Dean Owen en Café beBee, beBee in English, Travel Brand Ambassador • beBee 10/11/2016 · 3 min de lectura · 2,7K

Shaken, Not Quite Stirred

Shaken, Not Quite Stirred

Oyama lay sleeping on the neighboring island. She had a history of insomnia, but when she did sleep, she was prone to waking up without notice. But it had been 17 years since last she awoke.


We had arrived on the overnight ferry from Tokyo. We had not booked cabins and were happy to spend the 8-hour ride on our $10 tatami mat on deck. There were girls everywhere. Surfer girls, girls in yukatas, girls in bikini tops and micro shorts. I turned the music up. I’d brought two CD’s for the trip, Bob Marley and Japan’s favourite beach tunes courtesy of the Southern All Stars. I’d done the trip many times with the Marshall’s crew of misfits. This was Koko’s first time. We stayed up all night, partying on deck with the Tokyo youth crowd. We learned that DJ’s from all over the world were converging on the little island of Niijima this weekend for the biggest beach trance parties ever organized. Bad timing I guess.

Niijima also had a bad rap as a place where girls lose their virginity. They called it “Nampa-jima” (Girl hunting island), a place where it was said to be easy to pick up girls on the beach. I’d met Yoko there years earlier during my slutty period.

Docking as the sun rose, we rolled our mat, packed our gear, and scampered onto the island in a queue of longboard wielding beachboys. First stop, the rent a bike station, and within minutes we were cycling the long road to the Surf Lodge at the far end of the island. Keen to hit the beach asap, we checked in, passed on breakfast, and hopped back on our bicycles. A few minutes later we gasped in awe of the greyish white sandy beach and the vast blue expanse of the Philippine Sea. We shared the beach with Bob on my “rajikase” (radio cassette recorder) and literally nobody else. Hard to believe that, technically, we were still in Tokyo.


Shaken, Not Quite Stirred

In stark contrast, my last beach trip was to nearby Enoshima beach to watch the first sunrise of the new millennium. We gathered around the huge bonfires in the freezing cold of winter waiting for the World to end with Y2K. ‘Twas a spectacular sunrise.


That afternoon we headed back to the Surf Lodge for some grub and a nap. As if by fate, we woke up bang on 4:00pm. I rose out of the desperately thin wooden bedframe and went to pick up my camera. At 4:02 I found myself knocked down, grabbing on to the floor tiles for fear of slipping off and into oblivion. It was as if Godzilla had shaken a ragdoll. For a brief ten seconds, the world seemed to be collapsing. Koko jumped out of bed, opened the door, and stood under the frame. I’d seen lots of Earthquake preparedness videos, but for some reason I thought my best action was to play dead. I guessed I’d still be standing if I actually knew some surfing techniques.

We waited nervously for the aftershocks. My Canon lay in pieces on the floor. But that was it….for now.


The power to the lodge was out. Our hosts graciously prepared some fish and rice over a small fire and the few guests spent the night under torch and candlelight.

The next day we were informed that the island was being evacuated and the trance parties cancelled. The other guests promptly checked out but Koko and I decided to stay until someone came and forced us out. We cycled to town to see the damage. Landslides partially blocked out way. All shops were closed and there was some minor building damage. On the way back we passed a family farming crops in a field. They offered us freshly mined Japanese cucumbers which we passed on to our hosts to pickle for the coming days.

Whispers from other stubborn islandgoers told us that despite the arrival of the Self Defense Force on the island, they would hold one trance party at a secret location for the few that remained. I had no clue what trance was, but we went anyway. Wasn’t much else to do that night.


