An indulgent detour from the airport to Naze
Alighting at the airport, we are enveloped in the balmy air and instantly switch into holiday mode. We remove our socks that fit perfectly with our Teva® sandals and then put the sandals back on, barefoot.
Our destination is Naze, the port and main urban district of Amami city. While retaining a nostalgic Showa-era vibe, this compact city is replete with all the major urban functions. It takes 55 minutes by car from the airport to Naze. You could go straight there, but a detour is the best part of the journey. And why not start with a coffee break?
Not far from the airport is Yamada Coffee Amami Island, a stand where they roast their own coffee. Run by a couple who relocated from Osaka in 2012, the husband is passionate about coffee roasting while his wife loves making additive-free sweets. Their exquisite coffee, made from carefully selected beans from all over the world and roasted in-house, is located along the national highway near the airport. Word has it that tourists are enticed by a cup on arrival, and then insist on another on their way out.
We opt for the iced coffee, loved for its tropical taste, and scones made with local brown sugar and salt, a truly Amami-esque combination. Under the intense and blistering sun, we are already feeling amped to be in Amami.
The next stop on our little detour is the Kagoshima Amami Park. We’ve come to visit the museum commemorating the painter Tanaka Isson, who broke new ground in Japanese painting. Isson was already into his fifth decade when he relocated to Amami. A solitary painter who worked as a dyer in a silk factory, he unceasingly committed the nature of Amami to canvas, but reached the end of his life without publishing any of it. The exhibition, which traces the life of Isson and allows visitors to view approximately 80 works, is wonderful and edifying, akin to watching a film. How beguiling are the Amami landscapes depicted by his fine compositions and delicate touch.
Next to the museum is “Isson’s Forest”, where Japanese sago palms and umbrella trees jostle for space with other subtropical plants that recreate the world of his paintings. We find ourselves mesmerized by the vitality and bewitching beauty of these plants. Going off on these interesting little tangents is helped in no small part by having a sturdy pair of Teva® underfoot.
A haven for individual stores, with almost no chains.
Naze Port has long flourished as a trading hub with the mainland and southern islands. Just as people from the boonies aspired to move to Tokyo, people from the Amami archipelago sought work opportunities in Naze. No wonder then, that Naze is a place where the allures of this unique archipelago are concentrated. The myriad unique individual stores give the town a special colorful ambiance. While it may have the geographical advantage of being an island, it’s no exaggeration to say that it remains miraculously pure today for a place with all the trappings of a rural city.
Take, for example, “Amami-an.” While the name suggests a restaurant, it is actually a second-hand bookstore specializing in deep books on the island. In addition to the well-stocked selection of books, proprietor Mr. Shinichiro Morimoto is a winsome fellow and a fountain of knowledge regarding Amami. We are suddenly drawn into his world, and suddenly an hour has passed in a whirl of sweets served with miki (the soul drink of Amami.) We end up leaving empty-handed but are reassured that this is (peculiarly) the case with many customers.
Recently, old-fashioned stores face competition from new individual proprietors with a sharp sense of style that set up shop one after another. One of these is “GUNACRIB”, an outdoor select shop. Owner Mr. Shimazaki is a U-turner originally hailing from Amami. Having established the outdoor wear brand “devadurga” in Tokyo – incorporating traditional Amami mud dyeing – he then opened this store as a directly managed store. Shimazaki is also a skin-diver who dives and goes out to the sea every night after shutting up shop. The owner of a unique store is, suffice to say, truly one of a kind.
Suehiro Market and Nagatabashi Market, located in the center of the city, are unique spots where old meets new. The old-fashioned marketplace boasts an array of radio stations, cafes, and general merchandise stores, making it a fun place to stroll around. While the sun was still high in the sky, we headed to “Ogamiyama Park,” a symbol of Naze. After ascending a gentle mountain path, the observatory at an elevation of 97 meters offers a spectacular vantage point over the harbor and the city. Teva® are a perfect match for Naze, where such mini hikes can also be enjoyed around the adjoining land. Glancing at my watch, it is still before dusk. There are endless stores still to check out, and once night falls, we want to enjoy “Yanigawa-dori,” Amami’s largest shopping street. There is still lots for us to explore on foot in Naze.
New icon model in modern colors
Sports sandals built to endure the rigors of travel and town life. The footbed cushioning is so comfortable that you can feel it the moment you slip your feet in. They cover all bases of functionality, comfort, and fashion while also taking the environment into consideration by reducing the amount of CO2 emitted and water used in the manufacturing process. Cushioning in the straps makes them comfortable for all-day wear. In addition to Black and Sesame, which are easy to match with any outfit, the lineup includes Light Multi in a light color scheme and Black/Purple in a bold color scheme, perfect for spring and summer.