- PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY OF THE PELAN LODGE
Ogasawara Ryoichi Shimizu: Memories of Island LifePapersky, 2010/02/23
The Ogasawara Islands of Tokyo Prefecture could be mistaken for a Japanese Garden of Eden, located far out amidst the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. The Islands were uninhabited until 1830, when they were first settled by Americans and Europeans who arrived from Hawaii, the US mainland and elsewhere. In 1861, they came under Japanese control and Japanese citizens began to immigrate. To this day, many people of mixed heritage reside here. Following World War II, the islands passed from Japanese to US control and back again. Many of the islanders who lived on the mainland during the war have returned to Ogasawara, no doubt drawn home by the stunning natural beauty of the place. The history of the islands has been one of constant flux, and among the residents of these little green satellites in the Pacific, personal history is told with a kind of spectacular abruptness and profound sincerity that mirrors the geography of the islands themselves. The “Past & Present in Ogasawara” series originally appeared in Paper Sky No. 8. Tokyo Paradise, January, 2004. This is Ryoichi Shimizu’s story.
“I’ve always been a surfing fanatic! I wanted to live by the sea, so when I was 29 years old, I quit my banking job and came here.” That was seventeen years ago, and now Shimizu manages the Pelan Village lodge, surrounded by greenery in the middle of the mountains near Ogiura. “Land prices are high, so I couldn’t buy. I’d heard, though, that if I worked for the island’s agricultural cooperative, they might sell me some land, so I started working there. I did a lot of different things, including creating the whole concept for the Papaya Mart and launching it.”
Shimizu finally got hold of some land after seven years. He cleared an area in the mountains and, with no experience at all, began building a log cabin with his own hands. To date, he has built numerous cottages, set up outdoor hot-spring baths (rotenboro), and for the sake of self-sufficiency, established his own farm. Since Shimizu first arrived on the island he has grown more and more concerned with environmental issues. “In terms of energy and the ecology, this small island is a good place to experiment. I want to be a ‘lifestyle role model.’ Wouldn’t everyone be happier living this kind of life?”
Tags: island life