Today I want to tell you about Oshima Island.

The Japanese word inaka is often used to describe Kesennuma. Broadly speaking, inaka is a word which means “countryside,” “the boondocks,” “the middle of nowhere.” But from what I can see, inaka holds a lot of other meanings as well. In a country like Japan, where tokai (the big cities) are seen as the driving force for the national economy, there is a strong pull for kids who grow up in inaka like Kesennuma to go to college in Tokyo and then try to make a living out in the big city. But as much as you might think of Tokyo as a hip, modern metropolis; a blank canvas for dreams to find a beginning, just the same is Tokyo oppressively crowded, rigidly scheduled and robotic in its day-to-day function.

Kids from the inaka, who become working adults in Tokyo often find that the big city didn’t have what they were looking for after all. And when these kids have couple of days to breathe and escape the bustle of the tokai, a lot of them find themselves drawn back to those same inaka that they shunned as teenagers. And there, they find tranquility. Peace. A laid-back pace of life taken for granted in younger days, becomes nostalgic when revisited from the perspective of a jaded salaryman. For these people, inaka no longer represents merely the countryside, but rather a place to come home to. A place to reconnect with one’s roots. Above all, a place to rest.

Although Kesennuma is often referred to as inaka, it’s still a bustling commercial fishing port and a major manufacturing center for a variety of different food products. So even within Kesennuma, Oshima is an inaka in a category of its own; as uniquely tranquil a place as I have ever been to anywhere in the world. Here, you might just find something you’ve been missing all along.

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