A large crowd meets the ferry in Chichijima. Small hotels meet their guests, locals welcome their returning family and friends. There was even a steel drum band. Once on solid ground, in an island with a full-time population of about 2,000, you feel that you are in the most remote part of Japan. Well, certainly, it’s the most remote part of Tokyo.
What makes Ogaswara islands a world heritage site is that these volcanic islands have never been attached to a continent. Many of the plants and animals are unique to the islands. There’s been a lot of effort recently on Chichijima to control feral populations of goats, cats, and rats that are disturbing the local habitat.
Local nature guides showed us around the island by day and by night. We learned about some unusual plants and even saw giant bats with “tanuki” faces. There are many beautiful coves with clear water, and steep hillside walks. Below is the takonoki tree, or octopus tree, named because of the shape of its aerial roots and branches. It also creates giant, nubby fruit.
Spring in Tokyo reminds you of the power that flowers have to capture human imagination. Cherry blossom viewing, which has its own name in Japanese, hanami (花見), draws people to socialize outdoors, drinking and eating on blue tarps with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
The power of cherry blossoms (or sakura, 桜) even inspires acts of seeming recklessness. In the photo above, an older salary man is perched precariously above the Imperial Palace moat in his quest to take a close-up photo with his cellphone (or ketai).
As an anthropologist and foreigner in Japan, it is also striking to me how specific flower devotion in Japan is. On a hanami stroll, I noticed this beautiful yellow flowering bush called yamabuki, literally “mountain spray.” I have never seen it on either coast in the United States; an internet search gives its English name “kerria.” Despite the crowds in the Tokyo park, I felt that I alone was giving this flower some attention.
At the end of this month, Good Day Books in Ebisu, will be hosting an author’s reading with Enbutsu Sumiko. Her Flower Lover’s Guide to Tokyo offers 40 walks in Tokyo focusing on seasonal flowers in various parks and gardens.