Batoru Rowaiaru

 

This post is somewhat special as it is the one where I tell my very first visit to Ogijima, the island that gave its name to this blog. It was originally written in 2009, shortly after my trip there. I’m copying it here (with some editing).

We were on May 23rd, 2009. It was a Saturday and our plan of the day was something I had wanted to do ever since I knew I was going to go to Takamatsu, because I too can be a stupid fanboy at times.

What am I talking about?

Going to Ogijima!

“What? What is that? Ogijima?” wonder my readers at that moment. (remember, I originally wrote this two years ago on an old blog, I assume you guys know what Ogijima is by now, but I liked this line so decided to keep it. 😉 )

Ogijima is a very small island (less than one kilometer wide and two kilometers long; that’s about half a mile wide and barely more than a mile long for you Americans) located a few kilometers north of Takamatsu. About 200 people live there and there isn’t much happening on it (I beg to differ with that statement I made two years ago, as you know more and more is happening these days).

So why did I want to go so badly? A question that 康代’s family asked. 康代 had asked the same question too, the first time I told her about my wish to visit the place; and she thought that I was a lame fanboy upon hearing my answer.

And the reason is Battle Royale!

Contrarily to what you may think now, Ogijima is not where the film was shot, it is where the action takes place!

Yeah, I know, Battle Royale is supposed to take place on a fictitious island. And while no mention of its location is made in the film, the novel locates it quite well. Also, that fictitious island is named Okishima.

If you know a thing or two about phonology, you know that g and k are phonetically extremely close, same thing goes for j and sh.

If you know a thing or two about Hiragana, you know that both writings are extremely similar (that and the fact that -shima and -jima are pretty much interchangeable in Japanese).

If you don’t know anything about this, let me show you:

  • Ogijima is written おぎじま in Hiragana.
  • Okishima is written おきしま, the only difference, if you missed it are the ” after きand しin the name of the real island.

My theory is that the author, Kōshun Yakami, made those changes and created a “fake” island inspired from a real one, instead of just choosing a real one, in order to not get into any trouble and/or not to offend anyone as the topic of his book was somewhat controversial.

However, as you’re about to see in the following pictures, similarities between the islands are many. Things are not always located on the same spots from one island to the other, but they’re all there.

Let’s start with an aerial view of Ogijima (I lost the source of this picture, I hope that won’t get me into trouble):

Aerial view of Ogijima (source unknown)

Okishima maps:

 

Note that while the shape of the island in the film is closer to reality, the island in the novel is closer to the actual one. And if you’ve read the book but never went to Ogijima, you may still find some of the (many) pictures I took that day strangely familiar.

 

Approaching Ogijima :

Ogijima

 

 

Discovering Ogichō, the island’s only village:

Toyotama-hime Shrine

 

On the way to Ogijima’s Lighthouse

 

Ogijima’s Lighthouse and its beach.

Ogijima's Lighthouse

 

Small pop quiz: Do you know what these are for?

 

Finally and sadly, it was time to leave Ogijima.

Ogijima

Last nod to Battle Royale, fans will have recognized the school and Mimura’s barn above it:

 

 

Ogijima

 

 

Ogijima

You know the rest of the story. I went there as a fan of Battle Royale, I left as a lover of the actual island, to the point that today Ogijima is not synonymous to Battle Royale in my mind anymore. It is synonymous to this sweet island where I hope to live someday, even though it’s not a realistic option… yet… 😉

(and as this is the place which started it all for this blog, it is also my submission for the first “J-Festa”)

David Billa

David was born and raised in France. After a few years in the US and then back to his home country, life led him to the shores of the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. After falling in love with the area, he decided to show its beauty and all it has to offer with this blog.

