Megi-jima Island is often called by its more charming, traditional name of Onigashima (Ogres' Island). This comes from a mysterious cave that crowns this small island -- a large man-made labyrinth-like cavern (4,000 sq. m.). Some say this is nothing but an abandoned quarry of long ago. But many like to associate it with the ogres' den in the story of Momotaro.
Once upon a time, there lived an old man and his wife in a village. They were happy together all their lives except that they had no children of their own.
One day, the old man went out to the mountain to gather some firewood, while the old woman went down to the river to do some laundry. It was a fine spring morning, and everything looked fresh in the bright sunshine.
"It's fun to do washing on such a lovely day," said the old woman happily, crouching down by the water, when she saw a great big peach floating down the stream.
"My! A peach! What a size! How pretty! " cried she. "I'll take it home. A big surprise for my husband."
Then she quickly picked it up and managed to carry it home. Soon the husband came home for lunch, and they had a great time gloating over this unusual windfall. Then the husband took up a knife, saying, "The proof of the pudding ...."
No sooner had the blade touched the top of the fruit than it split open, and lo! A little bouncing boy jumped out of the peach! What a joyful surprise! What a blessing for this childless couple! They named him Momotaro (Peach Boy), and they loved him dearly.
Years went by, and Momotaro grew up to be a fine young man, making his parents even happier. But the times were changing, and people were having a very hard time, because more and more ogres were ravaging their coasts in a merciless way. Nobody knew what to do.
Now Momotaro, brave and compassionate, made up his mind to go on an expedition Onigashima or Ogres' Island. He stated this determination to his parents. They were not very happy about it, but they did not try to dissuade him because they knew nothing would make him change his mind.
The very next morning he said goodbye to his parents. Then his father gave him a big sword, and his mother a lot of kibidango or millet dumplings.
Soon he was on his way. They he saw a dog coming down the path.
"Hi, Momotaro," said the dog. "What is it you have in your bag? It smells so sweet."
"Yes, my pet. I have here the sweetest dumplings I have ever known. My mother made them for me," said Momotaro. "But I'll give you one if you come with me and help me get the ogres on Onigashima."
"Oh, good," said the dog. "Give me the dumpling, and I'll come with you and help you"
So Momotaro gave him a dumpling. They marched on. Then a monkey came running from the mountain.
"Hi, Momotaro," said the monkey. "What is it you have in your bag? It smells so good."
'Yes, my pet. I have here the choicest dumplings you have ever seen. My mother made them for me," said Momotaro. "But I'll give you one if you come with us and help us put down the ogres on Onigashima."
"Oh, good," said the monkey. "I'll come and help you if you'll give me the dumpling."
So Momotaro gave him a kibidango. Thery marched on. Then a pheasant came down from a tree.
"Hi, Momotaro," said the bird . "What is you have in your bag? It smells so nice."
"Yes, my pet. I have here the nicest dumpings we have ever had. My mother made them specially for me," said Momotaro. "But I'll give you one if you come with us and help us beat the ogres on Onigashima."
"Oh, good," said the pheasant. "Let me have the dumpling and I'll join you." So Momotaro gave him a kibidango. They marched on and on until they came to the seashore. There, fortified with the rest of the dumplings, they set sail to Ogres' Island. Piloted by the sharp-eyed pheasant, Momotaro steered, while the dog and the monkey rowed and rowed until they reached the island.
The ogres' fortress was forbidding. All the walls soared up into the sky and the gate was shut tight. But the pheasant flew over the walls and found all the ogres were taking their afternoon nap. The monkey climbed over the gate, unbarred it and flung it wide open for Momotaro and the dog.
They all descended upon the sleeping giants. The dog bit, the monkey scratched, the pheasant pecked, while Momotaro brandished his sword, until the king of the ogres, pinned to the ground by Momotaro, cried for mercy:
"Spare me for goodness' sake! Spare me, and I'll give you all my treasures,"
"Spare you? For all the goodness you have done to my people?"
"Let me promise you, for pity's sake, we'll never, never do any harm to your people again!"
Soon Monotaro and his company were sailing back toward their home, laden with gold, silver and coral.
Great was the joy of his people!
Greater was the joy of his parents!
Nao-shima Island is the home of Onna Bunraku, a women's puppet theatre. Among the 92 remaining "provincial bunraku" in Japan, this is the only one produced exclusively by women -- an Important Intangible Folklore Cultural Property designated by the Prefecture.
The Women's Bunraku came into being at the beginning of the 19th century, when housewives of the Island, inspired by the Osaka Bunraku, taught themselves patiently until they mastered the difficult art. Their 35 dolls and 69 costumes are Important Folklore Cultural Properties registered by the Prefecture.
