Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Wildlife of Ojika : meet the critters !


Love looking for the wildlife while traveling ? Ojika is the perfect place for you !  

When I choose to come to Ojika, I had one goal : go on exploring the island and find as many animals as possible. And the island critters did not disappoint. Every day of exploring, snorkeling, or even while working around the house, I have encountered wild animals.

Even though have been looking mainly for reptiles during my stay, the island provides for all animal lovers : birds, insects, mammals and of course an abundance of sea life. 

In this article I will mainly describe my encounters with reptiles, amphibians, insects and arthropods, for I have more knowledge and footage to share about them, than I have of birds, mamals and sea life.

Reptiles and amphibians of Ojika

Reptiles and amphibians tend to be really discreet, and will skitter away before you even notice them.

Lizards in particular have been almost impossible to even catch on tape : you will often encounter them sunbathing on the edges of roads, before they quickly retreat to the bushes once they notice you.  The exception to this might be the geckos (ヤモリ Yamori) that crawl on houses walls at night : they will get away, but you will be able to have a good look at them first, and maybe even catch one. Be careful though, they can be feisty and will try to bite and jump out of your hands ! 

japanese gecko ヤモリ

japanese gecko ヤモリ

This one did try to do several leap of faith ! 

If skitterish, snakes take a bit more time before getting away. As a snake lover, I have been lucky to encounter three different snakes on Ojika : two シマヘビ (Shimahebi) and what I think was a  ジムグリ (Jimuguri). Out of the three, I only have been able to catch one shimahebi, for it is the only one I was able to identify immediately and so be quick enough to catch. 

シマヘビ shimahebi

For a snake who's head had just been caught, it was pretty chill

If most japanese snakes are rather big but harmless (except on Okinawa, plenty of venomous snakes there, no touchy), you might still encounter a マムシ (mamushi), the japanese pit viper, whose venom require about one week treatement in an hospital at best. While herping, always make sure you can identify the species you encounter and take the precautions necessary. I would recommand first documenting yourself as much as possible on the local species, their behaviour and appearance before going out looking for them. I myself read the Reptiles of Japan Field guide over and over ! 

Last reptile encountered while on Ojika was a little stink pod turtle (クサガメ kusagame), who was crossing a rather busy road ! 

クサガメ japanese stink pod turtle

Be careful while driving to not hit any little critter like this one !

Concerning amphibians, I have only crossed the path of two species during my stay : the Japanese tree frog (二ホンアマガエル Nihon amagaeru) and Red bellied salamanders (アカハライモリ Akahara imori). As summer approaches, we can hear many frogs from Goen, but I didn't think one would litterally try to live in the washing room ! 

二ホンアマガエル Japanese tree frog
二ホンアマガエル Japanese tree frog

The little frog, before and after a good wash. Amphibians's skin need to stay hydrated and clean ! 

My biggest surprise while on Ojika was encountering so many salamanders. In my home country I have never seen one in any river or pond, but here they thrive in the rice paddies. If they are on the side of the paddies, these little critters are quite easy to catch, but I would advise to first dip your hands in the muddy water they live in, as to not hurt their sensitive skin (amphibians' skin is a part of their respiratory system !). 

A little salamander that wandered in the garden, far from the rice paddies and too close to the cats !!! We have put it back in a paddy after a few pictures.

Arthropods of Ojika

If I am myself more of a reptile enthusiast, I was also delighted to see a wide variety of insects and other arthropods across the island. 

The insects most people might be the most happy to see would be ladybugs, butterflies and dragonflies, of which I have encountered many specimens while on Ojika. There is a wide variety of butterfly species, of all sizes and colors, the most striking one in my opinion being the Chestnut Tiger butterfly (アサギマダラ Asagi madara), a large blue and black butterfly common to Japan. 
I do not have a lot to say about dragonflies, except that they do stick around a lot when I am biking accross the island ! 

アサギマダラ Asagi madara butterfly

An Asagi madara butterfly freshly out of this cocoon ! 
I dropped the little guy on this flower for a snack.