39 Responses

  1. Chris Kempson says:

    At last the name becomes clear to me. Thanks for the explanation and lovely pictures. Looks like a very nice place to visit but it’s a little far from me (Chiba). I don’t suppose you know if they have a decent net connection there do you? 😛

    • David says:

      From Chiba it may be far, but if you’re ever in Kagawa, you should go. 🙂

      There is currently no internet access on the island (except through smartphones; I wrote on Twitter from the very heart of the island last Fall, in the very middle of nowhere, just to see if I could), but if I understood the news correctly, some people are currently negotiating with the local government to install it as part of the efforts to make the island attractive for people to relocate there. I’ll try to write a post about this soon (when I have more info for example)

      • Chris Kempson says:

        Yeah I’ll bear that in mind thanks. Added it to my list of places to visit in Japan 🙂

        No Internet access sounds scary! I hope they get it installed soon haha. So you went in Autumn? I bet the temperature really soars in the summer. It’s been plus 30C here and that’s quite warm for me.

        • David says:

          So far I’ve been in Japan in October, May and June and yeah, the islands can be hot in June (as well as now of course). However, I like hot and I lived in Florida – inland – for 5 years, so it’s not a huge problem for me, or at least one I’m used to. 🙂

  2. sixmats says:

    This looks like a place that everyone should visit. It looks a little hard to get to though.

    • David says:

      Glad you’re saying that everyone should visit. 🙂

      It looks harder to reach than it is.
      Sure there’s only one ferry that goes there from Takamatsu, but then Takamatsu is as easy to reach as any other city in Japan (despite what a lot of people think because of what I call the “Shikoku Stigma”)

  3. Norm says:

    My wife’s mother has a house on Ogijima, we’ll be there in a weeks time. I can’t wait!!!
    Those salarymen look like they are walking up the long hill to the cave. I took some pictures last year. It’s normally a quiet island with the occassional old lady on a scooter whizzing about with her husband hanging on the back.
    Because of the arts festival it was so busy last year. They even built new toilets and an information centre. The local canteen must have lost ots of business bacause of the temporary canteen that sprung up!

    • David says:

      Thanks for stopping by Norm.

      Wow, I’m so jealous of you right now. You have family and a place to stay on Ogijima!

      The salarymen were actually going to the lighthouse (the picture was taken just before entering the lighthouse grounds).

      Yes, I’ve been three more times since that first trip. The information center is called Ogijima’s Soul and is a piece of art itself, and I really love it.

      I’m not sure the local canteen has really lost any business. About 100,000 people visited Ogijima during the Festival, and when I went then (twice in october), the four restaurants I could count (Dream Café, Mrs. Murakami’s restaurant, Madoka, and another tiny one selling grilled fish on the port) were constantly full.
      Madoka was damaged by the fire that happened in September, but I think they could stay open, I’m not sure, I think they relocated in some barracks on the port, unless it was a fifth restaurant.
      However, I went to Madoka last month, it’s all repaired now and the food was delicious (I’ll write a post about it soon).
      Thanks again for stopping by and leaving a note. Make sure you come back for more about Ogijima (do not hesitate to look through the archives, I have a few posts about the island, you can find them there: https://setouchiexplorer.com/tag/ogijima/ ) and if you have things online about it yourself, do not hesitate to share it with us.
      Best.

      • Norm says:

        Hi David
        I’ll be going to Japan this coming Monday for 2 weeks. I wish it could be longer.
        We’ll be on Ogijima but only for about 3 days. My mother-in-law doesn’t trust us to close the house up properly. She actually lives in Osaka but goes to the island from time to time and will retire there.
        She always accompanies us, maybe she’s worried about us setting fire to the place, there’s no hot water and the bath is heated by a small fire below the tub, I kid you not!
        I’ve asked about buying a house on the island but she says the houses are usually passed down through the families so are hard to get hold of.
        She did say the they are worth about £20,000 and I too would love to get one.
        I live in London with my Japanese wife, we got married last October and went to Ogijima just after we got the certificate.
        More about the island: I haven’t read your archives yet but I will (many thanks for the link).
        My mother-in-law told me that the cave on the island was used at one time by pirates, like the cave/caves on Megijima. There’s a myth about a monster on Megijima (I’ve never been to it, it seems a bit more touristy) they have a monster on the entrance of the port, I’m sure you’ve seen it.
        Well she seemed to think the pirates made up the myth to keep the locals away from their hoards of stolen goods. So I took a metal detector last year, and while I was sweating away in the cave I found nothing, the only reaction I got was off the lace holes off my shoes! Then the end fell off the detector.
        The house she has is quaint, a small garden and some land but it’s for farming, I haven’t seen where that is. The toilet in the house is not plumbed into a sewer I think the toilet has a kind of tray beneath it that gets emptied by someone, we asked how much it would cost to get this done, a contractor quoted my wife £15,000
        So I’m sure most houses are the same, poor sewage and no hot water!
        Still want to live there? Yep me too!

