Takashi Savory: Memories of Island Life

, 2010/03/10

The final of our three-part series taking a personal look back at the Ogasawara Islands (Parts 1 & 2).

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 Takashi Savory’s story.

In 1830, Nathaniel Savoy set sail from Boston and became one of the first people to settle on the islands of Ogasawara. His descendants still inhabit Chichijima, among them Takashi Savory of the family’s fifth generation. Takashi was born in 1957 on Chichijima, after residents with European or American ancestry were allowed to return following their forced evacuation to the mainland. “I went to elementary school with the soldiers’ children, so at home, I spoke a mixture of Japanese and English.” At that time, there was also a movie theater and a tennis court, and at Christmas, someone ordered Jackets and things from the Sears catalog for me.”

Takashi was ten years old when, in 1968, the islands reverted to Japanese control. Having grown up comfortably on the mainland, he was in for some surprises when he arrived back on the island. “The sight of these Japanese people from the mainland with towels wrapped around their heads was so rare, I remember it well.” Japanese schools were also established. “It wasn’t until I was in the 6th grade that I started doing ‘a-i-u-e-o’ dictation.” By his second year of junior high, however, Takashi was ready to leave the island and decided to attend high school in Niigata, his mother’s birthplace. “At first, I didn’t have slacks for the school uniform. I wore these black jeans that were really rare then. Everyone said ‘wow, who’s this guy?’ and I was the talk of the town.”

After he graduated from university in Tokyo in 1981 Takashi sat for the employment examination for Chichijima’s public offices. “It was only after I left the island that I realized how wonderful it is, with its beautiful nature.” Takashi is currently employed at a regional social welfare center where he met a visiting nurse who brought medical care to remote places. They married, she stayed and now the couple has four children.”

Deeply interested in his family’s roots, Takashi went to Boston to see the ancestral hometown of the Savory family. “It’s really cold there. I think I’ve figured out why my ancestors came to the islands!”

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Takashi Savory
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