Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bussharito Festival video

A video of the Bussharito Festival, which takes place every Nov. 15th on the island.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bussharito Festival Nov. 15

Man-chan (left), next to the yamabushi (ascetic mountain monk)
at the goma fire ceremony at the Bussharito Matsuri.

Monday is Shiraishi Island's Bussharito matsuri, to celebrate the anniversary of the Thai style temple. This is the one day you can go inside the temple and see the displays. I was just up there today talking to the Buddhist priest and the place looks magnificent--all dressed up for this occasion. There will be visiting priests here as well, a procession up to the temple and a goma fire burning ceremony. If you're going to be on the island, don't miss it!

You can read more about the Bussharito Matsuri in this article in The Japan Times. More on the crypt here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Thanks for a great Fall Festival on Shiraishi Island!

Shiraishi Island Fall Festival, 2010

Thanks to all those who came out for the Aki Matsuri on Shiraishi Island this last weekend. Despite the rain, we all had a great time!

It is now the off-season on the island so the blog will only be updated occasionally over the wintertime. During the off-season, only the International Villa and San-chan's will be open for accommodation. Please see the Moooo! Bar homepage for more details.

The next event on the island is Nov. 15, the Bussharito Matsuri. This commemorates the Thai-style temple on the island. More on this later when I post info about the festival and photos.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shiraishi Fall Festival Oct. 2-3

Shiraishi Fall Festival Oct. 2-3

Come join us on the island for the aki matsuri (Autumn festival) this weekend! Come help us drink sake, carry the mikoshi and party with the gods! The best way to enjoy this festival is to come out on Saturday as the parties start in the evening. See the island lit up at night in all the festival lights and walk around the ancient streets. Have a beer with the locals.

The official festival starts at 8am with a toast to the Gods and the mikoshi are pulled out at about 8:30 for the trip to the Shrine. Please help pull the mikoshi!

The international villa is already booked, and most of the minshukus will be closed so they can take part in the matsuri but the Beach House and Amagiso will still take guests. If you want to come out, email us at shiraishireservations at yahoo dot com and we'll get you in some where.

Don't miss a great chance to participate in a local Japanese festival.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reviving the Seto Inland Sea Islands

By Amy Chavez

It is not the fault of the Seto Inland Sea islands themselves that they are suffering from declining populations. It's the glossy brochures put out by local governments that are to blame.

Take the Takamatsu city brochure advertising the virtues of Ogishima. The brochure highlights a hiking course on the island, an unusually shaped rock, an opening to a hole in the ground (really!), and some lazy flowers trying to grow anonymously — all things trying desperately to be tourist attractions but fooling no one. If you told your friends that after a hectic week at the office, you were going to hike up a steep mountain in the blazing heat and see a rock and a hole in the ground, people would think you were crazy. As intriguing as it may sound, people just don't do it.

Most people would prefer to sit in a cafe with a view of the sea or experience the charmed life and quiet solitude of the Inland Sea. They'd rather have a romantic dinner while watching the sunset or walk along a deserted beach even in the height of the tourist season. Did you know that you can do that on almost any island in the Inland Sea? But the brochures won't tell you this.

The city of Kasaoka has a glossy brochure about Shiraishi Island that tells people to "Enjoy Island!" and highlights the hiking course, the observation platform at the top of the mountain, the temple and a "famous" rock that no one has heard of. To its credit, sea kayaking is mentioned as well as the beach. But more than anything, the brochure screams out, "Hey, we're like every other island in the Inland Sea. Nothing interesting here. Go away!"

Island brochures put out by the local governments are identical throughout the Inland Sea. Call me ignorant, but I feel that printed information highlighting holes in the ground and rocks drive people away. It's no wonder no one moves to the islands. It would be like being stuck between a rock and a hiking course.

To the Japanese, living on an island is equal to being kidnapped. There is this idea that once you're on an island, it's difficult to get off. There is some truth to this. It's not that you can't get off though, it's that many people find they prefer island life and no longer need the mainland. As your needs change, the island provides. But according to the brochures, all you'll get is a hiking course and rocks. Good grief Charlie Brown.

Indeed, the value of the islands can only be found by interacting with the island people, observing their balanced lifestyles and respecting their relationships with the elements, the sea and their gods. It is a lifestyle perfected.

On our island, in an attempt to increase the population, the government is trying to create jobs in the hopes people will move here. So our island has started a mulberry business (run by retired people who volunteer out of a sense of duty to their island) hoping that in another 10 years, if there is money in mulberries, young couples will move here. It's a pie in the sky idea: copulate and populate.