        • David says:

          Yes, I still want to live there. 🙂 (although I know it will be very hard to get a house there, islanders are not too keen on giving them away)

          I have to been to Megijima, I’m not a big fan. Nowadays, the legend of the monsters is associated with the Momotaro legend, Megijima possibly being Onigashima. I don’t know how much the pirates have to do with it. 🙂

          • Norm says:

            I wouldn’t want to spoil the island but I think it could boost itself with a bit of tourism, plenty of scope there.
            After the recent arts festival I wonder if the locals would be interested in something to boost the islands economy
            I want to do a bit of fishing, there’s some equiptment in the house but the sea doesn’t look so clean. My wife said she used to swim there all the time and her friend bit a Jellyfish once! Strange girl.
            When we walk about the island often the old women would stop her mother and hand her fruit and garlic, which they grow.
            I see them in their little fields but I wasn’t sure if the produce was for local shops or themselves. It doesn’t look like they’re growing enough.
            One thing I did see a lot of and that was spiders with immense webs right across the footpaths!
            Plenty of wildlife fighting it out, Preying Mantis, Grasshoppers and Hornets. I haven’t looked at your contact page yet but I’ll dig out some pictures and send them to you.

            Cheers

          • David says:

            More tourism could be a plus (and it has increased since the Festival, at least on the week-ends), definitely, but I think that developing some sort of economy on the island could be even better. Of course, both could go hand in hand.

            I’m thinking of a small village near my home area (located on a hill, just like Ogicho, actually it’s funny how they almost look alike, the village i’m talking about is just inland, and well, French) which was slowly dying. I’ve been back a couple of months ago for the first time in years, and they now have a bunch of traditional (or not) crafts shops that seem to attract people. What Maison de Urushi does kinda goes in that direction.

            Concerning the food that is being grown on the island, it is my understand that most of it is for self-consumption.

            And yes, the island has plenty of wildlife indeed, not always the best kind (I also have seen my share of snakes on it, although I don’t think they’re dangerous).

  4. Norm says:

    I thought it would be a nice place to have a spa or onsen, no natural spring water that I know of but pools might be popular, I know my mother-in-law goes to her local sport centre to relax in the pools there every day!
    Doesn’t one of the canteens have a foot spa if you sit outside?
    I thought it was a fish tank on the floor 😉 then someone stick their feet in it.
    A local myth about a monster always draws a crowd, pirate ghosts might too! Ghosts of the cave.
    There used to be a fair amount of fishing but I think the waters are too polluted now and it’s put people off.

    • David says:

      For the longest time, water – or lack of thereof – was an issue on Ogijima. However, I think now it is connected to Takamatsu water system through underground/underwater pipes.

      Yes, Madoka has a foot spa on its terrace. We ate next to it last month, as it was empty I wondered for a while what it was for. My first guess was some sort of fish tank too (not for fancy fish, for fish that were fished in the morning and about to be eaten).

      • Norm says:

        It looks like we’ll be on Ogijima next Thursday if everything goes to plan, I see there’s another Icelandic volcano threatening to erupt I hope it doesn’t erupt before Monday if at all!
        David are you in Japan at the moment?

  5. Norm says:

    We were thinking about getting back to Japan in October but that all depends on my wife’s job.
    We’ll be bringing my wife’s motherand neice back for a week as they’ve never been out of Japan, I’m a bit worried as London is so much more aggressive than Japan. Lots of rude people here so I hope they can cope with it.
    Our basic plan is to meet lots of our friends in Tokyo, then on to Osaka, more friends more Izakaya’s and Hubs. Ogijima for the best bit of the trip then Kyoto and more eating with friends. Hopefully we can get to Hiroshima as we haven’t done that yet.
    Thanks for the Art listings, we’ll try to catch some more of that.
    David if you’re ever in London give us a shout and maybe we can meet up for a beer and a chat about island life.

