hill and into town, where I crossed over one final bridge before arriving at the goal. There, my final lunch bento was waiting for me, and it was the largest of all. I ate outside by the shoreline while waiting for the bus back into town.

The bridge at the finish line

My large victory bento

The chartered bus carried us back to the port at 1:00 pm, but my walk wasn’t over. I still had to trek another 1.5 kilometers to my host’s house, shower and pack, then walk 1.5 K back to the port to catch the ferry to the mainland. In total, I walked 16K by the time I reached the ferry to Matsue. I was so exhausted that I grabbed a bamboo matt and fell asleep on the deck for entire 2-hour ride.

The sight of Shichiri Port in the distance only signaled that I was one-third of the way finished with my journey home. I still had to take a bus back to Matsue station, then a train back to Oda station, then drive 45 minutes to my home.

The sun was setting as I boarded the train, and it was dark by the time I started my drive. Along the drive home, my thoughts wandered to the Oki Islands, where the stars would be shining gloriously over a black sea.  

Manhole cover of Okinoshima

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