But should we really worry about the 10-year-olds in Japan and whether there will be a mulberry business for them when they grow up? Have you ever tasted mulberries? They're not very good.

Wouldn't it be better to sell a lifestyle to people who already have jobs? Interestingly, while everyone admits there are no jobs here, no one has considered that people could commute between here and the mainland, which is only 20 minutes away on the ferry. Furthermore, there is a midsize city 10 km to the south and 43 km to the north. Why doesn't the local government invest in a hydrofoil boat to whisk people back and forth to their jobs on the mainland rather than investing in, um, berries?

Each year the ferries to the islands are fewer, reflecting the drop in demand. Perhaps we should turn the ferry systems over to the JR. I'm sure they'd know how to put children in schools furthest away from their house in order to make a buck.

If the local government invested in public transportation, then perhaps they could come up with an easier way to get back and forth between the islands and the mainland, rather than having to rely on just a few ferries each day. I'm thinking a conveyor belt system would be good, one that would circle the islands and go past the mainland so the islanders, like kaiten zushi, could just ride the conveyor belt and get on and off when they wanted. We'd have all kinds of people riding the sushi train to work.

Some people who were born on the islands move back after working in the cities on the mainland. They come home to find a place where people are friendly and there is no crime. They have traveled back to a time when things were cheaper, safer and less commercial. The islands, in short, are your childhood, your warm and fuzzy past.

And that's exactly what the brochures should be telling you.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Meet the gods on Shiraishi Island

The following article is about the gods who live on Shiraishi Island. Tourists are welcome to participate in these local festivals, but the most interesting is the Autumn Festival, held the first Sunday in October. Come help us pull the mikoshi!

I've always gotten along well with my neighbors on the island. This is especially important because my neighbors are all gods: the Mountain God, Kompira-san, Juichimen Kannon, Senju Kannon and Myoken-sama. I have to put up with a few loud parties every now and then, but overall, we get along extremely well.

And oh, the parties! I seem to be surrounded by party gods. The Mountain God has a party twice a year when the whole neighborhood is invited to come socialize at his shrine in the side of the mountain. Sutras are chanted, hands are clapped, sake bottles are opened.

Kompira-san, god of seafaring and fishing, has a block party that is part of the autumn festival, when he invites the entire island. The road is closed off and we just drink and celebrate. Other gods are invited to that one too, so it's quite an eclectic mix. I've never seen any of the attending gods myself, but I am assured they are present. The other gods are only invited once a year and no one would dare miss a party of Kompira-san's.

The little stone gods Juichimen Kannon and Senju Kannon, who live in the shrine on the pilgrimage route behind my house, are the quietest. They don't hold any parties at all. They do receive individual guests, however, who tend to throw their money around while saying "Om, bazara tarama kiriku!" which roughly translates to, "Om, the lord of delivering the imperishable Dharma and its purity!."

But Myoken-sama has the most exclusive party of them all — black tie and invitation only. No women allowed either; this is secret men's business. The Myoken-sama matsuri takes place every June. It is not on the same day every year but instead is held according to the lunar calendar. Never really knowing when it will be is always part of the mystique of this festival. The only clue I have is that the day before the festival, women arrive with brooms and rakes to clear the path up to Myoken Shrine. There is further activity as banners and other decorations are carried up the mountain and put in place around the shrine.

On the day of the celebration, about 20 guests arrive in cars and park in a long line along the port. All dressed in black suits and freshly polished shoes, the men carry fresh whole fish and kagami mochi on trays up the stone steps that lead to the shrine. These men are anywhere from 40 to 80 years old, some carrying large bottles of sake, because everyone knows that the Shinto gods have alcoholic tendencies. It's comforting to know that you never have to drink alone in Japan. Myoken-sama overlooks the port and protects the boats coming in and out. The shrine was built around the same time the port was finished, about 400 years ago. Myoken-sama also, for some reason, protects us against cholera (hey, why not?).

I wonder how exactly Myoken-sama and the other gods protect us anyway. Has anyone ever thought about this? Can they see cholera in the distance, sprinting to the island? And what kind of divine intervention is used to convince the cholera to stop before it gets here? Is plea bargaining a possibility? Perhaps we all end up with just a bad cold instead.

No one really knows. We just know that they, like all the gods on this island, protect us.

