SoraNews24’s Mr. Sato did something unthinkable in the past, but now he’s going to travel by air and sea to make it right again.

Ah, youth. We all make mistakes while we’re growing; we all hurt each other, sometimes by accident, sometimes not. Perhaps it’s the greatest mark of an adult to recognize when we’ve made one of those poor calls of judgement, and to apologize and work hard to do better.

As it turns out, even someone as outwardly perfect as SoraNews24’s Mr. Sato can learn and grow from past failures. That’s why this year, as May drew to a close, he found himself thinking about one of those ill-advised choices he made in the past. Or, to be more accurate, he was dramatically reminded by a recent ad campaign on the Yamanote train line for all 47 prefectures, including his home prefecture of Shimane.

▼ The poster says “Yu-kun! We’re doing great here, how is it in Tokyo?
Mr. Sato: Who the heck is Yu?

▼ Mr. Sato remembers his sordid past.

The victim of Mr. Sato’s anguish was his old work colleague and friend, Tetsuya. When Mr. Sato was a spry young man of 28, Tetsuya came to the restaurant where he worked to look for a job. While he interviewed well, Mr. Sato ultimately made the decision to reject him, forcing Tetsuya to find employment at another eatery. Which is bad enough, but then Mr. Sato also lost his job! And who invited Mr. Sato to work alongside him, and was the reason they became colleagues at all? Tetsuya!

But wait, it gets worse. Mr. Sato didn’t utter a single word of thanks to his savior, nor did he say sorry for turning him down for the job. So Tetsuya has had to wait for 17 years, silently hurting, while Mr. Sato did nothing to assuage him…

No! It wouldn’t do to keep him waiting any longer than he already had! Mr. Sato resolved then and there that he would travel to back to Shimane, where Testuya still lives, now running a ryokan (Japanese inn). Mr. Sato would meet with his old pal, and he would apologize. He would tell him that he was truly a friend in a million, that he was an incredible human being for remaining friends with such an unforgivable cretin as Hidenori Yamashina. No time to waste!

Well, except for the five-hour travel time.

▼ It’s going to be a long journey.

Tetsuya resides in a town called Ama, on an island called Nakanoshima (one of the Oki Islands). This remote town has a population of around 2,200 people, and as such required some serious planning to get to. Mr. Sato needed to take both a plane and a boat to make his apology face-to-face! He had only taken this arduous journey to the Oki islands twice during his 30 years living in Shimane, and the long distance and difficult five-hour journey from Tokyo means one needs a good excuse to visit. Thankfully, Mr. Sato had a very good one.

After the one hour flight from Haneda Airport, he arrived at Yonago Kitaro Airport, where after a quick photo in front of a local salute to classic anime/manga Gegege no Kitaro

…his next port of call was to take the high-speed ferry to the Oki Islands – a two hour trip. To make things even more turbulent, a storm had whipped up at sea, so the departure was no plain sailing. Mr. Sato considered just hanging his head in defeat and heading back to Tokyo…but no! Not when he’d already made it this far!

The Oki Islands consist of four separate islands? Nishinoshima, Nakanoshima, and Chiburijima, make up the smaller area, Dozen, while the other island, bigger than all of them, is called Okunoshima or Dogo.

So once Mr. Sato’s boat arrived at Nishinoshima he had to immediately get on another boat for a 30-minute ride to reach Nakanoshima, where Tetsuya lives.

“I’ve been traveling for over four hours…”

As he made his gradual way towards the man he had wronged, Mr. Sato took a moment to reflect. Would Tetsuya greet him with a smile, or a frown? Surely he wouldn’t have forgotten that great injustice from 17 years ago…?

Finally, at 2:20 p.m. (departure time: 9:35 a.m.) Mr. Sato arrived at their designated meeting place. Oh, how tired he was! He really just wanted to lie down at this point. Maybe Tetsuya would suggest they both just go back to his ryokan immediately? That would be nice…


As Mr. Sato turned in the direction of the shouted greeting, a stunning beauty appeared before him. Not just Tetsuya, but his wife too, had come to meet him! How stylish they both were!

“How the heck have you been?”

Mr. Sato had in fact been keeping in contact with Tetsuya through social media, but this was their first face-to-face meeting in a long time – what was it now, ten years? Just seeing his old friend’s face filled Mr. Sato with delight. Thank goodness he came all this way!

While Mr. Sato was excited about the reunion, he was also desperately tired. Maybe they could go to the ryokan now?

▼ “Hop in!”

Instead, Tetsuya immediately drove him onto a car ferry.

▼ Another boat? And back to Nishinoshima, no less?!

Tetsuya informed him that they would be going to look at the shore. Mr. Sato figured he was in no position to argue, but hoped that at least it might be a quick trip.

▼ If this cow could talk, it would say “No chance.”

Cows and horses roam freely on the islands, and seemed to roam especially close to the car every time Tetsuya’s car drove up. Sometimes they would block the road altogether – and often, certain things they left behind would clump onto the wheels of the car. Bleuch!

