What’s surprising about Ogasawara is that there are no indigenous people. First settled in the mid 1800s by Americans who departed from Hawaii, the Japanese seized it during their colonial expansion, retaken by the United States after World War II, and then returned to Japan in the 1970s.
There are numerous reminders of the war. Inside the many hills you still see dank tunnels created for the island’s defense. Apparently there was no land war here, unlike (somewhat nearby) Iwo Jima. There’s also this incredibly forlorn-looking, Saint George church in the main port village. I love how the entry walkway does not meet the current sidewalk.
It’s odd to be in a place with such little human history. The English name for the islands, Bonin, is a mispronunciation of the Japanese words “no people” (bu nin, or mu nin).
I am a huge fan of Tokyo’s summer festivals. Sacred and community-based, these festivals involve shrine carrying, chanting, grunting, drums, flutes, and bells, ritual clothing, and close proximity between neighbors.
In a special biodiversity issue, The Kyoto Journal published my short essay called “Inviting Totoro to Tokyo.” The article celebrates Miyazaki Hayao’s (宮崎 駿) wonderful illustrated book “The Place Where Totoro Lives.” In illustrations, words and photos, Miyazaki portrays Tokyo residential districts village-like atmosphere and potential for wildness and mystery. Miyazaki imagines a city that can welcome Totoro by showing rare wood houses, the stories of their occupants, contemporary streetscapes, and how they can be transformed by creating an urban forest.