    Cheers

    • David says:

      Don’t worry too much about your Japanese family in Britain, mine survived France, so it should be fine.

      Sounds like a nice trip you got coming next week.

      I don’t have any plans to go to England in the next few months, but if it ever happens, you’ll know. 🙂 Same thing if you go to South West France where I currently am.

  6. Norm says:

    Ok cheers mate.

    I have absolutely no idea how to operate facebook but I just made an account ‘Norm Peterson’ with the image of a drunk salaryman half on and half off a tube seat as my profile picture.
    I’ve put some pictures of Ogijima on it if you wish to access it.

    Norm

    • David says:

      I can’t find your account. (apparently there are hundreds of Norm Peterson around, including a bunch of fake profile of this guys who’s apparently famous).
      What you can do, is go to your picture album (“Photos” > “My Uploads” > then click on the album’s name, and at the very bottom of the page, you’ll have a link to share. It says: “Share this album with anyone by sending them this public link:”
      You may have to set the album as “public” first, I’m not sure.
      Does this make sense?

  7. Norm says:

    Ah, maybe this:

    • David says:

      Yeah, the link works!
      Great pics.
      So you were there during the Festival. I misunderstood, I thought you hadn’t been since it started.

      You wanna know the funny thing? On one pic, it says Oct 23. I was there that week too! (On Oct 18. and 24!) Funny.

  8. Norm says:

    Hi David I’ll have a look and see what I can do.
    I can see the Facebook profile image at the top of this page in the ‘Like Ogijima on Facebook’ box ‘Ogijima (in English) on Facebook’ on the right of the page.
    It’s the bottom right image of a man sleeping mostly on the floor.
    Anyway I’ll go to facebook now and have a go.

    Cheers

  9. Norm says:

    Wow, maybe we passed each other!
    That was the day after we got married, got the paperwork done and jumped on the train to the island, but I wasn’t so happy because it was so busy and I wanted it all to myself!!! (I’m spoilt)
    We arrived on the afternoon of the 22nd and left on the evening of 24th
    They had extra ferries running, not just the old one in te picture but a faster newer one. I bet that’s not running now is it?

    When we went to my mother in laws house, just around the corner from the graves, there were some Japanese coming from seeing some arts instalations, we went into the garden of the house and they almost followed us in, they probably thought being a foreigner I was touring a peice of artwork there. We nearly had a house full of unexpected guests!

    • David says:

      Maybe we passed each other. 🙂
      And yeah, that week was crazy, much more people than anticipated showed up (well, that’s true for the whole festival, but the last two weeks were especially crowded).
      The two Meon ferries were running (usually only one runs at a time) and there also was a boat to Naoshima running for the time of the Festival.

      Funny what you’re saying about the tourists following you in the yard. Actually locals had posted (you may have seen them) signs saying “no art there” in several spots (some are still there). I know they loved having people coming to the island, but by the end, so many must have been bothersome.

      • Norm says:

        Quite odd to think we both hit the isalnd the same time, we must have exceptional taste 😉
        Ah that explains the extra ferries, of course exhisbits on the other islands.

        I don’t think the wife’s mum had any sign on her gate, but nobody would be able to get passed the Aloe Vera plants growing wildly in the garden!
        I think there’s a lot of empty properties there, one of my wifes relatives died about a year ago and that house is empty now, though I think the man had children noone wants to live there.
        I just hope the government can’t take over unused properties?

        Hopefully the islanders got something from the festival, even if for some it would have just been a bit of extra cash.
        Maybe they’ll encourage more people to get there in future if they can.
        Anyway I’ll ask and see if there’s any kind of feedback from my mother in law on the mood on the island.

        • David says:

          Well, I hope all of those children that inherit houses there and don’t want to live there hold on to them long enough so that I can buy one. I don’t care how decrepit it is, I’ll just fix it on the week-ends when I live in Takamatsu, until I can actually move there. 🙂

          It is my understanding that the islanders were very happy, not just because of the cash influx. After you’ve been there, tell me about whatever feedback you get, I’m interested (and say hi from me to Mr. & Ms. Oshima at Onba Factory if you ever meet them, as well as Mr. Tanigawa, the lighthouse groundskeeper, although I’m not too sure he remembers me – I’m “the French guy that interviewed him”)

  10. Norm says:

    Hi mate
    I’ll try to get some feedback from the locals, and look out for Mr and Ms Oshima and Mr Tanigawa.
    Just a thought but purchasing a property on the island: I’ve never looked out for one but can’t recall ever seeing an estate agent or the equivalent in Japan. Have you? Is it the same process? I would imagine it’s the same but don’t know.

