Monday, February 22, 2010

Shikinejima: Flying Fish Island

Just a three hour jet-ferry ride from Tokyo is an island amidst the Izu islets called Shikinejima.

Jima means island in Japanese, and Shikinejima is your basic garden variety jima, even if your first impression, upon approaching (with flying fish spiraling about the vessel in deceptively calm seas), is that it resembles Skull Island from King Kong.

Let me sing the island’s praises first.

It’s a gorgeous, sub-tropical island 250km south of Tokyo, where you can indulge in beautiful weather with a completely relaxed atmosphere, especially in off-season (September) when it’s practically deserted.

There are secluded beaches where you can find Homer Simpson's favorite Japanese cuisine, fugu (puffer fish), lazing in the shallows, there’re overgrown bamboo forests, and shrines in the middle of nowhere.

The downside?

You'll need your phrasebook – nobody on the island that I met spoke even a smattering of English – and for god's sake consult the tome when checking the signs next to the natural hot springs on the beach there. There's no romaji, but apparently the kanji warns against bathing in these onsens before the tide comes in and cools the pools down; something to do with the volcanic heat that pumps into them.

I didn’t take note - namely because I'm a shade stupid, didn't think it was important, and couldn't read the text properly anyway - and jumped in... then nearly par-broiled myself. My legs ended up looking like those of a lobster, post-cooking method

Then there are the bugs.

The beaches crawl with millions of bizarro creatures that resemble a cross between prehistoric trilobites and cockroaches (see happy snap below).

If they were any bigger I would've felt like I'd been tossed onto the set of Starship Troopers or one of those crappy '50s B-movies were the bugs have been irradiated and enlarged and go round crushing and/or gorging on inane people who have no common sense. Like me.

Speciality food? Think those aforementioned flying fish, barbecue-style... which definitely sound better or at least more exotic than they actually taste.

Chewing on their flesh is akin to munching on a well-worn pair of Grecian sandals. Still, better these than eating the bugs. Or vice versa.

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