Living in Tokyo for many years, I’d experienced numerous earthquakes. We become immune, often notified of an earthquake by the gentle swaying too and fro of a ceiling lamp. They would often last a minute or two. It was even kind of therapeutic. Those ten seconds on the island of Niijima were violently different. Granted there were no gaping cracks in the ground like in the movies, but it was a notable reminder of nature’s mighty hand. It also heralded the start of a major earthquake swarm and volcanic activity that would plague the Izu Island chain in the coming weeks. A month later Mt Oyama on neighboring Miyakejima awoke with such a ferocity that a plume of ash spewed 14km high. The island was evacuated and it was only 5 years later that residents were allowed to return. Our little ten seconder measured a whopping 6.4 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7, or 8.1 on the more familiar Richter scale. Fortunately there were no fatalities that day, with ten people severely injured. The epicenter was about 6km below the seabed and about 95 miles from central Tokyo. In a way I am thankful for the wake-up call as eventually we did get off the island a couple of days later. I would not have wanted to be around for the subsequent earthquakes, and to see the fire-breathing girl in action. Would have been quite a different result had she woken up first.


Shaken, Not Quite Stirred


Further reading:

The Town Where Everyone Wears A Gas Mask – Savannah Cox, February 2, 2016

Chasing Waves South of Tokyo – New York Times, June 19, 2013

Niijima Island and Me – Kazuya Yamaguchi, May 13, 2015



Lisa Gallagher Hace 3 d · #29

Another fav of mine.. worth a share again! Great read and comments by @Dean Owen

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Dean Owen 13/11/2016 · #28

#25 Certainly not heroic. Just immune. Everynight on NHK we see earthquake reports in the monotone NHK announcer voice (if you ever watched NHK you'd understand). It is background noise. Actually Japan could do with a lively news channel like FOX or CNN....

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Praveen Raj Gullepalli 13/11/2016 · #26

#24 Yup Lisa, buck up sounds better than tuck up...or that other one up at the tip of the tongue! ;)

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Praveen Raj Gullepalli 13/11/2016 · #25

#23 Man, everyone no less than a Samurai! :) That is monumental confidence Dean. Heroism by hour. I humbly bow to every Tokyo-san!

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Lisa Gallagher 13/11/2016 · #24

#21 You can just pretend for the fun of it @Dean Owen. Dean, surfing in his living room ;-) There is only one word I truly detest and I never use it. I have heard a few women who use the word and I lose respect. I'm not a sailor with my mouth but I will use certain swear words if they apply. I knew what you were getting at by using it to call yourself one, you slut, you! LOL. See, not so bad when it's used in fun. Hey, I was super thin my entire life and wal~la , one day I woke up and I wasn't the thin gal I was used to being! I eat less now and still can't lose it, go figure? Have to love the aging process. Actually, to be honest, I'm not dealing well with it. I could write an entire blog about it but I'd sound like a perpetual whiner. Next week I'm heading back to the gym, which is something I never had to do before either. Oh well, life isn't fair... need to buck up haha

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Dean Owen 13/11/2016 · #23

#22 Nope. Tokyoites are pretty blasé about life. Funnily enough when the Tsunami hit and there was all this talk of radiation leaks, many of the foreigners panicked and left, but the Tokyoites, including my family, just went on with life. We all know that Mount Fuji eruption is a decade or two overdue. We experience earthquakes every month. But Tokyo buildings are pretty much earthquake proof. I hear that during the Great Kanto earthquake, many people died trying to escape the fires by jumping into the moat around the Imperial Palace and subsequently boiling to death!

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Praveen Raj Gullepalli 13/11/2016 · #22

Whew that is some livin on the edge Dean! I wonder if the constant awareness of impending doom or a tectonic boom kinda hones folks instincts to living in the here and now most acutely! And revel in stuff as if tomorrow may never come? ;)

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Dean Owen 11/11/2016 · #21

#17 i guess taking earthquake videos is a bit like trying to take lightning strikes. And on sluts, I hate the word, but if people use them to describe loose women, no reason why it shouldn't be applied to men right? Equal rights! And I guess I always looked young until one day I woke up old and potbellied. 'Twas a surprise!

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