A more seasonal insect to spot are fireflies (ホタル Hotaru), that can be encountered at night in the rice paddies at the end of May. The trick is to attract them with a flickering light, like car blinkers !


Behold the blurriness of nightime pictures

While it is charming to spot butterflies, the critters that get the closest to you on Ojika might not appeal to the largest public. The first animal I got a bit too close to was a Huntsman spider (アシダカグモ Ashidakagumo), which was, by my humble French standards, way too large for a spider. However, Huntsman spiders are not dangerous for humans : they will catch other bugs that might infiltrate your house, so if you still wish to have them out of the house, try not to kill them !
After a month and many more encounter with these spiders, my standards loosened, and seeing one in the bathroom will only makes me shrug.

アシダカグモ Huntsman spider

This one was about the size of my hand, with the legs spread out. 

Another big arthropod infamously known in Japan is the Japanese giant centipede (ムカデ Mukade). Known for its big size, its painful bite, its quickness and likeness to get into houses, this animal strikes fear in the heart of many, much so that it became a monstruous and evil figure in the japanese folklore.

However when encountering it, I simply saw a rather large arthropod simply living its life. Reaching up to 20 centimeters, it is indeed an impressive beast, but not one that will attack you on sight. As long as you leave it alone there is not much to fear about it. My unique interaction with this critter was when I tried to make one go away from near the house by gently poking it with a stick. This resulted in a very confused mukade that fled quickly.

In the case a mukade does bite you however, it is recommended to seek medical assistance. Being a rather common animal, it is good to remind that when you go on a hike, you need to wear proper hiking shoes and long pants to avoid any bite from surrounding insects.

ムカデ Mukade

Please get away from the house. Pretty please.

This concludes this article about the critters of Ojika ! Finding this many animals during my stay has been a wonderfull adventure for me. What about you ? Which animal would you like to encounter there ? Come around and explore the island to find them all ! 

- Clara Tinland

Sunday, May 19, 2019


A love letter to those I met on Ojika.

I arrived on Ojika exactly two months ago today and have been lucky to meet so many wonderful people during this time. Taiyo-san and his family, Sayaka-chan, Ume-san and all the Goen staff now hold a special place in my heart, and in general, I am thankful for the wonderful people from all over the island who have been so kind to me. I couldn't have expected how much I would be welcomed by the local people and what amazing memories, conversations and smiles I would share with them. 

On top of all of this, I have met other volunteers from all over the world, who have made this experience truly unforgettable. For my last ever blog post from the island, I really just wanted to express my love to you all. You guys are amazing and I'm so happy to have shared this experience with you! 

Alice-sensei <3 

Alice, you were the first person I met properly on the island, and you made me feel so welcome right from the start. Always so kind and willing to help me with anything, you made such a huge impact on me feeling settled in on Ojika.

Also, THANK YOU for teaching me how to ride a bike, I'm sorry that I was so slow and fell over lots and probably caused you a bit of stress, but I seriously appreciate it- I don't think I would've felt confident at all if it weren't for that first day we went out to Goryodaki! 

And thank you for being our yoga teacher- again, sorry that I was a bit useless, even if it didn't seem like it, I really loved the yoga time (when I actually did join in lol). You are so strong and amazing!! I couldn't believe some of the stuff you could do and so easily. You're honestly an inspiration.. not just in your amazing yoga/flexible/strong/awesome powers, but just in how much of a lovely, genuine and kind person you are. Everybody needs an Alice in their life!!! <3 
A very very sad day... I'm still missing you... :(

The day we said goodbye to you was honestly so sad! It really felt like we were being separated from our mum for the first time- especially as you had been there the whole time for all of us! Singing Edelweiss as you left on the ferry while you sobbed was actually so emotional! You're just the sweetest little bean and I hope that we can meet again somewhere whether its in Japan or Europe or anywhere in the world!

Kenichi :D

Kenichiiiiiiiiii, Keniiichhiiiiii tsumaranaii aji ga sukiiiiii (to the tune of let it go, obvs.). You were such a fun presence in the house and I honestly don't think I would've laughed half as much if you hadn't been here. You also helped me lots with my Japanese, probably without realising it haha, it was so nice that I could always come to you when I didn't understand something or I wanted to know more.

