If you ever heard of Nokonoshima it’s, probably, because you made a conscious search for Fukuoka and its surroundings.
When I stumbled upon a mention of the island my search parameters were something like “paradise island close to Fukuoka for a day trip since our flight to Okinawa was cancelled due to a typhoon alert”.
During the summer months, Japan is humid, rainy and incredibly hot. So it comes to no surprise that this time of year is when the island sees an increase in typhoon occurrences. Yet getting notified the evening before departure that flights to Naha were grounded added a subtle bitter taste to my Gin & Tonic.
Northern Kyushu is not necessarily known for paradise islands and sandy beaches. Yet a quick search can inform of the contrary, in case you feel the need to dip your toes in the salted water. The easiest and less time-consuming option, for us, was Nokonoshima. The small island is especially known for its glorious fields of colourful flowers. But an obscure source also revealed a pleasant beach resort, not too crowded. With this in mind and equipped with a cartoonishly drawn map of the island we set off.
The ferry left Fukuoka's Meinohama pier at 10 a.m sharp, in good Japanese fashion. With clear blue skies, we sat on the front of the boat to appreciate the view. In a sparsely occupied ferry, one other passenger had the same idea. A tiny Japanese lady in a flowery dress, big white straw hat, wielding an intimidating Canon DSLR.
“Where are you from?” was the question that followed after she sat on the white wooden bench next to me. If English is unusual in most places, this simple sentence was the most surprising event of the trip. That and the forwardness in engaging two gaijin in conversation.
The brief dialogue revealed that the lady was on a quest for the famous flowers. Her husband worked for the ferry company – she could travel as much as she wanted.
The 10 minutes boat ride flew by and soon we were at the pier thinking “Now what?”. After missing the only bus on the island, walking until we reached what we’re looking for was the answer.
The sinuous road lead north, through hillsides and coastline rice paddies. As we kept walking the sun became hotter and our legs heavier but the scenery started to change. From the odd tree here and there came a dense forest. And after a long stretch in the shade we had a glimpse of sandy shores and a renewed hope that we were on the right track.
Descending through a dirt path lead us straight to the entrance of a small and deserted beach village, Fukuoka in the background. It was exactly what we wanted, we had found our small slice of paradise. And it came with a swing.