Konnichiwa, everyone! My name is Mariel Ypil from the Philippines, an artist-in-residence for the month of November and also as an intern for Studio Kura. It`s nice meeting you!
The twenty-sixth of November, 2018. Dark grey clouds hung on the horizon as I walked to Ikisan Station, catching my breath in order to meet up with my fellow artists-in-residence to reach the 11:47am train to Meinohama Station. My mind whirled in excitement for our trip to Nokonoshima Island, famous for its flower gardens and scenic views of the ocean.
Instead of taking bus number 98 to Meinohama Ferry Terminal, we decided to walk there and see what we will discover along the way. True enough, a warm and cozy scent of freshly baked bread hung in the air from a quaint bakery with flowers, beckoning us closer. It worked its magic and we continued our journey with freshly baked bread in our pockets and warm smiles decorating our faces.
Seeing the ferry for the first time, my heart leapt once again. I admit I get really excited about things so much. The salty cold air whipped through our hair, the vast expanse of dark blues and greys looked cheerful despite the lack of ideal sunlight. I am reminded of my father who has been working as a Marine Engineer in the oceans for thirty years — so this is what it feels like to be on a ship. No wonder he gets really excited just talking about it. Now the day seemed even more promising now.
This is a photo of how the ferry looks like. This was taken during our return trip, however.
Snapping a quick selfie before the ship started its journey, Ana, Elysha, Carly, Anna and I am quite giddy about our adventure up ahead.
The island was huge, dotted with trees of green and orange. Lining up the way to the park were these adorable flowers and wonderful cafe. Inside you will see lots of quirky and vintage curiosities, as well as DIY tables that I really wanted to acquire…if that was possible.
Always ready for a bit of fun, we took shots of ourselves on these quirky displays.
After sometime walking uphill to the park, our legs started screaming. The walk to the park isn`t exactly a walk in the park, if you catch my drift. The moment we spotted a bus stop, we took some time out to catch our breaths. Fortunately, we came at the right time. The bus doors slid open as we thanked our luck — the bus only arrives every hour or so. The bus ride costs about 230 yen one way, but for us it only cost 170 yen since we rode in front of the school.
The entrance fee costs 1200 yen for adults. We were greeted by the lovely guide as we shuffled inside, her smile a welcome sight after all the walking we did.
On our way to the famed garden park, what we saw however, were very different from what we`ve seen from the internet. It was late November and almost hitting the winter season. Instead of seeing the island filled to the brim with fluffy and vibrant flowers, what we saw were sparse fields of cosmos, fallen petals peppering the ground along with a couple of rebel sunflowers in the middle. Some would have been really disappointed at having missed the gorgeous view. But then I realized we have arrived at the wrong season. I managed to take a shot of a small patch of cosmos, still vibrant despite the other fields having no blooms anymore.
I decided to change my view. Looking around, I realized that Nokonoshima is still beautiful even without the vast famous fields of vibrant flowers because it was more than just that to begin with.
Nokonoshima Island in November offered a wonderful kind of solitude. We basically had the park all to ourselves and a couple of other people. It was peaceful, relieving us of the pain throbbing in our legs and our tired minds. As we walked, we saw trees turning orange, lining the paths beautifully with their wonderful color.
Seeing the almost barren meadows against the grey sky, I somehow saw the beauty of winter even before it arrives. I`ve never experienced winter before, but to me this feels like it. The quiet before the falling of snow. There`s a sense of anticipation in the air. These flowers were readying themselves for winter. And so should I.
Walking around, Elysha spotted a patch of white flowers looking vibrant against the grey sky in another part of the park, a bit of a walk from the spot of famous flower fields. We decided to go there, laughing on the way. Lo and behold, there is a small garden filled with vibrant flowers of different hues and shades. The place looked as if it is frozen in summer. It looked like a charming garden in the countryside, all for our private viewing.
And what a countryside feel it was, too. We visited the rabbit sanctuary, balls of fluff raised their heads in anticipation as our hands fed them with the food from the gacha machine, smiles and squeals elicited from our lips as they clambered over one another. Some were very polite, waiting for their turn to be fed, while some were quite the naughty Peter rabbits.
The rabbits saved the day! We also saw goats doing nasty head-butts against each other, the sounds of heads meeting heads didn`t sit well with our stomachs. But they were cute nonetheless.
Before leaving, we decided to have a look at the souvenir shops. A vintage souvenir shop that seemed to have come from the 90s caught my attention, their wares ranging from die-cast typewriter-slash-pencil-sharpeners, traditional Japanese toys, metallic anime stickers, sweets and so on.
There is also a cozy-looking udon restaurant with an autumn tree beautifully situated in the background, a ceramics store and more souvenir shops.
I didn`t get to buy any souvenirs though. But I am happy with what I have brought with me as we cut through the sea again to return to Fukuoka — the adventure that I shared with every one that day. Despite not seeing the island at its finest, still, we laughed ourselves off, joking around and making the grey-overcast day turn into moments that I will always remember.
Seeing the beauty of flowers and trees without the busy crowds and thousands of cameras snapping away, I felt as if we`ve really enjoyed how this day was supposed to be enjoyed — a personal connection with nature amidst the company of our thoughts and the laughter of our friends.