I remember visiting Ine Town (伊根町) in Kyoto in 2020 during the pandemic in search of a quiet place away from the madness—yes, we didn’t have any lockdowns in Japan and could travel if we wanted to. The Sea of Japan is where I turn to whenever I need peace of mind and inspiration. It was deserted back then because the borders were closed, and the locals were reluctant to go out.
When I returned to Ine Town, I found it altered and well-loved. I am not a fan of crowds, but I am not in denial about the financial struggles of tourist places. Places like Ine Town needs people to survive, especially young people who will spread the word and make it popular. Yet, it is a slippery slope: popularity can be financially beneficial for such places, but at the same time, it creates noise and environmental pollution.
We didn’t intend to visit Ine that day; our destination was Ayabe in Kyoto. I don’t know what got into me, but I said I wanted to go to the seaside rather than hiking. The sky was so blue, and the weather was so calm, so I couldn’t miss this opportunity with perfect conditions to visit my favorite sea in Japan. And why be strict when traveling when we can let the wind take us where we are meant to go?
What is a funaya?
Boat shelters encompassing Ine Bay’s shore are called funaya (舟屋) in Japanese, and there are about 230 of them in Ine Town. They were initially built to lift anglers’ wooden boats from the ocean to safeguard them from downpours, bugs, and decay. Nowadays, almost all boats are made from plastics and are much bigger than traditional wooden boats, so local people moor their boats in front of the funayas rather than inside them.
I thought people would live in them, but I learned that only a few people do. The fishermen usually live in their main houses, while the funaya are basically used for storage. However, the second floor of a funaya would sometimes be used by a family’s adult children or grandparents. I think it would be interesting to sleep in a funaya for one night. Still, I wonder if they are sturdy enough to shelter people upstairs!
I immediately noticed the entire town’s peacefulness, regardless of how many visitors were there that day. It could be due to the Sea of Japan lovingly enveloping the town’s shore or the low population, hence lower levels of noise pollution. Though answering such questions isn’t necessary because the joy of basking in the serenity a place grants me is more significant than answers.
We strolled the long main street in Ine Town for a couple of hours. The funayas were built so close to each other that the sea could only be seen from a small gap between the two. And there were signs in front of some funayas that said, “Please do not enter this property,” which makes sense because some of these funayas are occupied.
All I need is coffee and sunshine
I don’t remember a journey where I didn’t rest in a lovely coffee shop after a stroll. The abundance of such coffee shops in Japan is one of the best things about this country. But, of course, I might be biased because I am addicted to caffeine. We found a cute coffee shop whose customers seemed to be young couples and groups in their twenties.
After ordering our coffee, we watched the sea on the porch, our feet dangling over the edge. The concrete we sat on was higher than the waves, but how I wished I could wet my feet! I watched the seaweeds swaying from side to side, latched onto the concrete, and thought we should float like seaweed instead of fighting waves.
We all fear inconveniences and fight them at every chance, but not all fights make us stronger. Fighting tires us out while surrendering is empowering. Letting go is more impactful than fighting; many examples exist in nature, like birds that don’t fly against the wind but with it. And doing nothing sometimes can be more powerful than working relentlessly.
I don’t know how long I sat there enjoying that moment, but it was almost sunset. I have been addicted to mirror selfies that only reflect my shadow. There is something intriguing about them. They emphasize the importance of our surroundings rather than the person behind the camera. And I like being ageless, genderless, and unknown while taking full advantage of panoramic windows at times like this.
Press the button. I am here.
Click! I was here.
Life tends to glide over us between these two moments.
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