After ten minutes of driving, they arrived! The Kuniga shore itself was an incredible sight to behold, befitting its reputation as one of the finest sightseeing spots in the country – dramatic, jutting cliffs that jut out over a vast sea, with nothing to be seen but sky and ocean for miles. The largest cliff, Matengai, is a whopping 257 meters (515 feet) above sea level! With the cows and horses milling around in the misty backdrop, Mr. Sato felt like he’d been spirited away into a storybook.

▼ Mr. Sato reportedly stifled a cry of “Beautiful!” in English after taking this photo.

As they continued to admire the view, the two friends took seats in a nearby national park. It had been 14 years since Mr. Sato left for Tokyo, but quickly his mind went back to the long days he and Tetsuya spent of working together in a small kitchen for a restaurant, side-by-side, joined perpetually at the hip. Orders came fast and often, and they would toil together from morning until night. He marveled at how all those long hours could feel like such a short blip of time, now that he looked back on them.

▼ “Memory, all alone in the moonlight… I can smile at the old days… I was beautiful then…♬

Okay, but seriously, Mr. Sato was very tired. Time to hop back on the boat and head for Tetsuya’s ryokan inn. The place is called Nakamuraya and has its own izakaya (Japanese pub), Azaya, where guests can dine and drink to their hearts’ desire.

The izakaya served up a plate of gastronomic delights for our weary reporter: locally-fished seafood, along with Oki beef and fresh oysters on request. Mr. Sato savored every delicious morsel, and felt especially glad for Tetsuya that such delicacies were plentiful on an island without any convenience stores.

Once he’d settled up shop at the inn, Tetsuya himself appeared in the tatami room arranged for the two of them. Cheers!

With liquor flowing, the two gentlemen were really able to talk as openly as they had back in their days as coworkers. Everything from music back in the day to old comedy TV shows was discussed with drunken candor, but the contents of the conversation weren’t what really mattered – it was the company itself.

▼ “So… like… You know… You ever like, think about doing music, again? I know you did the indie band thing, but most people, once they’ve stood up on stage once, they start to want to play a show for a big audience… y’know? Doesn’t that make you want to play again?”

▼ “If there’s something I want, I make it happen in my own way.”

The meaning of Tetsuya’s words became quickly apparent. You see, this was no ordinary ryokan! It actually came equipped with all the features of a small concert venue. It turned out that though the island is small, many famous artists have come to play intimate shows here. Tetsuya even plays music there himself sometimes – and his family joins in with him, too! His wife started learning the keyboard once she came to the island, and both his daughters can play drums.

When Mr. Sato enquired further, he found out that Tetsuya even contributes to the local music scene by holding a small, two-day music festival, called Amafes, in the izakaya. Each year more than ten serious acts come to play music there, which was honestly very inspiring. Even if you’re not busking on the streets of Tokyo, trying to make it big, you can still play music to your heart’s content!

▼ Pictured: Mr. Sato and Tetsuya playing to their heart’s content

After their impromptu performance, Tetsuya asked Mr. Sato “So…You aren’t gonna move back here?”

Mr. Sato considered, then answered: “I still have many things I need to finish back in Tokyo. You might even say I have a dream…”

Tetsuya mumbled “I see” and left it at that. But Mr. Sato couldn’t leave the question alone once he had answered it. Was he shortchanging himself by opting for a frenetic city life in Tokyo? Every day he would shove strangers to the side just to cram himself onto a packed train carriage. Even if he wanted to buy a simple bottle of juice he would have to join a long queue at the convenience store. Could it be that Tetsuya was the one truly living life to the fullest?

At any rate, Mr. Sato couldn’t see himself just snapping his fingers and finding a way to make the things he wants happen in Tokyo…

But enough navel-gazing. It was time to leave.

Mr. Sato clasped Tetsuya’s hand in a firm handshake. “Take care of your family,” he said briskly. Tetsuya nodded. “Naturally.”

“I’ll come again,” said Mr. Sato. “Mmhmm,” Tetsuya replied.

He and his wife came to the port to send Mr. Sato home with aplomb.

▼ “I’ll come again!” Mr. Sato yelled over and over, presumably in reply to Mrs. Tetsuya’s sign which says ‘Please come again’.

The two men called out to each other as long as the wind would carry their voices, but ultimately Mr. Sato was left alone with just the sound of the boat’s engine and the waves crashing around him.

Mr. Sato emotionally recalled,

“He kept calling and waving until I couldn’t even see him anymore, but at that point I couldn’t hear his voice.”

He couldn’t hear my cries at that point, but I yelled: “I’ll do my thing, and make sure the news of my exploits reaches you! You do your own thing, and make sure I hear about it too!” I also said, “Ama is a really awesome town!” and “The Oki Islands are gearing up to be great!”

Come to think of it, I didn’t apologize to him, did I? That was the whole reason I came, too. That makes a great promise for next time. Until then, stay healthy and happy, Tetsuya. And keep doing what you love where you are, forever.

Truly inspiring.

He may have failed at his initial goal, but it was a great excuse to learn about the Oki Islands, the power of friendship and finding your own meaning in life.

Related: Nakamuraya
Images: ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]