Last week was the last overnight trip planned by the OSS, and it was certainly the most anticipated. The trip was to the Izu Islands, about a seven-hour ferry ride out of Tokyo Bay, and though the weather cut our trip short it was definitely a highlight of my entire semester thus far.
The island that we were able to visit was Shikinejima. The ride was pretty long and tiring, but the weather was perfect for the events that were planned for the day. Upon arriving, we quickly got suited up in wetsuits for a few hours of snorkeling, which was no easy feat as the suits were not only difficult to get on but extremely warm before we entered the water. However, it was worth the struggle. The water was beautiful; there were lots of fish, coral, and nasty sea slugs to look at. I also managed to get sunburn in the shape of my goggles. After snorkeling we ate bento, a type of packed lunch, and were given time to rent bikes and explore the island.
I was surprised by just how small of a community lived on the island. Everyone seemed to know everyone. At one point when my friends and I got lost and had to ask someone for directions, the man we asked offered to drive to where we wanted to go so that we could follow him. Furthermore, after dinner the town even re-opened the convenience store so that we could all buy some dessert and snacks. The island, like the rest of Japan, was very mountainous and riding the bikes at times proved to be difficult, but every time we reached the top of a hill we were rewarded with an amazing view of the ocean, nearby islands, and the jagged cliffs that lined Shikinejima. The views were breathtaking.
The next day we were forced to cut our trip short due to storms that were expected to hit the island. Had we stayed, we would have been stranded on the island for a week or two. The family who owned the building we stayed in saw us off the next day by performing some kind of tradition with ribbons that I can’t say I really understood, but it was adorable all the same.
Though I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to visit any of the other islands, Shikinejima surpassed my expectations and is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had thus far during my study abroad experience.