On Olive Island
Mark and I were in Shodoshima for a few days just before Stephen went. The hotel we stayed in stands very close to a number of soy-sauce factories. We rented bicycles at the hotel and pedaled off to the harbor. The next day we set off again, visiting three soy-sauce factories, a Dutch pancake café, a sake brewery, and a small factory where thin somen noodles are made by hand. It was a lovely sunny day.
Here and there, you will find tiny, artisanal somen shops in Shodoshima. One such shop, called “Nakabu-an,” allowed us to try our hand at making somen as we toured the facility.
In the spring breeze –
Having made a batch of somen, we bought a few of the house products, including “Olive somen” (pale green noodles flavored with Shodoshima olive paste).
Over toward the port at Sakade, we saw two large hotels, both of them totally abandoned, open to the weather. One was named “Shodoshima Royal Hotel” and obviously had once featured a fine Japanese garden, private beach, and a harbor-side swimming pool. To our amazement, doors and windows alike were wide open. Anyone might step inside.
The hotel was a tumbledown affair, partly looted, but a fancy painting remained on the lobby wall, looking down on sofas and armchairs — everything in place, just as the management had left it, maybe six months ago, maybe a year. (The policeman who pulled up to check us out couldn’t say how long.) At the entrance to the hotel, we found five packages of somen with a curious label: “Arigato.” Someone had left them on the stoop, with no indication why. Who or what was being thanked?
A curtain sways
In a forsaken hotel –
A soft breeze blew through the greenery, and we imagined the glory of times past. A favorite haiku of Basho’s came to my mind:
The summer grasses –
Of brave soldiers’ dreams
(夏草や 兵どもが 夢の跡)
A bus from the hotel took us up Kankakei Mountain the morning after we arrived on the island. The mountains there are carpeted in variegated green — ranks of trees, staggered in their distance, slope after slope. We reached the mountaintop quickly enough, and it was not yet crowded. Below lay the sea, at the end of a long swath of new-leafed trees veiled in morning mist.
Surveying the sea
From the mountaintop –