Come join our wonderful sea kayaking summer camp!
Come join our wonderful sea kayaking summer camp!
Dear prospective Ogasawara visitors,
As you might know, Ogasawara is a subtropical climate, subject to windy typhoons just as often as it is blessed by gorgeous sunny days. This blog post will give you a range of ideas on what to do on a rainy day so you can make the most of your visit to the islands.
Pelan Village offers yoga classes a few times a week- it is a lovely way to relax and stretch while listening to the gentle pitter-patter of rain coming down outside. Classes on are a donation basis, so you don’t have to stretch your pocketbook by much. If you’d rather, you could always put on a yoga Youtube video and stretch out in your own room.
If it happens that the skies decide to rain cats and dogs the day before your boat departs for Tokyo and you are despairing that you haven’t yet snorkeled, never fear. Just remember that you’re going to be dripping wet snorkeling in sun or rain, and put on some flippers and a snorkel! The seas are full of vibrant fish and thriving coral around these parts. If you are lucky, you might even spot a manta ray or some small reef sharks visiting the reefs to nap amongst the corals (never fear, there has never been a shark attack on the island). You can either rent snorkeling gear from Pelan, various dive shops (Surf Shop Rao, for example, although it is on the other side of the island, far fro town) along the main road in town, or buy your own (it would probably cost you $25 or so to buy a mask- the flippers are far more expensive but not necessary). Do make sure to respect the coral and not to rest your feet or flippers against the coral- a mere finger’s brush could really hurt the ecosystem.
You might want a life jacket but I never use one since I like to dive down for a closer look at giant clams, sea stars, and abandoned shells on the ocean floor. You might see an octopus scuttling along the sand.
Kominato has some nice snorkeling spots off to the right, but my personal favorite is Ogiura beach- walk all the way to the right, set your things inside the fox-hole carved into the cliff (a relic leftover from WWII when the US and Japan were duking it out on the island) and head straight towards the surf- if you veer around the cliff on your rightmost side you can swim to a small beach where there is a little hammock swing.
You can sing to your heart’s content at either Hibis or Radford. Getting drunk while singing is a prerequisite (not really) and an A+ way to befriend the locals, provided you’ve invited them along. The draft beer on the island is a little pricey- probably about $9-$10 a pop, but pretty tasty. Oh, and, its really hilarious when the Japanese try to sing American lyrics- they sing in a kind of soft and lispy way and it is bound to make you smile from ear to ear.
Restaurant or pub-hop
I highly recommend visiting Green Pepe for a sizzling cast-iron pan full of delectable tidbits. Green Pepe has been around for 30 years and is owned by an incredibly talented artist who studied in Paris (and is a great Bosch replica artist) and his wife. The walls are covered with paintings and knickknacks from all over the world, ranging from prints autographed by John Lennon himself, to Parisian statuettes, to old fashioned telephones and clocks. It is located in town on the road behind the main street facing away from the beach front towards the mountains. There are tables and a long bar so you can either have a dinner party or drink yourself silly (or both?)
If you are not adverse to rain, then I highly recommend taking a rainy day hike to the Okamiyama Shrine up on the mountaintop (be careful to note the steep stairs, typical entrances to Japanese shrines- there are hundreds of them and you are likely to quickly run out of breath). There, you can ogle the architecture and pay your respects to the spirits and make a wish. If you’re more inclined to enjoy the rain in a more natural environment, then take a 15 minute bus from town to the mountainside, where you can stop off at Kominato to take a hike to Buta Beach- its about an hour and a half hike and you’ll enjoy an incredible view. If you bring along a magnifying glass or viewfinder, you can really enjoy all the incredible and miniscule plant and animal life- Ogasawara is home to dozens of endemic species of ferns and they range from extremely hairy to baby-butt-smooth. Bring along a digital camera and document your adventure!
Visit the aquarium
This is a great thing to do with the kids. There is an aquarium near the Fukushi community center, close to the boat loading dock (a 5 minute walk from town, towards the mountains). There is a fun shallow pond area in front where kids can literally brush fish teeth with long poles (the fish will swim up and expose their bellies for a good tummy rub too) and inside the aquarium, you’ll find a rotating display of tiny fish, a turtle or two, and a couple dozen tanks full of larger fish ranging from parrotfish, angelfish, hairy crabs, etc. There are also a couple display cases full of taxidermied seabirds and crustaceans.
Take a boat to Hahajima
I think the Hahajimamaru boatride costs around $40 and takes 5-7 hours. This tiny island is similar in size to Chichijima but unlike Chichijima (which is home to 2,000 people), only has 400-500 residents. So this is a great place to chill out and really appreciate nature. Although I’ve never been, people say it is even more beautiful that Chichijima. You can read about one foreigner’s experience on Hahajima here.
This is Kaori Freda, WWOOFer and staff member, chiming in to introduce you to the Pelan Village Layout. Pelan is basically a small intricate complex of wooden log cabins, all of which have been built by Ryo and Chika Shimizu, along with a host of volunteers over the years. There are a handful of houses nearby that the Shimizus have also constructed, in which friendly neighbors live.
I’ll tour you around from the bath, to wooden walkways, to the kitchen house and the place where all the firewood is stock-piled. If you see a photo you like, just click on the bubble to expand it and read a short blurb.
If you are interested in learning more about Pelan Village, feel free to visit my personal blog at https://rainagainblog.wordpress.com/tag/pelan-village/.
Question: How far away is Pelan Village from the bus stop? How long does the bus take to get to town?
