The Trip to Naoshima….
August 20, 2010, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Youkobo/Tokyo/ Japan

This week I left on Tuesday and traveled by bus, train, bullet train, and ferry to the island of Naoshima, where there is the Setouchi International Art Festival with installations by some really great artists. The art is exhibited over several islands and I had a short trip planned to just get a taste of it.  Hiroko-san at Youkobo had made reservations for me to stay at a ryokan (japanese traditional inn) in Naoshima.  Mr. Nishimura didn’t speak any English, but I wasn’t too concerned.  I had his cell phone number and was to call him when I arrived at the port and he would come and pick me up.  I got to Uno, the town across the harbor from Naoshima, and found the welcome tent for the art festival and a very nice English speaking Japanese man working there.  He was extremely helpful and agreed to talk with Mr. Nishimura when I dialed him on my cell phone, to tell him when the ferry would get in and he could pick me up.

After quite a bit of Japanese conversation, it turns out that Mr. Nishimura had thought I was coming on September 17 and 18!  But would be glad to pick me up and somehow he had a room for me.  I took the ferry, got to Naoshima and Mr. Nishimura picked me up… very nice, filled with energy, zipping around, speaking Japanese.  He took me to the ryokan and showed me into a really nice Japanese style private room with tatami mats and beautiful light. He had picked me up so quickly at the harbor that I hadn’t had a chance to go to the information center to find out about the Setouchi festival, so I started thinking I wanted to go for a walk, or figure out how to get back to the info center to plan the next day.  It was about 5:00.  I heard a bit of talking and stepped into the hall and saw Mr. Nishimura with two young women in their 25-32’s talking, talking, talking.  One turned to me, and speaking English, said…there was a mix up because Mr. N thought I was coming in September and he has two more people coming tonight and there are no rooms.  So, he was wondering if I would stay in the room with these two Japanese girls….they had a big room upstairs, and, because it was his mistake, we could all stay free.  I said fine, if that was ok with them, it was ok with me. Fine, but, they said, it would still be a problem tomorrow night, because they were leaving, but two more people were coming, and I was scheduled to stay another night.  I said perhaps he could find a place for me to stay tomorrow night somewhere else.  He agreed.

I asked the girls about the info center and they said, come with us, we’re going there now.  Great, we all headed out on bicycles.  I have no idea how far it was –maybe 3-4 miles–we left these windy, narrow streets (think of the pix of China that you’ve seen) and headed onto a bigger road, up and down hills into town.  It was a lovely evening, we got to the info center, got the info (in Japanese, of course) and then we parted.  That was good for all of us, they didn’t want to hang out with me, and I was ready to figure some things out on my own.  We agreed that we all sort of new how to get back on the bikes.

I found a sashimi place that was really delicious, had dinner, and then, decided I was really hot and tired and wanted to go back to the ryokan before night fell on these narrow streets with cars, people and bikes flying by. I headed back the way we came and got pretty far along before there was a fork in the road.  Oh.  I had been following the girls when we first came to town and trying not to get hit by a car, as opposed to making a note of each turn in the road. Neither looked exactly right, but I took the one that would have been the most familiar if it had been familiar at all…and before too long I realized that I had no idea at all how to get to Mr. Nishimura’s. None.

Evening was definitely falling.  The sky had that pretty dark bluish grayish purplish hue right before getting dark, and the moon was visible.  I saw an older woman — maybe 75– working in her garden next to the road. I stopped my bike and she came over to me.  I said ” Nishimura-san?”  and waved my arms around hoping that was the international symbol for “does this person live around here?”

Her response in Japanese seemed to have absolutely no relationship to my question, but, who knew?  She did not seem to be reassuring that I had found the answer I needed.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do. And then, I thought of the cell phone.  Mr. N’s number was in my recent calls from this afternoon when I had called him on my arrival.  I dialed the number, he answered, I said my name, and handed the phone to the woman.  She spoke for a while and she gave me back the phone and all I could understand was “Ok”  “Ok” and somehow I knew that I was to stay where I was.

In about 10 minutes, Mr. Nishimura came pedalling up on his bike.  He was great, I followed him back to the ryokan, along the way, we stopped to look at an art installation, and we got back probably about 8:30  I took a great shower and headed to my room and read for a bit before the girls came in around 10.  I slept fabulously. And the next night I had a reservation in Takamatsu.

Cell phones are amazing.

4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

please don’t lose your cell phone!

Comment by Trish Davis

I agree with Trish—don’t loose the cell phone-and keep it charged! But all in all Susan what an adventure—I can’t wait to hear more when you return-m

p.s. wonderful water installation on the Island of Teshima-

Comment by Miki Baird


Comment by Trish Davis


I really, really enjoyed reading about your adventures! How exciting. I think travel and meeting people from other countries is one of the most wonderful things in life! We spent 18 days in Spain (6) and Morocco (12) from mid-April to May 1st. It was wonderful, too.

My love,


Comment by John Hatfield

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