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Tue, Aug. 25, 2015 Kikaijima: Life on a Coral Island
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Kikaijima is a coral island in the far south of Kagoshima Prefecture, about 1,300 kilometers from Tokyo. It has a circumference of 48.6 kilometers and a population of about 7,200.

Surrounded by cobalt-blue sea filled with colorful coral, the island boasts a rich natural environment, with trees that are several hundred years old. Because no major resorts have been developed on Kikaijima, it remains quite unspoiled. And the slow, natural pace of life seems little changed from the old days.

On this edition of Journey in Japan, actress/musician Ananda Jacobs explores the island, meets the people and starts to discover the secret of their contentment.

Aden Village
Aden Village
n this village, the streets have walls made of coral. Aden, Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Yonyori Kikaijima (Kikaijima volunteer guides)
Yonyori Kikaijima (Kikaijima volunteer guides)
Kikaijima Tourism & Product Association
384-1 Wan, Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Tel: +81(0)997-65-1202
Giant banyan tree (gajumaru)
Giant banyan tree (gajumaru)
This banyan tree is more than 100 years old. It stands 17.7 meters high and has a circumference of 16 meters.
Tekuzuku, Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Yonemori Diving Service
Yonemori Diving Service
Kikaijima's only dive shop is owned and run by Hiroyuki Yonemori.
8 Somachi, Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Tel: +81(0)997-66-1166
Hawaii Beach
Hawaii Beach
From Kikai Airport, it takes about 25 minutes by car.
Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Long, straight road through the sugarcane fields
Long, straight road through the sugarcane fields
From Kikai Airport, it takes about 20 minutes by car.
Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Kikaijima Shuzo
Kikaijima Shuzo
This distillery founded 100 years ago produces kokuto-shochu (raw sugar liquor).
Visitors are welcome to look around the factory.
2966-12 Akaren Oaza, Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Tel: +81(0)997-65-0251
Hana-noren
Hana-noren
This restaurant serves dishes made with local produce from Kikaijima.
445-38 Wan O-aza, Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Pref.
Tel: +81(0)997-65-3435
Open 5:30-11 p.m.; closed Sunday.
Kizuna Noen
Kizuna Noen
This family-run farm grows passion fruit and mangoes.
Keraji Guesthouse
Keraji Guesthouse
Accommodation for up to 4 people.
Cost: 4,000 yen per night/ 65,000 yen per month.
Keraji, Kikai-cho, Oshima-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture
Inquiries and reservations: +81(0)90-3419-3774 (in Japanese only)
Access
accessmap
To reach Kikajima from Tokyo, take a flight from Haneda Airport to Kagoshima or Amami, and then transfer onto a local plane to Kikai Airport. Either way, it takes about 4 to 5 hours.
Travel Log

Traveler: Ananda Jacobs > More Info

Nationality:U.S.A.

Occupation:Musician, actor

Length of residence in Japan:9 years

Reason for coming to Japan:
Modeling

There is a distinct feeling of community in Kikaijima. In the physical sense, of course, it is a small island, limited in all directions by the sea. But the feeling of connectedness and community was especially strong on this island. In each village there is a distinct identity, and even a distinct dialect that still manages to mix in with standard Japanese.

I also got a sense that the people here are proud of their self-sufficiency and local resources, whether it be on the industrial level (sugarcane or shochu), or on a more personal, human level. Restaurants proudly serve the latest catch or vegetable in season. There is one live music venue on the island, and everyone seemed to know what was going on there on a given day. One resident put it succinctly: it’s expensive and impractical to fly in famous, popular musicians from the mainland or elsewhere, so they make do just fine with local talents - and incidentally, the level of talent in music and sports seems to be quite high. Out of necessity and practicality, the communities do things for themselves on many levels.

As the island is made of coral, it was interesting to see what kind of relationship the residents had with this material.

While at first I thought there might be a special reverence for it — there was a shrine built around a large chunk of coral — I soon discovered that there isn’t really a mystical attachment to it. It's merely what's there, what's available. There was no special attachment to it. Just an acceptance that that’s what the island is made of.

This neutrality and practicality seemed to permeate other areas of island life as well. In a snorkeling excursion, while underwater our guide pointed to a large, beautiful sea urchin — and, without hesitation, promptly and expertly plucked it from its dwelling for later use as a meal.

I encountered a stillness here, a sense of not being rushed. And also a sense of positivity. There was no air of complaining or wishing for something more.

I was grateful for this island as I began to think about how this related to existence in general. Acceptance, satisfaction and adaptation — important pieces of human existence no matter the setting.

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