So my next question is: Why are we so sure the gods like us? After all, we pilfer their sea and turn their beaches into concrete walls. Why do we think we are so worthy of protection? I live on a piece of reclaimed land that didn't even exist until someone bulldozed the idea of turning a happy fish paradise into a plot of land for two houses. This land is not a part of the sacred Mother Earth. More like an artificial, test tube baby version.

And Myoken-sama — peace keeper, divine vaccine producer, and lawyer extraordinaire — is supposed to protect us from the wrath of the gods? I am under no false beliefs that my neighbors should hold me in such high esteem.

Just ask Juichimen (11-headed) Kannon and Senju (1,000-armed) Kannon, who live just out my back door. They've been sitting there with their legs crossed for over 400 years, with no apparent leg pain, so I know they really are gods. Who else could do that? I can only guess at how they feel living next to us mortals.

Juichimen: "Ugh, they're hanging out their laundry again — so much for our view!"

Senju: "Look at the holes in those pajamas! Why don't they just throw them away?"

Juichimen: "You can't expect them to be so smart. They only have one head."

But maybe the gods should be thankful that they have us to protect. Some islands in the Seto Inland Sea have lost their populations completely, and consequently have let their shrines become neglected and fall into disrepair. There are some parts of the country like that where the Japanese have abandoned their gods.

So while the benevolent gods continue to protect us, I wonder if it's not us who should be protecting them.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Shiraishi Nature-The blue heron

By Amy Chavez

With the evening breeze,
the water laps against
the heron's legs

Thus goes one translation of this poem by the famous haiku poet, Yosa Buson (1716 - 1783).

Every evening I watch the aosagi (blue or gray herons) gliding in the air around the port. They are beautiful birds, with elegant necks that curve over swan-like, and long, sexy legs (yes, I am looking!). I've always admired their excellent posture. Standing on one foot is possibly the key.

They wade out into the water at low tide, fishing. They stand silently, waiting. Then reach down, put their beak into the water and pull out a very astonished fish. Grasping the struggling fish, they point their beak up toward the sky and let the fish wriggle its way down the tunnel of death. I watch as the lump of fish passes down through the throat and disappears — now that's fresh sashimi!

Observing their hunting methods, I can see why the heron is described as "a symbol of patience," in the "bird tattoo index" on the Internet.

The morning heron in our port, however, is quite different. A departure from the type that inspires haiku, the morning heron is lazy, knowing he can get his breakfast easily by hanging out near the fishing boats. As fishermen sort through their previous night's catch, they occasionally toss the small ones to the herons.

The most strategic place for being the first to spot these freebies is from the top of my boat, which is parked next to the fishing boats. I can understand why the herons like our boat — it has an awning over the back of it, which from the air looks like a giant, purpose-built blue heron landing pad.

Imagine if you were flying around the port and suddenly spotted a large, overstuffed sofa below. This heron platform is coveted by the birds in the same way you covet those few comfortable chairs at Starbucks.

So they land on the awning, stand there for a while, and crap. So much that our boat has become an avian toilet — an avian "Doo-doo Drop In."

The Avian Toilet is much easier to use than an Asian or a Western toilet. No squatting is necessary. And no sitting down on the job either. You just stand there and when it feels good, do it. I wouldn't mind so much if they'd just use the toilet slippers I set out for them.

I wonder if Toto has considered incorporating the convenience of the Avian toilet into new toilet models. It would eliminate the need for heated toilet seats and the toilets would be far more environmentally friendly because when it rains, they become self-flushing.

But, in the meantime, as the stuff piles up on the awning, I might have to start asking the men who come to clean out our pit toilet every month if they'd clean the Avian toilet too. If not, I fear:

With the morning breeze,

the guano laps against

the heron's legs.

But I got to thinking that maybe I could turn this Avian toilet into a money-making business. Perhaps you have heard about an ancient geisha beauty secret that uses nightingale fun. No, nightingale fun is not doing something really exciting with nightingales. "Fun" refers to their droppings, which are used in beauty creams and treatments. Now, I'm sure the nightingales don't mind having a part-time job on the side donating their fun to the beauty industry. But I do wonder why the Japanese haven't tapped the blue heron market. C'mon, these are big birds — They have big fun!

We're talking big splotches of white. That's either big fun or herons are just sloppy painters. But there's enough fun on the top of our boat to make an entire gallery of Rorsplotch paintings.