Answer: Walking distance from Pelan Village to the bus stop is 5 minutes. Upon arrival we can give you directions. The bus only runs once an hour, so please be sure to check the timetable posted on the fridge in the shared kitchen house. It takes the bus 15 minutes to reach town. There are two grocery stores, many restaurants (which are open at lunch and dinner times), cafes, and various places where you can book whale-watching, fishing, diving, and hiking tours.
Question: How far away are the beaches? Do you rent out snorkeling and kayaking equipment?
Answer: Ogiura Beach is a 20 minute walk down the hill (or a 5 minute bus ride). Kominato Beach is a 6 minute bus ride, a 30 minute bicycle ride, a 10 minute motorbike ride, and an hour by foot. From Kominato, you can take the Heart Rock hiking tour (you need to hire a guide from a different business for this), or visit an array of hiking trails and beaches. Kopepe beach is quite close to Pelan Village, about 20 minutes by foot give or take (and even less by bus). Guests staying at Pelan Village can borrow snorkel and fin equipment free of charge while kayak tour guests need to make a ¥500 contribution. There are many bright tropical fish and thriving coral in the nearby beaches. There has never been a shark attack on Ogasawara and the sharks that do visit are small reef sharks who seek the help of small reef fish to clean away parasites that cling to the sharks.
Question: Can I buy local produce in town? What sort of souvenirs might I expect to bring back from my trip?
Answer: There is a shop that exclusively sells island made produce: fruits, jams, veggies. Mostly, produce is shipped from the mainland. Pelan Village tends a small farm and we can share some vegetables, given that they are in season. We do not offer permaculture courses but guests are more than welcome to pitch in a hand farming and gardening. Pelan Village also sells deliciously crunchy bread baked over a fire in a Dutch oven. Popular souvenirs range from passionfruit jam to Ogasawara salt, coffee beans, island glassware, and handmade leis.
Question: Are the accommodation prices listed on a per person basis or per room? Should I expect hammocks, beds, or futons?
Answer: The rooms are cabin-style. There are three cabins: one fits four guests, and the remaining two cabins fit two apiece. The accommodation prices are on a per person basis, although the price is halved for children. There are electricity ports in each room, although you should bring a Japanese adapter for American or European devices. There are many mosquitos, so make sure to keep your door closed. We supply burning sage to ward the mosquitos away, although we are able to supply mosquito nets. Visitors to Ogasawara do not need to worry about contracting malaria or dengue fever.
Question: Is it possible to see whales or dolphins on the island? Are there a lot of coral to see and fish to snorkel alongside?
Answer: Seeing whales or dolphins is always a chance encounter. The fall and winter are best for whale-watching, and there are many boats on the island that will take guests to see ocean life. However, these boats are disruptive and their fuel pollute the seabeds, so we recommend traveling on a sea kayak with a Pelan Village tour. Each daylong tour costs between ¥9000-¥10000 and includes lunch, tea, snorkeling stops, sometimes a brief hike, and historical facts.
Kaori Freda, creator and manager of this English website for Pelan Village, is a WWOOF volunteer who is currently living on Chichijima. She keeps a blog about her experience living at Pelan Village (including New Years festivities) and what it is like to wake up to each new day on this tropical paradise called Ogasawara. You can learn more about WWOOFing at Pelan Village here.
Caitlin Carlier created Architecture of Travel to document and share lovely photos of lovely places, in hopes of inspiring future travel and using it as a guide to refer back to. She covers architecture in China, Japan, South Korea, India, and more. She volunteered at Pelan Village for a while through WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and wrote a great piece about the village here, a post about Chika’s special peanut butter substitute recipe, and about the cozy Jungle House down the mountain path.
Ludy Sforza, the island’s translator and English tutor, created this website to introduce foreigners to the many wonders on Chichijima. Follow his blog posts to get a feel for what life is like on the island throughout the four seasons. Ludy writes about Pelan Village in this post.
This stunning surfing documentary by Nami and Matt walks the audience through contemporary surfing history through seven interviews with the island’s best surfers. The documentary interviews Pelan Village’s Ryo Shimizu on his philosophy of surfing on the Ogasawara Archipelago. Documentary DVDs are available for sale on the website.
Established in 2002 by Knee High Media Japan, this inspirational magazine makes it their mission to feature “unique stories and stunning photography which offers readers the sensation of travel”. To read about Pelan Village’s beginnings, read this article, “Memories of Island Life”.
This blog tracks the life of a city-dweller turned islander. There are a few cursory posts about living at Pelan Village.
Born in Surf, a stunning surfing documentary filmed and directed by Nami Miyagawa and Matthew Clem, interviewed Pelan Village’s Ryo Shimizu on his life and love of surfing.
Here is an excerpt below. To watch a trailer to check out the upcoming DVD, head over to Born in Surf’s website.
Hooked on surfing, Ryo realized he had to live near the ocean. This moment led him to Ogasawara where he built his own home and guest house in Coffee Mountain overlooking yakiba beach. Pelan Village is a WWOOFing location and a state of mind, founded with the goal to live a lifestyle that will preserve the earth for the next 7 generations. Ryo believes this is possible by changing the things that anyone, anywhere, and anytime are capable of doing. The water saving process and lifestyle at Pelan certainly inspire the visitor to think more deeply and creatively about the resources we consume. Ryo is also a kayaking tour guide and a founding member of Ogasawara’s Kaname Kai–a club that organizes an annual outrigger canoe race and other events focused on getting everyone involved with the ocean. A passionate member of the Ogasawara community, Shimizu-san is constantly working to create opportunities for everyone.http://www.ogasawaramura.com/en/stay/area3/pelanvillage.html
Meet Ryo, the man with a dream who built more than 11 tiny houses by hand on the Ogasawara Archipelago. This is his story, and how Pelan Village came into existence.