Written & Photographed August 12, 2015
After spending four or five months in Tokyo treading the same well-trodden path over and over again, day in and day out, I felt somewhat jaded. The scenery had become familiar—comfortable, but dull.
As such, I was thrilled to find myself taking a series of colourful train lines with names I’d never heard of. The scenery that sped past the windows as the train headed further and further south toward the city of Yokosuka was refreshing.
Walking from the station through the city streets conjured up vague, half-forgotten memories of my childhood visit to Hawaii. It was both calming and invigorating. Unlike Tokyo, the roads here seemed wider, more comfortable. Consequently, there was plenty of vehicular traffic, but most of it consisted of personal vehicles rather than taxis. And whereas Tokyo’s streets are often unadorned but for the occasional smattering of neon advertisements, Yokosuka’s streets were coloured green with roadside shrubbery and towering palm trees.
A far cry from the white beaches and calm, Caribbean-blue water that most Japanese residents seek, the sand here was coarse, grey, and littered with shells, the sea a deep blue. Nonetheless, the scenery was stunning and the beach was swarming with barbecuers and sunbathers. After setting up our tent and towels, my companion and I walked inland from the beach along an ascending path.
There was much to see amidst the dense evergreen woodlands—massive grey stones long-overgrown with moss, and the occasional red brick wall and dark concrete tunnel, which would have been eerie had it not been for the occasional bikini-clad pedestrian or the rays of sunlight gleaming through the treetops, casting quivering, playful shadows on the path.
On the coast facing Tokyo Bay, several people lined up for the ferry under the blazing summer sun. Nearby, a massive (now inoperable) battleship flew the old Imperial Navy’s Rising Sun flag.
A mere ten-minute ferry ride later, I was on the crowded docks of Sarushima, whose name literally means ‘Monkey Island,’ though you'd be hard-pressed to find a monkey there now. The island boasts a few unique qualities. It’s apparently the only natural island in Tokyo Bay, and though it’s now uninhabited, it was used as an artillery battery during the Edo period, and then as a part of Yokosuka’s navy yard after the Meiji period. As such, the ruins of old military fortifications dating back more than a century still stand amongst the jungle-like foliage.
There was an air of melancholy—a bittersweet breeze—as groups of beach-goers packed up their tents, blankets and belongings to prepare to catch the last ferry. Overhead, several hawks circled the sand, searching for scraps among the throngs of people.
As we were leaving, I noticed the welcome-sign on the docks said “Adventure Island.” It definitely felt that way. Back on the ferry, wispy grey clouds began to multiply across the skyline, and each passenger was quiet, their energy spent. It was a good moment for reflection. Sure, heading back to Tokyo and work felt unappealing, but the day-trip had been invigorating.
This alleged ‘Monkey Island,’ devoid of monkeys, was just what I'd needed.
The trails continued to wind through the lush greenery, sometimes intersecting with wooden walkways. On the other side of the island, a few people stood on the rocky shores fishing. Another short walk found us at a dilapidated lookout tower nestled in a small clearing. Once again, I felt noticeably refreshed.
After the trek, we made our way back to the beach, where we whiled away the afternoon sipping drinks and sunbathing.
The old, overused, but all-too-true saying “all good things must come to an end” perfectly expressed the atmosphere of Sarushima as the clocks approached 5PM.