    • David says:

      I haven’t looked at real estate in Japan before, because buying property in Japan is not an option yet. Hopefully one of these days.

  11. reesan says:

    great article david. thanks for participating in j-festa. i had no idea that your site’s namesake was the inspiration for battle royale! inspired to visit ogijima even more now… and also to go watch the movie battle royale again. 🙂

    • David says:

      Thanks for having me in J-Festa. 🙂

      Yeah, Battle Royale is one of my favorite films and it is the reason why I got interested in the island in the first place. Although the description of the island in the book is closer to the real one (I love the book too, and I advise you to read it if you get the chance) some elements in the film look eerily familiar (the lighthouse, the school, the barn, etc).
      And if you ever go there, believe me while images of the film will be with you for the first couple of hours, if you get to meet locals and such, you’ll soon forget all about it.

  12. Norm says:

    Ah got some done already:

  13. Norm says:

    Hi David
    I just got back from Japan and have the in-laws in tow.

    It seems to be that every year I go the better it gets, but we do tend to spend lots of our time meeting old friends and eating and drinking a lot.

    On to the main point, Ogijima I took some photo’s but won’t have them up for a few days.

    It was very hot in Japan and the island was no exception though I had hoped it may be cooler due to the sea air. I haven’t been to Japan at this time of year before and I was pretty much burnt to a crisp by the time I got off the island.
    It was fairly busy (relatives of those that lived on the island seem to return there for a break) it seems we were there on a bank holiday so a few of the bars that I hadn’t seen before were open, like Hama’s ocean bar on Oi beach (see pictures) the ice machine seemed to be a popular device, I‘d seen it used in Kyoto too. A block of ice is placed on a plate and a spinning set of teeth are lowered onto it, they grind away at the ice to produce a bowl of thin ice sheets that are then made tasty with bottles of various flavourings. Tourism it seems is very welcome and it gets busier in early spring as relatives of those that are buried on the island go to put flowers.

    The more you look the more you find on this island, there’s a post office! I didn’t know they had one.
    I found a spa near the road that leads to the lighthouse but have been told it’s actually a facility for old people who can’t look after themselves anymore!!!

    I went to Onba factory, and we were told there will be another arts festival in 2013, I wanted to talk to Mr Oshima but he seemed permanently in conversation or being interviewed, we also saw a film crew heading towards Onba factory as we left. So I never got to speak to him, sorry.
    I also didn’t see the lighthouse museum keeper but heard a very interesting story.
    He found a half dead wild boar on the beach by the lighthouse and someone else saw one on the island. So it seems that a herd of them may have swum from a neighbouring island probably to get away from industrialisation and are now on Ogijima!
    Whether they will breed I don’t know but as my mother-in-law always gets lots of food from the other islanders (see photo’s) I wonder if one day she’ll be given a boar for us to eat?!?!

    The fire that happened on the island last year killed an old man, I wonder if it’s to do with gas canisters as many of the houses seem to use them. We let off some fireworks one night by the jetty and my wife’s mother went back to make sure the matches and fireworks were all soaking wet, I suppose fire must be a big worry there as so much of the island is old dry wood. There’s no fire brigade or police there but there is a medical centre.
    In my wife’s mothers house in Osaka there’s a low table in the middle of the front room, there’s also one in the house on Ogijima too, under it there’s a heater and in the winter they wrap a blanket around the legs of the table to trap the heat, have you seen these?

