Emperor’s birthday: island holiday

Emperor’s birthday: island holiday
Emperor’s birthday: island holiday

originally published January 15, 2023

Japan, it surprised me to learn, gifts its citizens with more national holidays than any other country. Perhaps these enforced rest days present a remedy to the workaholicism? Unlike USA holidays, they do not confine themselves to long weekends but pop up unashamedly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with nothing but paid leave to make up the difference.

Facing one such holiday in the middle of the week (in honor of the Emperor’s birthday), I decided to test the island bus system on a day trip to the opposite shore. Living minutes from Tokunoshima’s major port, I drink in first-class views of the surf on my daily commute, but trundling north soaked me in our magnificent mountains.

Deposited in the middle of Amagi Town by my amused driver, I wandered the streets in search of sustenance. Many restaurants were enjoying their own holidays, but a cozy cafe welcomed me in. I splurged on udon and eel (tender, sweet, highly recommended) while perusing Google maps. A patch of greenery near the ocean looked promising. Belly full, I trekked off to find myself on the doorstep of one of our natural treasures: Innojofuta.

The surf churned among the rocks like a witch’s brew. I snapped photo after photo, thinking longingly of the watercolor set I had left at home. Then I turned into a cave where a linguistic mystery clicked into focus.

My students had urged me in their welcome letters to visit “Glass Rock.” The term baffled me — was it sand, melted into glass? — until I came face to face with Tokunoshima’s iconic “Megane” formation.

Glass, glasses, or even spectacles, you might say

I skipped back to catch the 5pm bus, brimming with a new, shall we say, vision of home.

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