As a birthday present to my lovely friend Jenni, a few of us decided to book a surprise ‘writers retreat’, a small break for us to get away from the world and write. We booked the trip for March, but due to unavoidable plans we had to push it back to July. This only increased our excitement, however, and by the time that July rolled round we were all in need of a break.
So, one Friday in July, me and Jenni rushed from work and hoped on the first ferry to Fukue, the largest of the Goto Islands. We were to stay at Smokey Cottage, a small cabin in the Hantomari area, tucked away in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by nothing but sea and forest.
We were greeted by the ever lovely Renae, who had arrived earlier from the neighbouring island. The owner, Mr.Namio Sato was waiting for us outside the terminal and indulged us in conversation during the twenty minute car ride to his own personal haven.
We met his wife, Akiko-san, on arrival and after the official tour of our cabin, she treated us to a warm, delicious home cooked meal. It was wonderful!
With an outside area protected by mesh to keep out the bugs, we were led through a heavy wooden door into a beautifully decorated open plan cabin. A large table took up a part of the room, with a wide bench that ran the length of the wall. The kitchen was the perfect blend of old and new and had everything we needed from tea with what appeared to be wood in it, to eggs for breakfast.
The bathroom was by far the most interesting, with a traditional Goemonburo bath dating back to feudal Japan that had to be heated up before hand with fire by Namio-san. I couldn’t help think of Calcifer from Howls Moving Castle as I watched him feed logs to the ever growing fire. Encased in shell incrusted concrete, the metal basin barely big enough for one person. The aim was to get climb inside, placing the wooden lid at the bottom so as to not burn your feet. The first night none of us added enough cold water so it was pretty much impossible to enter and had to wash ourselves in the area outside, but by the second night we had got the bathing business down like pro’s. Perhaps we should thank the many glasses of Umeshu we had indulged in, but hey, who’s judging.
The first night ended with a few glasses of Umeshu and a quick catch up before me and Renae retreated to the bedroom, the latter of which was far too excited to be able to sleep on a real bed, while Jenny took the made up bench.
The next day would have a bit of a different pace. A few weeks before hand, Namio had e-mailed Renae asking us if we wouldn’t mind being filmed making Pizza in front of a camera crew. A bit weird right? I thought so too, untilI I learnt that Namio not only made his own salt, but also had stone pizza ovens out back and made his own from scratch. With the prospect of free pizza, there was no way any of us could refuse, and so, eleven o clock the next morning, now joined by Sophie, we were introduced to the Camera crew. Using the ingredients we brought with us from the mainland, we set to work making our pizza, the camera crew watching out every move, chatting to us as we went along. Being a vegetarian, I chose to try and make a tofu pizza, and idea which greatly intrigued the crew and gained me an embarrassing moment on tv. After filming us enjoying our pizza outside, the crew, along with Namio-san, Akiko-san and two of their friends sat with us and shared in our delicious Italain treat, followed by some home made cake.
They were gone by mid-afternoon, and it was time for some writing. With no reception and a view of both land and see, it was the perfect place to write. Inspiration was in abundance.
A few hours later we decided to stretch our legs. Leaving Sophie to work, me, Jenni and Renae set out on a little adventure, walking down a path alongside the sea, doing our best to avoid the sea cockroaches, or as I like to call them, ‘the creatures that time forgot’. They really are horrible, and theres always so many! I couldn’t get over how untouched this land was, and I half expected a dinosaur to pop out at any moment. They really could have shot parts of Jurassic Park here, I’m telling you. We even decided to practice out ‘Is that a…..dinosaur?!’ face.
We spent the evening drinking, trying to drunkenly get a frog out of the bathroom, and loosing ourselves in deep conversations. I ended up passing out at around 3 am, Renae tucking me in where I slept like the sweetheart she is.
I was sad to say goodbye the next morning, or I would have been had we not discovered a gigantic huntsman spider in the bedroom. Nothing will smash your illusion of a perfect nature retreat like a freakishly large spider with legs as long as your fingers.
I didn’t realise how much I needed this little break until I was on my way home and back to everyday life. It was amusing, however, at how many people saw me and recognise me on TV. Even the people who work at the fishmongers on my street recognised me.
Fukue, as well as all the other Goto islands are absolutely breathtaking, and walking along side the sea surrounded by nothing but nature quieted my heart as I was hit with a sense of grandeur. A sense of gratitude. I felt so grateful to be where I was in that moment, so grateful to be living in such a beautiful and diverse country.
The weather wasn’t exactly amazing by most peoples standards, but as a lower of rain and the gloomy, this was honestly the perfect weather and I feel as if I got to experience this beautiful little area at its most natural, and I honestly cannot wait to go back.
If any of you are ever in Nagasaki and want to get out of the city for a little while, I high recommend this place!
Thanks for reading ❤︎❤︎