Unfortunately, nightingale fun is very expensive. This might have to do with the collection method — imagine putting buckets under telephone wires every day hoping to catch a few drops of the stuff. It might be cheaper to lie under the telephone wire with your eyes closed. Who knows, it could be the next eco-tourism thing.

Still, most people would choose to go to a spa to have this treatment done. There is one in particular, Shizuka New York Day Spa, in New York City that offers such Bird Poop Facials for $180 (more than ¥16,000). Such a lofty price reminds me of that John Keats poem, "Owed to a Nightingale."

When I open my spa here on the island, I'll have the advantage of being able to offer affordable bird poop facials because of the sheer volume of heron droppings at my disposal. I'll advertise: Blue Heron Spa: "Look your best, even when you're feeling blue!"

And when I welcome people to my spa, I'll say, "Here, just lie on this awning, and I'll be back in a half-hour." When they leave I'll say, "Thanks for dropping by!"

If my spa fails, I'll have to do something else with the heron droppings. Bird droppings have nitrates which are also used to make gun powder, so I suppose that is another business I should be looking into.

With the morning breeze,
the guano laps against
the powder kegs.


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Friday, June 11, 2010

Shiraishi Bon Dance

Shiraishi Bon Dance

Dates have been announced for the Shiraishi Bon Dance performed on Shiraishi Island during the O-bon Festival of the Dead in August and on select practice Saturdays in July. The schedule is as follows:

July 24, 31 and Aug. 7 Demonstration dance on the beach at sunset (8pm)
Aug. 13, 14, 15, 16 Obon Dance Performances (at community center)
Aug. 16 Toronagashi --sending-off of the spirits on paper lanterns in the sea

Accommodation is rapidly filling up for Obon on Shiraishi Island. The international villa is already fully booked for Aug 13-16. If you plan on coming out to the island over the summer holiday, please book soon! See the Moooo! Bar website for details on accommodation.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shiraishi: Island of Heavenly Fields

By Amy Chavez

I live next to a heavenly field. So do lots of other people on my island.

It is said that certain last names are popular in certain parts of Japan. This is true on our island of 655 people, many of whom share the last name Amano, or "heavenly field." Although most of the Amanos on the island insist they are not related, they do acknowledge that they probably are related if you research their family history back far enough.

When you get off the ferry on our island, you will encounter your first Heavenly Field at the ferry port, because the Amanos own the ferry port and will take your ferry ticket when you arrive. If you head to the beach, you can stay for the day in the umi no ie (beach hut) run by Mrs. Amano. You can buy some groceries, drinks and sandwiches, at Amano Store, and pick up some alcohol at Amafuku (Heavenly Luck), run by some other Amanos. If you should decide to stay overnight, you have a handful of Amano options: Amano Camp Ground, Amagisou (Heavenly Castle Inn) run by the Amanos or the International Villa managed by Mrs. Amano. If you happen to hit the island during a live musical performance on the beach, and you can dance all night with 84-year-old Amano-san. All that, and you'll never be talking with a relative of the same Amano family.

If you live here, you can further get Amanoed at the yakuba (town hall), JA Bank and the fisherman's co-op. Heavenly fields are everywhere.

When I first moved to the island many years ago, I thought this was great because I only had to remember one name for everyone. Now the problem comes when someone says, "Which Amano?"

If you wanted to have nothing to do with heavenly fields, and prefer plain rice fields, you have several Harada options: kayak and windsurfer rentals from Harada-san, staying overnight at Harada Minshuku, or staying at Harada's Nakanishiya Ryokan. At least you'd be keeping it all in the same family. Not that there aren't plenty of other plain rice fields on the island, but I won't get into the Haradas this time.

On a tiny island like this, where people historically only moved within a 7 km area, it's understandable that many people share the same last name. It was a small community of people to choose a mate from. Eventually, after everyone has married into everyone else's family, everyone is related to everyone. Marrying your cousin, especially if he's cute, sure beats waiting for some guy to swim over from the mainland and land on the beach. Besides, a lot of Japanese people in those days couldn't swim. You could be years sitting on that beach waiting for someone, only to end up with a fish.

People have been living here for hundreds of years, which is evident in that many people still live in houses that are inaccessible by car. The foot paths that crisscross the island were created years before cars were invented and these paths were all that connected people and houses. Eventually, more houses were built until there were rows of houses built sandwiched together, on both sides of the foot paths.

