A Trip to Sadogashima – Part 3: Bathtub Boat

For my last day on Sadogashima I decided to go with the public bus to the other port town of Ogi on the south-western edge of the island. The main port is called Ryōtsu and located in the northern bay. The ride from the southern town of Sawata to Ogi took about one hour and fifteen minutes. It followed the coastline for a bit, then cut inland and climbed over the southern mountains. It was one hell of a lonely ride with only some ten people on the bus. Nevertheless they had a tourist information center in Ogi and you could rent a bicycle with battery assist for a few yen. I of course promptly did that and rode on to the target, the “bathtub ride” at the tiny islands of Yajima and Kyojima. In the old days locals used such tubs to ride along shallow reef coastlines, hunting for urchins and muscles. According to the lady who was my tub’s captain, some people are still doing this even today. I have the feeling though that more tourists are shipped with the bathtubs than urchins are being caught these days. It was fun but quite a wobbly affair and the danger that the tub will lose balance and empty you into the ocean was high 😉 You surely gotta balance your passengers on the tub.

Then I rode on to a secret cove and saw some incredible tugged away fishing villages. While I am looking for my prefect island retirement place, this kind of fishing village will surely not be it. The secret cove was a very nice spot though.

Back on the public bus, I changed buses somewhere in the middle of nowhere and rode on to the temple area. There is the Myosenji and the Sadogashima Kokubunji on the same road. The bus rode past Kokubunji and I thought it would be nice to walk back to it after having visited Myosenji and to board the return bus from there. Said and done, I got off at Myosenji, which is especially nice thanks to it’s five-stories pagoda. There was one family there visiting it apart from myself. Then I walked some two kilometers back along the road to Kokubunji and not a single soul was there. What was more, there was no sign of a bus stop. Yikes!

I waited at a parking area, determined to wave at the bus and hoping it stopped. There was nobody around and on the road a car passed me only once every few minutes. I already saw myself stuck there, either having to call a taxi or walking some five kilometers to the next village. But, the bus came, I waved, it stopped! Hya! Thanks! It felt very good to be back on that bus 😉
All things considered, Sadogashima is a beautiful island, remote, rather big, sparsely populated and a nice getaway from metropolis stress. I still prefer Okinawa though, because it doesn’t get cold there in winter 😉 Okinawa offers a “resort” feeling, even in the smaller and lonelier islands. Sadogashima lacks that “resort” aspect, but it has a rich history and is well worth a visit 🙂

My Friends’ Account of Kyushu Earthquakes

The island of Kyushu is a good 1000 km away from Tokyo and the trouble there has so far no influence on us here in the Kanto area. However, I have a special relationship to Kyushu, since I studied at the University of Kyushu in Fukuoka for a year and two months with a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education. I have come to love Kyushu a lot and the great time I had there was one of the factors for why I thought to want to live in Japan for a longer period of time.

I still have two close friends in Kyushu, one is living in Fukuoka, one is living in a town called Isahaya in Nagasaki prefecture. I am in frequent mail and also phone contact with them now.
Isahaya is only 85 km west of the epicentre of the quakes in Kumamoto, if with water in between, the Isahaya and Shimabara bays. Fukuoka lies 120 km north of Kumamoto.

My friend in Isahaya has two small children of 4 and 2, a boy and a girl. They are yet too young to understand what’s going on but were panicking and crying when the first quake hit out of the blue on Thursday evening local time. It shakes heftily in Isahaya, but so far there is no damage to houses or people. Funnily, I “fled” the great East Japan earthquake of 2011, commonly known here as 3/11 because it happened on the 11th of March, to Isahaya and stayed a week there with my friend, who was pregnant at the time.

My friend in Fukuoka has more trouble despite being farther away from Kumamoto. Also in Fukuoka there is no house or people damage yet, but… My friend has two boys of 12 and 10 years and those two know what’s going on. It shakes frequently all over Japan, but it’s the first bigger quakes experience for the two boys. While the older one plays it cool, the younger one is freaked out. There have been over 250 quakes since the first one on Thursday night, many of them big. On Friday night, the younger boy was sitting in the bathtub when it shook again more significantly. He panicked, jumped butt naked and dripping wet out of the tub and ran crying through the apartment looking for his mother. His older brother, still playing it cool, is now teasing him with that… the poor kid! My friend has her hands full with getting the boys under control.
Then, last night, there was a huge quake of more than 7 on the Richter scale at around 1:30 in the morning. My friend was still up and scared, but guess what, the two boys slept (thankfully) through that one!

So, even where there is no destruction, people are stressed, on edge, and kids get traumatized.
I dearly hope that things calm down quickly now in Kyushu so that people can start taking care of the damage and move back to normal, but alas, they are predicting some sort of spring storm for Kyushu tonight with heavy rains and high winds, what will make the situation for many much more miserable. I hope the storm is not getting too bad and that the shaking finally subsides and that Mt. Aso doesn’t freak now too. Mt. Aso is one of the many very active volcanoes of Japan. Even before the quake it was puffing along and you were not allowed to get within a mile of the crater. I’ve been at the crater during my student times, but got sick from the sulphur smell after five minutes and stumbled gasping down the mountain…
We truly are sitting on the Ring of Fire here, yes, we all know that, but nevertheless it’s hard when we get so many reminders of just how alive the Earth under our feet is, which, by the way, makes Japan also a very beautiful place. I hope my lovely Kyushu will calm down soon!