Obviously I wouldn't be able to miss out on mentioning that fateful night when we all had a few beers back at the house and played 'things'. SO MANY HILARIOUS MOMENTS. You were on such good form, and whether or not it really was 'because of the light!!!' I think that was the most I had laughed in a really really long time. Even though we joked about you and the town you needed to make because 'recently things have got very worse' I actually think what you want to do- making a non-profit organisation to help those in need (i think I've got that right)- sounds amazing, and I wish you all the best in it!!

You were certainly a ray of sunshine, and thanks for always washing the dishes when none of us really wanted to! Oh, and thanks for teaching me how to play Daifugo!! It's annoying that you were so good and that I could never beat you, but I'm glad that I've learnt it now... I'll keep practising and when we next meet up let's have a rematch! 

Mirjaw Hauako Saikolz

Hanaaaaaa!!! I was just looking back through my phone for cute pics of us, and found the one I had taken of your boat ticket... So I couldn't resist! Honestly, it was impossible not to have a good time when you were around. Always smiling, giggling (mostly at your own jokes.. but still), you were just a positive ray of sunshine throughout the entire month we were together! 

Like Alice, I just felt so comfortable having you around, you both made me feel like I was at home almost as soon as I had arrived, it was lovely to be included into the gang so quickly! Thank you for being so proactive as well- I feel like you pushed us to actually go out and do stuff and see new places- you were the one who introduced us all to Tan Tan for goodness sake!!!! What would I have done without that!? 

Also thanks for always swimming in the sea even when it was really really cold.. Seeing you run in completely uncaring forced me to get over myself and jump in too! You really were queen of the sea- I was amazed how long you could stay in there without getting cold/bored.

And thanks for being a great karaoke partner too! I was so worried when we had the party just me, you and Azusa (who doesn't sing), I thought we would struggle to fill the 2 hours- but the time literally flew by! It's a testament to how you always make the most of every opportunity- you honestly inspire me to be more positive and get the most out of life!

Beautiful inside and out, I'm so happy we met! See you again in Tokyo or Europe!! 

Azusa <3

Omg Azusa!! We shared so many amazing experiences together and I'm so glad that I got to spend a whole month living with you! From the moment you first arrived, you were always smiling, always ready to get stuck in with whatever we had to do- It felt like you were my big sister. 

We got to experience so many big moments together- when the kittens were born, when we moved to the new house (and then getting completely freaked out by the "ghosts" that were living there), and we said goodbye to so many people together :( ! When it was just the two of us I was worried we wouldn't have much fun, but we actually had so many laughs (like me playing that silly dance game with Tsukuru-san)!

Thank you for looking after me when I fell off my bike, and actually just looking after me in general. Having you in the house always made me feel safe, and I knew I could always count on you to have a laugh about something! Also thanks for the gym!!! Was so nice to have someone to exercise with- it's a shame that I fell off the bike and hurt my leg because we had gotten into such a great routine. But I'm still thankful for the short time we did go together- and smash those workout videos!! I hope we can meet again one day, maybe in Tokyo!?!

Clara!!! aka. crazy wilderness woman

Oh my goodness Clara, where can I even begin!!!? You are just the most hilarious, sweetest, sassiest thing! You do not give a single care about what anyone thinks and I absolutely love it!! Your energy is infectious and honestly, I have felt so at ease since you arrived. I love that every time I ask you what you're up to its always something about looking for some reptiles or bothering the wildlife or just general chat about salamanders. You are a passionate gal who knows what she likes and to be honest I wish I could be more like you in that respect! 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Meet the Ojika Family- Of Cats!

'You can't sit with us'
First and foremost a big shoutout to Alice who was originally wanting to write this blogpost.. sadly she had to leave us here to continue her real life studying in Tokyo and so I am taking the reigns on this project. 

SO- by now you have probably read through a couple of articles about Ojika or heard some great stories from another past workaway or traveller. "Honestly the beaches are one of a kind, the food is amazing, it's always gorgeous weather and the people are so wonderful and kind" etc. etc. Yes, this is all true. 

