The Light Fantastic

Posted by on Dec 11, 2011 in Shimane, Travel Volunteer Journey | 7 Comments
The Light Fantastic

Light is a funny old thing. For around 25 years, I stumbled around with only a cursory concept of it: sometimes it was there, sometimes it was not; sometimes there was too much of it, sometimes not enough. I think this is how a lot of people are with light: they are aware of it, but they give it little attention.

When I met Katy, my understanding of light changed completely, because without light there can be no photography. And without good light, it is very, very hard to take good photographs. When I started listening to her, and watching the results of what happens when you play around with light, well it’s not exaggeration to say that my entire perception of the world changed.

Once you start paying attention to it, it can be very hard to stop. Suddenly, you start doing things like dangerously crossing the street because you’ve seen an interesting shadow; or nearly crashing a car because a sunset has turned a tree golden. If you’re not careful it can start to take over your life, but if you really look hard, and for a long time, you can see extraordinary light. In the last year, we’ve witnessed mad things, like the fabled green flash, and the equally scarce moonbow. In the past we’ve watched the aurora borealis (though never together, not yet).


Today, as we fought the bitter cold winds coming off the Japan Sea, we witnessed another of nature’s fantastic lights. We are on Nishinoshima, one of the distant Oki Islands that used to be visited en route to Korea. It’s a beautiful place that, as soon as I mentioned my nationality, people said has drawn comparison with Scotland’s west coast. And they’re right – the back side of this volcanic outcrop, along one of “the most scenic walks in Japan”, does indeed have beautifully haggard cliffs similar to those of my home land.

Unlike Scotland, though, the water here is superbly clear, and warm enough for swimming in the summer. That wasn’t possible today, not with a wind jetting from Siberia directly onto our numb faces. But the leaden sky wasn’t without merit. No, with a low winter sun, and the wind periodically breaking up the occlusion, we were treated to something quite unforgettable.

Our time in Shimane prefecture was made possible by:

Nicola Jones, everyone at the Nishinoshima tourism office for looking after us for two days and giving us the most unforgettable send-off we’ve ever have, featuring ticker-tape dangling over the side of our ferry. Felt like we were on a maiden voyage off to somewhere exotic. Not that Tottori isn’t exotic… Anyway, thank you one and all!

The Tsurumaru hotel and restaurant which very kindly put us up out of season. With tonnes of straight-from-the-sea fresh fish, beautiful wood cabins and gorgeous views across the bay, it was a real treat to spend a night there.












  1. Nicola Jones
    December 11, 2011

    Thank you for allowing me to show you around Nishinoshima…and to re-discover the wonders of light, winter sun, cold wind and delicious Oki food. May the light always shine on both of you!

  2. Yukako Kawai
    December 12, 2011

    I was happy to spend a short time with you.
    Enjoy the last 2 weeks and christmas in Japan !

  3. Eric
    December 12, 2011

    That last picture is now on my desktop wallpaper!

    Very relaxing sight…

    Cheers Katy for the great pictures and Jamie for the intersting insight in to your past & present “perception of light”!

  4. mic_home
    December 12, 2011

    The photos are very beautiful, I like the 2nd from the top, it’s a little bit scary.

  5. だるまや
    December 12, 2011


  6. Izumi in NYC
    December 12, 2011

    I accidentally fund this site, and I was amazed by the places you two have visited. I was in Japan right before the earthquake hit early this year, and I have not chance to go back there. I am planning to go back sometime next week and your blog will inspire the places we will visit. Thanks and great works.

  7. Mikari
    December 12, 2011

    Wow, you make me feel so bad because I’m reading this with envy!
    (Sorry, I’m always like that when reading your blog.)

    Katy’s pictures and Jamie’s stories definitely enchant the Japanese readers, too.