This post is part of a larger series that seeks to explore the island of Kyushu and some lesser known places in Japan.
A Post is Still a Post
A cool thing about going from a busy, and often overbooked schedule to a more solitary lifestyle is that you learn a lot about yourself. Namely a lot about your own bullshit. One of the things I have come to find out about myself this year is I often make up arbitrary rules for the way I do things.
For example, when I started this series project, the intention was to be a writing prompt. But a strange rule I seem to have in my head about this blog is that ALL POSTS MUST BE RESEARCHED, LINKED, AND AT LEAST AN ESSAY IN LENGTH. And while that is a good guiding light, it can also be act as a deterrent, where not having enough time becomes an excuse to put off finishing a post. I’ve try to group this series by geographical location, but this leaves room for day trips, or general thoughts to fall through the cracks when they don’t fit into a category, and frankly misses the crux of the matter. The point of this whole thing is to write, not to write a novel.
Despite a lot of my general hang-ups about the platform’s practices, Instagram has proven an incredibly useful tool for finding local, regional, or off-the-beaten path spots to check out, both in Kyushu and elsewhere. Geotagged stories and posts in particular (like those by my lovely coworker Gavin) are how I found out there was a cat island within driving distance to where I live.
Fuka Island: Ferries and Felines
There’s a handful of “cat islands” scattered throughout Japan, Aoshima being one of the most well known locations. Cat islands are usually old fishing villages, where many of the residents have moved on or passed away, and most of the homes and shops are now abandoned. As they have less of a means to leave the islands, felines now outnumber the locals by a significant margin. Their care is often left up to those few who remain, plus the occasional treat from generous tourists.
Thanks to my previously mentioned rigid stance on taking non-toll roads, the drive was long but beautiful, with sweeping views of the Pacific. I pulled into a blink of a port town in the southern part of Oita Prefecture (I doubt I would have found it without a few confirmation texts to Gavin) and headed to the harbor. Following suit of the small group gathered nearby, I boarded the ferry (if you can call a boat fit to carry 20 people a ferry) and soon we were on our way. Half an hour of choppy waves and nodding off later, we arrived.
To call Fuka Island small would be generous. The entire village can be traversed in about 15 minutes.
There’s a single cafe (thankfully I was advised to bring my own snacks and bevvies), a tiny shrine, a single path to the rocky beach, and cats at every turn. Every size, shape, color, and age seem to be represented, from tiny kittens to snoozing seniors. Most were interested enough in your company, until they realized you didn’t have food, or at least not any you were willing to part with. A few litters had recently been born and I stumbled on a few, startled in the middle of their afternoon feedings.
After a few laps, a few scratches, and a short game of “chase the palm frond” I left the cats and made my way towards the island’s lighthouse. Which was, in a word, wild. The trail was relatively un-kept, with vines and broken branches draped around the path, and massive spider webs every turn.
On top of the damage from a recent typhoon, this hike was more jungle trek than anything.
Half an hour of battling bamboo stalks later, I reached the end. The lighthouse itself was perfectly forgettable, and almost laughable considering what it took to get there. But the blanket of blue ocean stretching out towards the horizon from the cliff’s edge is always a welcome view.
One of These Things Is Not Like the Other
You can tell how few foreigners visit a place by how incredulous the locals look when they spot you. Based on the looks I got I should note, these were perfectly friendly looks, just ones of clear surprise. As I sat on the dock catching some of the sun’s last warmth, one of the only young women living on the island approached me to ask where I was from and how I could have possibly found out about this remote place. We chatted as far as her English and my Japanese could take us, and as the ferry pulled in for its last trip of the day, she gifted me a handful of sea glass she’d collected as a souvenir. I used to spend my summers on Lake Michigan doing the same thing as a child, treating sea glass like treasure, so I happily accepted. When most of your time is spent traversing your day as a stranger, kindness is always a welcome gift.
Till next time (and VOL 5) ✌🏻