BUT, what you don't hear about as often, (a travesty in my opinion), is about the massive family of cats who live here and are just desperate for your love and attention; they honestly let you cuddle and harass them all day long without complaint! 
As a cat-lover who is still desperately trying to prove that cats are far superior to dogs (don't be mad), I'm gonna inundate you with cute pictures of all the gang, and give u a lil' introduction to their individual personalities. 


Mama-cat was nicknamed such as she was very very heavily pregnant when I first arrived on the island. She has now given birth to five (!!) very gorgeous little kittens... Here's some photos of her with them the day they were born!

How cute are they!!?


Now that you've seen Mama and her little babies, it's important to introduce the father of the kittens- aptly named Papa-cat! At first, we weren't sure if we liked Papa cat, as he was always sniffing around with other lady-cats (if you know what I mean) and never really wanted to hang out with us. Luckily, once Mama was entering the latest stages of her pregnancy he became much more affectionate, to Mama herself, and also to us. Now he's always the first one to come running over and meow happily at us, he will even shake his leg like a dog when you tickle his belly.
Here's a pic of him as a baby posing by some Sakura-  how ADORABLE!??!!

Bless him, as you may be able to tell from his name, this little fella is constantly fighting a cold and has been known to sneeze on people when they're least expecting it (mostly me for some reason). Though this may sound kind of revolting, he is so adorable that you can't help but love him, as well as feeling slightly sorry for him! He gives the best cuddles, and in the 95% of the time he isn't sneezing, you will just love hanging out with this adorable poorly cat!

why won't anybody sit with me :( *achooo*

Favourite boy is named as such because he is such a cuddly and happy little thing that nine times out of ten he is the favourite cat for people to play with. Completely uncaring about being snooty or salty, he will let you snuggle him every hour of the day if you want to. He also loves to be pulled around in all sorts of positions, you can hold him upside down and he will still smile and purr.. He's the best!!!
if you're happy and you know it raise your hands

best budz

Just hangin'

I also feel the need to mention that Favourite Boy and Sick Boy have the loveliest bromance, and are often found having a spoon outside on the lawn.. it's really cute!


MIKE (pronounced mi-keh)
Here with mama-cat 
Mike-chan is actually her real name, not one of our nickames, and she wears it proudly on her lil' collar. She's probably the most energetic of the cats, and the most adventurous- we often see her running off somewhere and she rarely keeps still. She's also always the hungriest and will sprint ridiculously fast if she sees food approaching. Her and Mama-cat are best friends and Mike is very protective of Mama and her babies.



Ringo-chan is the neediest of all the cats. Though she rarely appears outside Goen, she is always waiting at the door to Karaoke, meowing furiously, just desperate for a stroke. Missing the tip of her nose and with the cat version of a cleft lip, she looks like she is the kind of cat always in a fight- however, she is the sweetest and most friendly little bean. Ringo has been known to follow the workawayers all the way back to their house, then sit and meow at them, a bit unsure what to do with herself. She has also recently become a mother, but has hidden her kittens from us all! What a shame- we want to see little Ringo-chan babies!!

though she has a resting bitch face, she loves everyone a lot!


Peach is the cat of Ume-san, Goen's chef, who spoils him to death! The only cat on this list who is actually kept in the house, peach is a cheeky little monkey who often pops by Goen when he wants to socialize with the rest of the gang. The bromance that Ume and Peach share is out of this world, and every Sunday when Ume makes his famous burgers, Peach always stops by to give him a cuddle and support. They are too cute!

There are many many more cats and kittens that roam the Goen area and Ojika island in general, but if I were to write about all of them it would take me a year! If you want to enjoy the lovely company of these beautiful little cats then you better get over here to meet them yourself!! Just look how much fun you could be having.... 

-Abbie / アビー

A Magical Matsuri Experience on Ojika Island

If it wasn't enough of a beautiful adventure to emerge off a ferry at 4:30 AM, on a tiny Japanese island called Ojika (a member o...