Life in Ushimado is simple to say the least. A small town located in the countryside along the coastline of the Seto Inland Sea in Okayama prefecture. It was once a booming place with the hustle and bustle of a true tourist town but after the years of the Japanese bubble bursting the town slowly went into decline. Tourism slowed and the youth moved away leaving an aging population. Life here moves at a different pace almost as if each day time slows and one can truly be allowed to live in the moment without worries of the future or past. Thus one is allowed to take time to enjoy the scenery, locals, atmosphere, and most importantly life.
A day in Tokyo will fly by and can make one feel lonely and isolated, especially when solo traveling, even though they are surrounded by many individuals. But being alone in Ushimado does not make one feel lonely, within their heart, as the random encounters in a cafe, on the street, or even at family mart with genuinely warm people helps fill ones soul allowing one to feel a sense of community that only a small town can bring.
When you walk down the street you are surrounded by history and longstanding culture and can almost feel it resonating within your soul calling you forward to take another step and explore the next sight. Such is the charm of an older Japanese town that survived the allied fire bombings of World War 2. You cannot arrive at this feeling in Tokyo for its history was erased in the 1940s. Even in Kyoto, a historic city, the feeling is different because the culture there is strong in the sense that it inhibits true interactions and instead only allows foreigners to merely peer unto it. Such is why as a foreigner I feel at home and at peace in Ushimado because instead of glimpsing into the culture I can live it, even with only limited Japanese language skills. A sense of being at home while abroad prevades the very essence of my being here.
A day here consists of a relaxing walk or bike ride to the beach, stopping in a small local store to talk with the old shop owners and purchase a cold refreshment, and then a quick stop to the local shrine to make a prayer. I walk down the street and see an old fisherman casting his line out waiting for the next big catch and potentially dinner. As the sun sets, one can see the many small islands over the sea dotting the horizon. A wonderful display of reds and oranges lights up the sky. As the wind blows through my hair cooling the beads of sweat on my face I think to myself how wonderful it is to be alive right now living this picturesque moment. Such is the life of 晴れの国 (Hare no kuni) the country of sunshine as I feel my worries melting away under the sun. I feel like settling down from my nomadic lifestyle for a bit and Uni.house and Ushimado are the places I have chosen to fill this need for now…