Japan’s balmy tropical islands in the area of Okinawa seem like an ideal place to set up camp and live like a hermit, and one 76-year old man has done just that for more than two decades.
When it comes to stepping outside of the confines of modern society, you just can’t beat life on a remote island; for entertainment industry veteran Masafumi Nagasaki, his patch of paradise is Sotobanati Island, a little kidney-shaped speck of land in Okinawa Prefecture. Meaning “Distant Outer Island,” it’s a perfect name for a Robinson Crusoe-style escape. Mr. Nagasaki “retired” to the island over 20 years ago, and hasn’t looked back.
Of course, life on a tiny island less than a kilometre wide isn’t always an easy and carefree existence, despite perceptions to the contrary. Mr. Nagasaki regularly has had to contend with violent typhoons that scour the island’s vegetation, a lack of drinkable fresh water and, the bane of all island lovers, biting insects like sand flies. The scourge of bug bites is compounded by the fact that Mr. Nagasaki decided to become one with nature and abandon any and all clothing after his first year on the island.
”Walking around naked doesn’t really fit in with normal society, but here on the island it feels right, it’s like a uniform,” he said. “If you put on clothes you’ll feel completely out of place.” After years of baking under the hot tropical sun, Mr. Nagasaki is deeply tanned and quite at ease with exposure to the elements.
Now, he only wears the garb of civilization when he makes his weekly jaunt to pick up rice cakes and other basic supplies in a local village. His island retirement is supported by his family, who send him a small allowance of around US$120 per month. Fortunately, the island is close enough to a village to travel there via rowboat, although his arms no doubt get tired from the journey. Sotobanari is found near Iriomote Island, which has a population of around 2,000 people, but strong currents make travelling difficult.
According to Mr. Nagasaki, life on the island initially had a steep learning curve, but the island hermit has made peace with its many challenges. Early lessons included shedding his embarrassment at going au natural in front of passing fishing boats, and the realization, after a typhoon stripped away his shade trees and washed away his tent, that there was no choice but to work with, not against, his environment.
“I don’t do what society tells me, but I do follow the rules of the natural world,” said Mr. Nagasaki in an interview. “You can’t beat nature so you just have to obey it completely. That’s what I learned when I came here, and that’s probably why I get by so well.”
Read more about Mr. Nagasaki: Reuters