TOKYO PAPER for Culture トーキョーペーパー フォー カルチャー





vol.012 / Notes from East and West

Ocean, mountain, sky, and the people of Ogasawara

Hirotoshi Tsutsui

The splendid Milky Way. The number of stars visible from town gives a sense of Ogasawara’s potential.

If someone were to ask me why I’ve never left Ogasawara, where I was born and raised, I would reply there was no need to leave because I love nature. I’ve been in Ogasawara now for over 30 years, so it seems entirely natural that I stay here. I’d go further and say it even feels like Ogasawara has become part of me.

I started working as a guide when I took over the family business. Up until seven or eight years ago, I was mainly a diving and dolphin swim guide, but now I focus on stargazing tours. I’ve seen plenty of tourists moved beyond words by the infinite number of stars they see through the telescope at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s VERA Ogasawara Station. That’s the power of nature.

The population of Ogasawara has grown since it was put on the World Heritage list. Many of the migrants are young people, and most work as tour guides. But because it takes 20 hours by ferry to get here, it takes a certain level of determination to move here. Also, jobs that deal with nature are quite involved: the longer you do it, the less you know. It’s a cycle of going out into the field, studying…. You’re able to make the effort and take a significant risk because of your love of nature. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that Ogasawara should be proud of its serious-minded tour guides as well as its magnificent nature.

Ogasawara tourism unsurprisingly centers around the ocean, the prime example being dolphins and whales which can be seen all year round.
“Green pepe” luminous mushrooms can be seen from the end of the rainy season throughout summer in many places on Ogasawara at night.
  • Hirotoshi Tsutsui

    Born in 1979. He was born and raised in the Ogasawara Islands, and from junior high school age he began helping out with the family business of guest house and tour guide services. After stints doing marine sports tour guiding and dolphin ecological surveys, he now conducts stargazing tours and native species conservation work.

Editing & Written by Satoko Nakano
Translation: Office Miyazaki, Inc.