Asking for travel ideas [Momoshima local: Ai Nishino]
“Let’s live together in Momoshima when I get back to Japan.” “What? Where is Momoshima?!” That was how I got my start living in Momoshima, a place I now loves and have lived in for four years now. Our goal on this island where my husband’s grandparents’ home is located was a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. My days are spent tending the fields, raising chickens, and eating fresh vegetables, fruit, and eggs. I enjoy gazing at the sea, playing with my child at the beach, and chatting with old guy or gal. I live at an easy pace with my three-person family, feeling that a peaceful day to day life is more important than anything.
Here are 10 things I recommend doing in Momoshima.
1. Just walk
A key thing when visiting Momoshima is to not have any goals. Don’t worry if you’re the type to think “I want to do this!” or “I want to see that!” or “I want to eat this!” because there isn’t anything on the island. Enjoy the slow flow of time here by taking a leisurely stroll or bicycle ride. You’ll be surprised to find that there really, truly isn’t anything here (laughs). Please take in the comfy passage of time here on the island as you at everyday scenery like the three villages, small shops like those of yesteryear, the peaceful sea, old ladies at work in the fields, and napping cats.
2. Chat with the locals
Consider yourself lucky if you bump into anyone as you walk about the island! It’s such a rare occurrence that it makes one think its deserted, especially on Sundays when even the small shops close and everything is still and quiet. That’s why you’re lucky if you encounter someone! And you’re even more lucky if that someone you meet happens to be an old guy or gal. One of my friends who came visit a while back laughed saying “I couldn’t understand even half of what that old man just now was saying,” but what they’re referring to is the “Momoshima dialect”. You’ll get your chance to hear it too if a cute old lady in her 80s or 90s comes walking along (they’re as adorable as something from a Ghibli movie)! Then you can enjoy a heartwarming chat with her. One of the nicest things about Momoshima is that it’s full of people you feel like you’ve met before.
3. Spend time at the beach
Momoshima has plenty of beaches, but the three I recommend are Blue Island, Ebinomi Area, and Dango Iwa! Drink a beer while on a nice day while gazing out over the water at a seaside with no one else there. It’s the sort extravagant time only the sublime Seto Inland Sea can offer. Laying down and taking a nap makes for an even happier time. You’ll be freed from all of your weariness and worries. And not because of the drinks, either (laughs). I love the sunset as seen from the beaches that I want to see it every day even though I live here.
4. Climb mountains
Momoshima doesn’t have any tall peaks worthy of the words “mountain climbing”. Despite being a small cliff that you can reach the summit of in about minutes, Ikusando offers an unbeatable view. Anyone can make the hike in flat shoes without any major preparations. It’s just the spot for having the gorgeous islands floating the blue sea and all the other unique scenery of Setouchi all to yourself. Once you find the entrance to the path, all you have to do is follow orange ribbons!
One of the fun things you can do easily in Momoshima that you can’t in the city is a bonfire. Gather up some branches or driftwood at the beach and then light ‘em up as the sun goes down. It’s hard to leave once you gradually start to feel the warmth of the fire as it gets dark. A bonfire while watching the sea and sky change from day to night is one of the pleasures of being an adult. You can up the fun factor by baking up some potatoes, apples, marshmallows, or mikan（orange）. Maybe that last one is in Momoshima only? (laughs). Don’t tease me for being a kid. The flavor when they’re properly cooked is truly impressive!
6. The small bakery
Momoshima has a small bakery open only two days a week: Momopain, the Momoshima happiness bread factory. Tuesday is bread day, and Thursday is when they do bagels. While you generally have to place orders in advance, you might be able to buy some of the leftovers for that day if the blackboard is out front of the shop! They tend to sell out quickly, so I recommend going when things are freshly cooked (around 11 for bread and 12 for bagels). Everyone in my family are huge fans of Momopain for their particularity when it comes to ingredients and production. As it happens, my son (one year old) is particularly fond of the owner, Toshimi (laughs).
7. Sea-firefly Night Cruise
I’ve enjoyed kayaking since I arrived in Momoshima. I especially recommend trying it at night. You paddle along gazing at the sunset, and when night arrives take a rest and look up at the sky. Then just float there in a sea that is as calm and quiet as a lake. In the sky are the moon and the stars. And in the water are the sea-fireflies glimmering beautifully. It makes for a beatific time where you can be at once moved and feel yourself drift away.
8. Fish peddlers on boats
Fishermen to Fukuda Jetty in Momoshima once a week (their arrival will be announced on a local broadcast once a week, so check with a local. Recently it has been every Saturday). Part of the fun is seeing what types of fish they’ve caught. Then there’s the friendly banter of the old ladies, and the fishermen deftly readying their fresh catch. Seeing it all up-close and personal is a real treat.
9. Saturday markets (Doyo-ichi)
The morning market held every Saturday from 9am in the Tomari Area was started as place by locals, for locals to circulate produce and unwanted items throughout the island. The elderly ladies who frequent it not only shop but also enjoy the chance to chat. These are occasions that bring together people of ages spanning one to 94. All the goods vanish pretty quickly once the bell sounds at 9am, so it’s crucial to get there early! The ladies will be lined up just like for the opening of a department store. These Saturday markets that give a glimpse of life on Momoshima are the best place to absorb some of the practically overflowing energy of these ladies to charge your batteries! (Also check this report on the morning markets: The world’s shortest morning market in Momoshima)
10. Ciela, a hidden resort on the Seto Inland Sea
I’ve written plenty of things I recommend doing in Momoshima, but if you really want to experience the island to the fullest then you should spend at least one night here! That is my honest opinion, since a leisurely stay is what gives the best feel for Momoshima’s merits. Ciela not only has lodging facilities, but also a splendid location right in front of the sea. Whether it’s taking in the beautiful sunsets or gathering around a bonfire, the opportunities for fun are limitless.
When I was a backpacker, I experienced a “true wealth” as visited the countries of Asia. It was an essential abundance not found in Japan with its glut of convenient things. One example would be the happiness I felt welling up from the depths of my heart in the villages of Laos. I get something similar each day here in Momoshima. The locals are warm and opened up almost as soon as I met them, making this island as cozy today as it was when I first came here. And there is the beauty of nature that is always close at hand. Perhaps humans don’t need any more than this. It just feels like there is a voice telling me to live simply. Momoshima is a peaceful island where time seems to have stopped. I hope you come here and breathing it all in for yourself.
Translation: Luke Baker