    After we left Onba factory and found the post office, we decided to head for Toyotama-hime
    shrine, but we wandered off the path, up one of those narrow streets and got onto a foot path that took us up hill for about 15 minutes. Ahead was a very old lady pushing her buggy very slowly don’t forget it was about 35oC and we were both sweating and breathing heavily. I took some photo’s and we walked on about 20 minutes later we came across her again, now this was getting pretty high up and steep terrain and some of the footpath was also going from tarmac to soil. She just kept going very slowly.
    We stopped her and my wife asked if we could help but she said she was ok and collecting rubbish, by this we think she meant she was keeping the footpath clear. There was nothing in her pushchair! She told us if we kept going we’d reach the lighthouse. I thought she may have been wrong as we were heading in the wrong direction and it seemed to be going up and up and up, but she was right. The path must have gone right around the mountain, it was a long old walk, probably through the Daffodil beds (not in flower) that I’d seen on the maps but never looked for and eventually down to the lighthouse.
    (there‘s some photo‘s on Facebook). The path we took got us pretty high on the island, it may have been the nature trail, worth doing but if it’s a warm day take a bottle of water.

    It was the best part of the holiday, even though the biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen flew into the house and I did what any right-minded Englishman would do…I jumped onto the nearest cushion and got the wife to deal with it.
    It had run behind a tv so she sprayed something behind it and a giant spider ran out, followed by the cockroach, must be something interesting behind tv’s that insects like.

    There were less spiders than I expected but the wife said maybe they were cleared away from the footpaths for the arts festival.

    Tried my hand at fishing but got nothing, although there’s fishing boats working near the pier, I also had to do a little repair work to the shed as the wooden slats are deteriorating, they are nailed to wooden struts set in a very basic soil and plant fibre mix. No concrete, so maybe take some plaster with me one day!

    Brilliant, can’t wait to go back.

    • David says:

      Hi Norm,

      Thanks for this feedback. You seem to have had a great time. Great.

      Yeah, you gotta watch out for the sun in summertime at such low latitudes, it’s merciless.

      I’m glad to hear the island was busy, but yeah I had heard that it was busy every summer (especially for Obon). It’s a good thing that even if former islanders (or their kids) don’t live there anymore, they don’t totally forget it.

      Glad to see that Hama Bar was open. I saw it only in the Fall, and I was not totally sure whether it was an abandoned building or not (I mean, I knew it wasn’t, but by the looks of it, I had doubts).

      Shaved ice is extremely popular all over Japan I think (and actually I had my first one on the island).

      And yeah, there are more things that one expects on the island. First time I went I thought there was nothing, just houses, then I discovered the restaurants, hotel, JA building, post office, retirement house and the “all-purpose building” (not sure what to call it). I think that now, I know all of the “non-house buildings” of the island, but maybe not, who knows?

      I’m not sure what to think about boars on the island. They can be dangerous. Especially on such a tiny island where they may encroach with people.

      The thing to keep legs warm in winter is called a Kotatsu and it’s very popular all over Japan. I never used one as I never was in Japan in winter, but I heard that they’re pretty useful as there’s little to no insulation in Japanese houses

      Yes there are two roads to the lighthouse. You were on the second one. I never took it. I meant to do it once, from the lighthouse, but the path was totally obstructed by plants, I had to go back.

      I think the big spiders are not around all year long, I’ve seen them only in the Fall so far, never in the Spring.

      Glad you had a great time. And me too can’t wait to go back (it may be in the Winter this time, this could be interesting)

      🙂

  14. Norm says:

    Hi David
    Thanks for your comments on facebook.
    You seem to be very clued-up on Japanese culture and the island, my wife usually doesn’t give me too much explanation so I only get any clues if I get persistant which can incur the wrath of the wife!

    We really enjoyed Japan this year and she usually wants to get back to the UK by the end of the trip, but she seemed to want to stay longer. So I wonder if she’s open to going more often or staying longer, I hope so.
    I want to get out there for my birthday in March (we always plan this but the plan usually falls to pieces) so if we don’t get there in March we’ll probably do October again.
    Whatever, we’ll be back on the island.

    Cheers

    • David says:

      Well, yes, I try to learn as much as possible about Japan (and about the Setouchi islands). That’s how I am, I guess, I’ll stop learning things when I’m dead. And really this blog was created out of that, to share what I learned about Japan and Kagawa.

  15. Norm says:

    Well it’s a much appreciated blog and was a very pleasant surprise to find this website.

    Cheers

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