Star Travel guy heads to Japan's tropical paradise, where life is long
I'm away on holidays, so here's a guest blog from C. James Dale...
ISHIGAKI, Japan -- When I first see Gentetsu Maeshiro, he's way down the beach, a stick figure bent over by the shore doing god-knows-what. It's mid-afternoon and I'm one of six people enjoying a long stretch of sand on the east side of Ishigaki, one of the southernmost islands in the so uthernmost part of Japan -- Okinawa. I pass by a couple who's just rented a small inflatable ring so they can go float in the calm waters of the East China Sea. They're from Saitama, just north of Tokyo.
"What do you think of this place," I ask them.
"It's so pretty," the woman replies, looking out at the turquoise water.
The stick figure that is Gentetsu Maeshiro is still down the beach, still bent over, still working intently at something. I'm intrigued. I head in that direction, walking slowly on the rough sand that's covered
with small pieces of broken coral. As I arrive, I can see Maeshiro is stringing freshly cleaned fish to a clear line. He'd been gutting them in the water and now he's ready to take them home to his wife and
"How did you get them," I ask, after I introduce myself.
"Spearfishing," he says with a warm grin, holding the colourful catch a little higher, tropical fish with names I couldn't even guess at (especially the Japanese ones).
Turns out the 31-year-old, who was born and raised on this picturesque island, has a beef farm with about 90 head of cattle. Talking to him on Sunset Beach, Tokyo and the post-March 11th turmoil further north, seems a country away. In many cases, mainland Japan might as well be a neighbouring nation. Okinawa, once known as the Ryukyu Islands, didn't become part of Japan until the 1870s. Even today, the Okinawa people are different, fiercely independent and culturally distinct. This plays out in many ways here: in their mindset, in their music, and in their food, among other things. The low fat, low salt Okinawa diet, filled with fish, tofu, seaweed and local vegetables (such as the bitter goya) is one reason people here have the longest life expectancy in the world.
More than 400 centenarians reside on these islands (at last count). No wonder Gentetsu Maeshiro has no desire to live in Tokyo, or in any concrete jungle for that matter. He's happy just where he is.
"Weather good, food good, air good, everything good," he says in staccato English, with a wide smile.
As the sun started to lose its intensity, we parted ways, he with his dinner in hand and me now one of three left on Sunset Beach.
For more information on Okinawa, visit ilovejapan.ca