The best way of getting in contact with the locals on Ikeshima seems to be leaving camera equipment on the side of a street. It worked in front of the apartment complex and it worked again about an hour later just down the road next to the school. I left my belongings behind to take a video of the apartment buildings next to the abandoned baseball field. When I came back I saw a guy in his mid-30s and of course I said “Hi!”. His English was actually pretty good, so we started talking about the school and he told me that it still has 9 students – and as many teachers (although this number might include other staff like secretaries). I asked him if he was born on Ikeshima, but he wasn’t. A Kyushu native he studied in Nagasaki and then was sent to Ikeshima by his company – and he didn’t seem to be very happy about it.
For all of you not familiar with big Japanese corporations: In Japan you usually don’t apply for a specific position within a company after graduation (from senior high school or college), you apply at a company in general and then the company decides what to do with you. Commonly this includes intense training from several months to several years, depending on the company you got into. Of course your classes at university kind of give that education a direction, but it’s not unusual that somebody with a degree in mathematics or French literature ends up in marketing or HR – getting into a university in Japan tends to be a lot tougher than actually graduating, so companies tend to start from scratch after 3 years of drinking, sports and art clubs. And just because you are fluent in a second (or third!) language doesn’t mean the company makes proper use of that. (But if you are female and good looking chances are great you won’t have to clean ashtrays for two years – instead you most likely will become some supremo’s secretary.) The same applies for your place of work. Just because your company has its HQ in Tokyo doesn’t mean you won’t end up in a subsidiary somewhere remote. Like on an island off the coast of Nagasaki prefecture…
After the guy told me that he worked for a recycling company on Ikeshima we split since he had to get back to work – and I was eager to continue my exploration.
I was actually starting to run out of time, so I went back to the apartment building area I shot in the morning, this time more to the east. Some of the buildings had new plumbing outside and people were actually living there. At this point everybody I saw gave me a short nod, which I interpreted as a sign of “Yeah, you are welcome here.” – it felt really good. At an abandoned house the window next to the entrance door was broken, so I took a few pictures of the bike, cleaning tools and mailboxes that were still there. When I got back to the main street, route 216, I actually found a house that was open for visitors (I guess… it was unlocked, clean and had a sign in Japanese outside saying something about a room on the 4th floor). All the doors were locked and the staircase kinda smelled funny, but on the 4th floor I was indeed able to look inside an apartment that was arranged like a museum room.
Outside again I followed route 216 to finish my circumnavigation of Ikeshima. I passed by the noisy Ikeshima Urban Mine Co., Ltd. and several apartment buildings before reaching the old loading plant. On the southern side of the harbor entrance was a scrapyard where a single worker was moving rusty stuff around. In continued following route 216, taking some pictures here and there, before I reached the apartments at the harbor again, where my explorations started about seven and a half hours earlier, making my visit to Ikeshima one of the longest photo shoots I ever did. But it wasn’t over yet…
Figuring out the ferry / boat schedule when planning the trip wasn’t exactly easy since all the information was in Japanese and not really clear. I got some help from friends who are Japanese natives and confirmed the schedule with the hotel staff in Sasebo – everybody told me the boat (it actually was a boat, not a ferry, also in the morning – sorry for that!) would leave at 4.09 p.m., so when my ride entered the harbor at around 3.55 p.m. I continued to take some photos and videos. But something felt wrong watching the activities on the boat, so I decided to hurry to the terminal – and of course the boat left right when I arrived, shortly after 4 p.m.; thank you very much, guys! The people arriving on Ikeshima of course saw what happened and told me that there was another boat leaving for Sasebo today, but they couldn’t tell me when. So I waited and thought about the day – my rocky start and how I didn’t even enter any of the huge industrial ruins at the harbor. 10 minutes passed, 20 minutes… Then some senior citizens arrived at the terminal and I felt a bit of relief – I wasn’t the only one wanting to leave Ikeshima. At around 4.35 p.m. the boat to Sasebo arrived. As I took a seat while the ship left the harbor I had a last look at the huge characters in the sand of the breakwater and I couldn’t have agreed more: „絆 池しま 大スキ“ – „Kizuna Ikeshima daisuki“ – „I / We like Ikeshima a lot“
(Since the inhabitants of Ikeshima consider their island a tourist attraction I added it to the *Map Of Demolished Places And Tourist Spots* and created *a new map just for Ikeshima*. If you don’t want to miss the latest postings you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* - and of course there is the *video channel on Youtube*…)