It rains; I can write. Not only because I am now confined to the indoors after a day walking over hot sand, but also due to the regular beat of the water against the tarmac: a sound which is happening on the other side of all the windows and doors, fluctuating only in sonic intensity with the gusts of wind, which periodically surge and rush with a greater quantity of water per second, only to quieten again as the water density thins. This music from outside spurs the mind into concentration far more effectively than silent sunlight, however beautiful the latter is. It seems amazing that we actually ever get things done when the weather conditions are favourable. Maybe it's simply that, if fair weather days are few and far between for most of your life, it's difficult to flick the 'on' switch when such weather arrives on the scene.

     A storm like this feels earth-shaking though, making all human effort seem fragile and in need of protection. Earlier, I was walking along the road to the dock, and the hostel owner slowed down in his car, wound down the window to ask if I had an umbrella, before handing over a small blue one from out of the window. Maybe tropical storms are one thing which the shisa protect the houses against. Shisa are part of the Ryukyuan mythos, the beliefs and stories woven on the islands which stretch south from Japan into the great ocean in a chain of green dots encircled with sand. Their appearance is animal. Something of the dog and something of the lion, much like the lions outside Chinese temples, aggression and feriocity mixed with domesticity. A mystical rottweiler. All over the island, pairs of shisa stand or sit in clay form outside homes, one with mouth open, one with mouth closed. There seem to be a few different ideas doing the rounds as to which is the male and which is the female, and whether it is the open mouth which lets out bad things whilst the closed one holds good things in or the opposite: an open mouth to spread goodness and a closed one to stop bad coming into the household. Some are quite imposing, such as the human-height, bottle green pair set outside the shop which sells homemade mugwort soba and gelato. Most are small enough, however, to have been placed on the top of fences, gateposts and steps by hand. Variously of unpainted terracotta or painted in many bright colours, their gaze is always directed to the viewer. They make quiet afternoons seem lively.

     Lively or a real party. At one point on the leafy road which takes the infrequent buses from Kabira Bay in the north-west of Ishigaki island to the south, bus riders (or four overly-energetic tourists who want to take their town rental bikes up and down some hills to which the bikes' wheels are unaccustomed) are unexpectedly greeted by the sight of numerous giant shisa in almost unrecognisable shapes, huge, emerging from and spreading back into what appears to be half-park, half-entrance gate to the vegetation at the bottom of the mountains. A cacophony of shapes and forms. Blue, yellow, red, black stripes and white circles, freely forming like cloud shapes, and ever-changing too, just like clouds: you walk through the park and the shisa keep rising and falling in height in non-rhyming, non-reasoning forms. They all smile, or at the very least, bare their grins. Later, it transpires that this is a shisa-making workshop's imagination outlet (perhaps THE workshop of Ishigaki?), and the pond and shisa-filled garden their backyard for larger projects. Life in a dream.


     It is still raining. Through the window's mosquito gauze, I can see bodies in the white bungalow across the road. We're all inside now, the whole island, apart from whoever was driving the van which just drove past, faster than usual. There is comfort in knowing that the whole island will at present be experiencing the same stoppage to activity. An island the size of this is large enough to need those bus journeys of almost an hour to get from top to bottom, yet still small enough for the ocean to dole out its climate evenly. When there are grey skies behind the bright white lighthouse of the northernmost tip, so the same colour surrounds the lush Omoto mountain at the centre; when it's fair weather for swimming just around the corner from the off-limits Kabira Bay, it probably also is in other spots on the island which are sheltered but free from cultured black pearl farming. And, everywhere, an expression of water, even in dry weather. From the heavy vegetation to pendulous clouds, the horizon line which calls the eye down to the sea itself. Boats, either motor boats of the many dive schools, glass-bottomed ones for day trippers, or of the unidentifed kind for private use, their names painted by hand in red, yellow or blue hiragana, float close to the sand on the variously coloured water.

     The tide was high in the morning. I sat beside the harbour. The water- the water. The water is so blue, so 青! That colour which could be blue or green. I like to the think it is a special kind of colour, with multiple depths and conceptions of the lines between what is plant and sky in nature. The same fuildity of hue definition can be found in other languages, so it must all be down to ways of seeing. This blue is indeed so blue because there is green in that blue, and beside it such a creamy yellow which is yet pale, and then the white swell crests which cut the water's glassy surface and segment all the micro shades of blue, like knapped flint made liquid, rolling in a mill- how strange it is that in this life, even the seemingly most singular of natural phenomena are repeated in unrelated locations. There is dulled indigo beneath some of the shifting shards. The indigo also makes the waters so blue. All that blue, I cannot really absorb it, how is it that colour and aesthetics stir the heart? The heart, and that extra 'something' within, 心がありません、well, the heart is there but it is not alone in any case, is it that thing called 'soul'- colour brings a joy or temperance to the soul. When it's as blue as this...

     The rolls of tide are hitting one another, so I can tell that they are lapping. That sound of life, movement and waves lapping is life; even a still gecko on the wall breathes. The wind is here. I know because at first, I could not hear the lapping due to the palms in front of me shaking their leaves, battering one another and producing sound. And a tree... well, in my understanding of things, a tree doesn't move itself from side to side. Only the micro movements of its gradual growth move a tree upwards and out, but it needs something from outside to make it move like this. Shadows of leaves fall across my skin, and there are scattered temperature changes to my bare neck.

Motors hum. Some white boats have moved out of the patch of bay which I can see from here- perhaps glass boat tours.

      That was this morning, in any case. Now, it is raining, so I am inside, so I am writing. Strange to think that the rain is actually being pulled down, once it has formed water clusters large enough to be rain in any case. That it is the earth's agression as opposed to the clouds' which is causing this commotion. There is some food in the fridge, should this continue, so it's not necessary to go out to the osukimiyaki restaurant for teppan-ed joy in a pancake, if things remain on-the-cusp-of-antediluvian. Which they do, for a good few hours.

 © 2023 by Agatha Kronberg. Proudly created with

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon
  • Grey Vimeo Icon