Nao-shima Island, once a salt-making and fishing village, and then a marine transporation centre for hundreds of years, became an industrial island in 1917, when a copper refinery was built on the northern part of the island. At present about 70% of the inhabitants work for the refinery or its correlated industries. But their prosperity cost them the greenery on the western half the island.
Kagawa is playing a major role in aquacultural fisheries in Japan, stocking the Inland Sea, in the instance of 1987, with 13,000,000 prawns, 400,000 black porgies, 250,000 sea basses, 2,500,000 blue crabs, while raising 200,000 black porgies in reservoirs.
Aquacultural fisheries here were started by Noami Wasaburo (1908-1970) in 1930, when he succeeded in yellowtail aquaculture in Ado-ike Lake in Hiketa.
In the 1960's, fish reservoirs began to be built offshore. In the 1970's, black porgies and other species were introduced because they survived "red tides" with less difficulty than yellowtails. (Note: red tides or akashio : An unusual generation of plankton overwhelms the shallow water ecosystem, turning the tide an ominous red.)
Shodo-shima, nicknamed "Olive Island," is the second largest island in the Inland Sea. The air is fresh from its wooded mountains and valleys dotted with scenic beauties. In summer the beaches fringing the island for over 144 km. are favourite places for sun-bathers, swimmers, campers, anglers, wind-surfers and water-skiers.
This island attracts 1,300,000 visitors a year from all over the country, including bus-loads of pilgrims for a tour of the 88 Sacred Sites of this island in spring and autumn, and a large number of participants for sports events...
Situated in the central part of the Inland Sea, this island has been a place of poltical, economic and strategic importance since the dawn of Japan's history. This naturally accounts for an abundance of remains of ancient shell-mounds, dwellings and tombs as well as myths, legends, stories and historic sites from all periods.
The climate is very dry; thus a chronic water shortage remains to be solved. But the people are very friendly, making this island a pleasant place to visit.
The main products this island are: soy sauce, somen noodles and a variety of olive goods.
Choshi-kei Ravine features a waterfall 20 m. high and 3 m. wide. At Takimi-jaya 滝見茶屋 you can enjoy "Somen-nagashi" noodles or "somen served in ice-cold water from a mountain stream."
5 minutes' walk to the north brings you to the Monkey Reserve. More than 700 Japanese monkeys are registered as a Natural Mounment by the Prefecture. They run loose, so you should not carry anything with you, or you may be "mugged" by a mischievous one! Naturally they are experts at monkey business.
Kanka-kei Revine, a National Scenic Spot, is a pride and joy of this island, especially in November, when its autumnal tints are ablaze all over the cliffs and valleys.
The aerial ropeway is worth trying, as people enjoy a ride up or down the canyon, close to its precipitous walls. The top of the mountain, fairly spacious, commands a wonderful view.
Taiyo-no-Oka Park features an observatory, a Bell of Peace in a Grecian belfry, an Olive Shrine - also in Greek-style with a sacred fire from the Acropolis in Athens - and Kuhi-no-Mori (a forest with haiku mounments).
Kuhi-no Mori is so designed that a path in the forest is fringed with natural rocks engraved with kaiku composed by many leading modern haiku poets - a must for those intersted in haiku.
Here, in 1908, the first 400 olive saplings were transplanted from Greece to the soil of this country. Now this is a state-owned Agricultural Experimental Station, and a lot of researches and experiments are being conducted on more than 50 varieties of the tree.
In the reception hall, various products made from olive wood and olive frut are on sale as well as on display - olive oil, cosmetics, pickles, ornamennts and mural decorations.
There are 3,000 peacocks and peahens ranging freely in the spacious encosure. Their exhibition flights from the tower top in the centre are particulaly eyecatching.
An aquarium and aviaries in the same garden are enjoyable places, too.
This island is known for the granite it has produced. One of the stories often told here is that a lot of stones in the massive remaparts of Osaka-jo Castle came from this island, first in the 1580's when Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the ramparts, then in the 1620's when Tokugawa Ieyasu repaored them.
About 40 bloks of granite on a pire, 5 minutes' walk from the Omi bus stop in Tonosho-cho, are "leftovers" from those days. They are called "Zannen-ishi" or "Unfortunate Stones" because they were not fortunate enough to become part of those famed ramparts, but instead were fated to weather uselessly here.
The site of an old quarry in Iwagatani, Uchinomi-cho is a National Historic Shte, whilt that in Senge, Tonosho-cho is a Historic Site registered Site registered by the Prefecture.
Sakae was brought up in a very big family with her parents, grandmother, 12 children including 2 adopted children who were once homeless orphans. Her father, a master soy-keg maker, worked very hard. They were happy and fairly prosperous.
