Tuesday, March 30, 2010
On April 1, the Shiraishi International Villa reopens under island management. Whereas previously it was a government sponsored and run establishment, it is now owned and run the island people themselves.
Today is the "kengakukai" for those who'd like to come and have a look at the villa. We'll be serving organic mulberry tea, wine and cheese.
The weather is finally starting to turn warmer! Come out for the cherry blossom party on either April 4 or 11th. It'll be an event to remember. Also, if you're planning on coming out to the island for Golden Week, please make your reservations now before things fill up.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
The night before the race there will be a party on the beach and the Moooo! Bar will be open both Saturday and Sunday.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Today I'd like to uncover some of the mysteries of the Seto Inland Sea. The Inland Sea, or Seto Naikai, is a 450 km-long sea with 700 to 3,000 islands, or sometimes 2,000 islands, depending on who you talk to. Why such a discrepancy? Island counting is a special skill and the way you count them depends on your interpretation of the word "island."
When someone says, "island," you might think of a sandy island in the middle of the sea, a lone palm tree growing on it with a tourist (probably yourself) sitting under the tree enjoying a margarita. This is the island ideal.
Can Japan, an "island nation," live up to this image? That's a lot of margaritas.
Although people think of an island as being round, they can be all kinds of shapes. Tiny Awashima, in Kagawa Prefecture, resembles the shape of a three-armed starfish. Ushishima, also Kagawa, is named for its likeness to the shape of a cow (or the sound it makes, I'm not sure which). And look at Honshu, long and skinny, practically choking the Japanese population into a couple major pipelines of highways and railways. I get this definite sense of being squeezed whenever I disembark on Honshu. Perhaps we will all someday adapt by taking on the bodies of weasels and be able to slither through even the smallest openings.
Mysterious Counting System
When you hear that there are 700-3,000 islands in the Seto Inland Sea, it makes you wonder exactly how they count the islands. For example, do they count all the islands, or just the inhabited ones, or those with a postal code? Or do they only count the islands that appear on the official sea charts? Is an outcropping of rocks an island? Perhaps they count just the islands that have names, or only those larger than 0.1 km in circumference.
My definition of an island is easy — it's an island if it's big enough to enjoy a margarita on. There are many one-margarita islands in the Inland Sea. From there, you move to two-margarita islands and three-margarita islands until you find the island of Margaritaville, where the margaritas never stop flowing.
It turns out that there are specific criteria a landmass must fulfill to earn "island" status. It sounds like another one of those certification programs the Japanese have dreamed up for aspiring Japanese islands. But remember, there is no guarantee that any island will go on to succeed. Indeed, entire populations in Japan have abandoned their islands in favor of the city life.
To be an island in the Seto Inland Sea, the landmass must:
1. be naturally made and completely surrounded by water
2. be visible above the surface of the water even at the highest tide and
3. have four sides of the island visible (North, South, East and West).
So, is an outcropping of rocks an island? Yes. As long as it is visible even at high tide and as long as you can enjoy a margarita on it.
Mysterious Naming System
Something that may surprise you about islands in the Inland Sea is that many of them have the same name. Kojima (small island) leads the list with 14 islands sharing this name. Hey, it's not that strange when you consider that in the U.S. alone, over 4 million people are named John, and we think nothing of it.
When it comes to Oshima (big island), just six islands lay claim to the name.
The second most popular name is Bentenshima (Benten Island), referring to the famous Goddess of the Sea (and island real estate mogul), Benten. Twelve islands in the Inland Sea have been named after her, providing her with 12 shrines to live in. And for some reason unknown to me, 11 islands have been named Nabeshima (pot island).
Although shima means "island," it can become jima when following the island name. Sometimes it's difficult for foreigners to know when to use shima and when to use jima. In addition, even the Japanese don't always know. Take, for instance, Mukaishima (over there island), one of the Onomichi Islands in Hiroshima Prefecture. The islanders pronounce it Mukaishima, but those who live on mainland Onomichi pronounce it Mukaijima. Or, consider that while Kojima is usually pronounced with a jima, on sea maps it is always written Koshima.
The prefecture with the most islands in the Inland Sea is Hiroshima (wide island — though actually not an island at all) with 142 islands off its coast. This count only includes islands larger than 0.1 km circumference. But if you count the islands with names that appear on the sea chart, there are 153 islands. If you include all such islands, including those on the sea charts, Ehime has 133, Yamaguchi 127, Kagawa 112 and Okayama, where I live, has 87.
Jimmy Buffet would love it here. "Wasted away again in Margaritaville, lookin for my lost shaker of salt."
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Someone wrote to me asking if there was more information about Shiraishi Island other than the www.moooobar.com page and I am glad to say that very soon the island will have its own English homepage!
This is overdue, of course, and is why I originally set up the Moooo! Bar page six years ago. The new page should be very interactive and host photos, list event schedules and show the many different activities you can do on the island.
The island has put a lot of money into researching the foreign market and is very interested in promoting Shiraishi as a "living museum" where foreigners can see and experience the real Japan. We feel that with this new plan, and with the help of government grants we have received for eco-tourism developement, we can get more people to Shiraishi without sacrificing our island's culture. We merely aim to open the island up to more people rather than changing the island to meet tourist's needs. This is an island proud of its traditions and the islanders are people who are happy to share those traditions with the outside world.
Another aim of this new plan is to become your portal to the Inland Sea. Shiraishi is a great place to get introduced to Japan's Inland Sea and all the things the islands offer, but we don't want you to stop discovereing the Inland Sea when you leave. We want to help people explore the Inland Sea further. Truly, the Inland Sea is Japan's undiscovered frontier.
If you have any ideas for our homepage, we would love to hear them. I am not making the page myself, but I will pass your ideas on to the web designer. I think the goal is to have the page up by April 1.
So Sean, thanks for asking about a Shiraishi Island homepage! It's on its way.....