To widen these footpaths to make room for cars would mean people would have cars running through their houses all day long. While this would be an imposition for the residents of those houses, business-wise, it would be a great place to set up a McDonald's drive-through. Actually, a beer and wine drive-through would be far more profitable on this island.

Think of the possibilities. In small towns on the mainland that people pass through in their cars, there are always little businesses springing up in the houses along the road. Often times these businesses are in the front room of someone's house, allowing them to sit in their living room all day watching baseball until someone happens to stop and buy something.

If we could get the islanders to each open up a shop in the front room of their houses, you could do all your shopping at one pass through the houses in your car, like a drive-through Wal-Mart. No parking or standing please.

And while we're on the subject of island infrastructure (how DID we get on this subject anyway?), I have a solution to the rampant bridge building going on in the Seto Inland Sea. These bridges, by connecting the islands to the mainland, promise to bring tourism once the islands are accessible by car. But everyone knows these bridges are insanely expensive and often citify the previously quiet island life.

My solution is to stop building bridges altogether. It would be cheaper to hire a hundred car ferries to line up at a certain point twice a day for a few hours to let people come back and forth between the mainland and islands by car.

A floating, movable bridge, if you will, and a passageway to the Heavenly Fields Wal-Mart drive-through.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Speech tonight--Shiraishi Island: This is Japan!

Presentation Tonight-- "Shiraishi Island: This is Japan!"

Tonight in Asakuchi City, Okayama I'll be giving a presentation on Shiraishi Island and other islands in the Seto Inland Sea.

Japan's Inland Sea is the best-kept Japan travel secret. Imagine a Japan untouched by Hello Kitty, McDonald's and pachinko. All forms of traditional Japanese culture can be found here, and as one of the first visitors to this region, you can blaze your own trail.

Let me open up this secret world to you! Shiraishi Island is your portal to the Inland Sea.

And no worries, you can still use your iPhone!

Place: Asakuchi City Public Hall
Time: 6:30 to 7:30 pm
Contact in English or Japanese: 0865-44-8500


If you can't make it tonight, I'll be giving another presentation, "How to Revive Japan's Countryside" in Fukuyama on May 23 at 1pm. More details on the location later.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thanks for a great yacht race!

Over 150 people took part in the 35th Kazi Cup Yacht Race this year.

Thanks to everyone for a great Kazi Cup Yacht Race on Shiriashi Island last weekend! About 150 people braved the cold and drank moogaritas at the Moooo! Bar on the beach at the party the night before. There were live bands, fireworks and special guests.

The Moooo! Bar is closed until Golden Week, April 29, when we'll open again for a week of springtime fun.

In the meantime, we've gotten in quite a few summer reservations on the island, and we look forward to meeting you all this summer.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Island housing renovations increase

A newly renovated house on the pathway
up to the Shiraishi International Villa

There are a lot of houses being renovated on Shiraishi Island. This is one of the most recent ones. This house is over 100 years old, probably more like 150 years old. It was stripped down to the beams and then rebuilt. They've kept the traditional style of the house and replaced the roof. The building to the left is a small "shop" where the woman plans on continuing her job as a beautician in her retirement.

The pieces of stones sitting outside the windows are called "fumi ishi." (stepping stones) These are cut into rectangles but you often see rounder, more natural stones used also. They serve as a something to step onto when entering or leaving the house through those windows.

The other stepping stones are the ones that form a pathway to and from the house from the road. These are surrounded by an entire yard full of little tiny stones which I presume are used for the practical purposes of having no grass to cut, garden to keep or mud to deal with in the rainy season.

I expect more and more houses on the island to be renovated as Japan's population gets older and people move back to the countryside to retire on the small island they originally came from.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shiraishi International Villa

The villa sits on a hill overlooking the Seto Inland Sea

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

Kazi Cup Yacht Race April 18

This year Shiraishi Island will host the 35th Kaji Cup Yacht Race, previously held at Kiba Yacht Harbor (Kobe).The Kaji Cup is sponsored by Kaji yacht magazine and is the biggest yacht race in Western Japan.

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

New photos of Shiraishi Island

Shiraishi sunset

See more photos like this of Shiraishi Island on our new photostream at Flickr!
We'll be adding more photos as time goes on.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mysteries of island-counting in the Inland Sea

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."

Mysterious islands

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).

Mysterious Pronunciations

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

New Shiraishi Island Home Page

Shiraishi Island

Someone wrote to me asking if there was more information about Shiraishi Island other than the 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.....
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