In the 1900's however, a serious depression hit the whole country, and her father was often out of work. But the family persevered, helping each other. At 15, Sakae became a clerk at a post office and then at the village office in order to help support the family.
At 25, she went up to Tokyo and married Tsuboi Shigeji, a young poet who also came from Shodo-shima. Soon Sakae's husband became one of the proletarian poets and writers who were terrorized with imprisonment and torture.
Partly influenced by them, partly out of necessity, Sakae began to write, too. In her late 30's, she was was writing novels and juvenile stories for many magazines, winning more and more popularity for her warm humanity and humour.
One of her successful novels - Niju-shi no hitomi (Twenty four Eyes) - published in 1952, filmed 2 years later by Kinoshita Keisuke, a leading film director, created a sensation throughout the country.
The bronze statues of "People in Peace" in the plaza at Tonosho-ko Port are a good introduction to this story. The 12 children and their woman teacher were happy together like this in 1928, when they formed a small class in a tiny detached school at a tip of this island. But the 20 years that followed saw them growing into men and women, more or less affected by war, or helpessly involved in war, even killed or crippled.
Obviously the author's heart was filled with pity for the miseries of war as well as for human helplessness against war, as she wrote in 1952 in the postscript to the first edition of this book.
Now "People in Peace " has become emblematic to the local people, who often call their island "olive Queendom," fully aware that the olive branch represents peace.
You can visit the small school where the little heroes and heroines of Twenty-four Eyes spent the happiest months of their lives with their loving teacher. It has been closed since 1971, but it is carefully preserved in memory of "People in Peace."
In 1987, Twenty-four Eyes was filmed for the second time and its film set is preserved as Twenty-four Eyes Movie Village attracting tourists and admirers of Twenty-four Eyes.
The Shodo-shima Pilgrimage, popularly known as "Shima-Henro" or "Shima-Shikoku" has been a main attraction of this island for 3 centuries. As in the Shikoku Pilgrimage, the aim is to make a circuit of the 88 Sacred Sites of Shodo-shima Island as Kobo Daishi is believed to have done long ago.
True, the scale is much smaller than the Shikoku Pigrimage, but that does not necessarily mean it is much easier. Many of the small humble shrines, temples and hermitages are more or less hard to reach. Some are on soaring cliffs or summits, others in caves, while other lie among treacherous canyons. It is virtually impossible to go in numerical order because "difficult places" intervene. However, many people do attempt this pilgrimage which allows them to appreciate truly the ascetic nature of Shima-Shikoku.
The hardiest pilgrims waik walk a distance of 150 km, spending 7 days or so. But nowadays many people make a 4-day tour in a chartered bus, while not a few drive their cars. Accommodations are fairly good, as are the roads.
One of the charming customs once prevailing all over this island, now remaining only in Kusakabe, Uchinomi-cho is Gaki-meshi 餓鬼飯 or Feeding Hungry Ghosts. In the early morning of August 14 (about the middle of the Bon season or All Souls' Season in Japan) , many families go down to the nearest river, the Betto. On the beach they cook their breakfast on a stove built with the stones they have collected. The main dish is gu-meshi or boiled rice with chopped vegetables, flavoured with soy sauce, which they first put on 12 persimmon leaves and offer to the hungry ghosts or gaki in the World of Pretas or the Buddhist inferno of starvation. Then they enjoy their picnic breakfast in the cool breeze of early morning.
One of the cultural assets remaining on this island is the Noson kabuki or Farmers' Kabuki, which is thought to have come into being late in the 17th century. Each village used to have its own stage or theatre built in the precincts of its shrine to its patron god, and the villagers enjoyed their own kabuki in the days when entertainment was extremely scarce. The rustic performers, some of whom made fine actors, even ventured to stage their performances on the nearby main islands of Shikoku or Honshu.
Out of the 33 stages, only 2 remain intact: at Rikyu Hachimangu Shrine in Hitoyama and Kasuga-jinja Shrine in Nakayama. Both stages are designated by the govermment as Important Tangible Folklore Cultural Properies. The best days to visit them are May 3 in Hitoyama and October 10 in Nakayama. It is fascinating to watch an ancient kabuki play performed enthusiastically by local people including children. The audience sits in the open air on sedge mats spread on the grass, enjoying the play on stage as much as their own food and drink (usually sake) . This is in fact the traditional way of enjoying kabuki .
The Hitoyama group has preserved more than 500 costumes, 60 wigs, more than 200 pieces of setting and 320 manuscripts. The Nakayama group possesses almost as many. About 60 people take pride in maintaining this local Noson kabuki theatre voluntarily.