I moved to Shiraishi Island in Japan's Seto Inland Sea (setonaikai or setouchi in Japanese) in 1997, after four years of living in Okayama City. Part of my decision to move here is outlined in my book "Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage." It is a special place for me as well as many others who have taken the time to experience its charms and visit its sacred sites. It's a place where you can watch the sun set over the sea, then run to the other side of the island and watch the moon rise. It's an island of sacred rocks and power spots, deserted beaches and breezy bamboo forests.
I have been lucky to be able to take part in this small community of 500 people and help with revitalization efforts. Although our island population continues to decrease yearly (brought on by the inevitable aging and depopulation) I work diligently to preserve the traditions and way of life here.
Part of my revitalization efforts include helping bring foreign guests to the island to see the real Japan. I manage Shiraishi Reservations, where I book travelers into accommodations and I'm also proprietress of the Moooo! Bar and Calfe on the beach, a summer-only business that promotes our beautiful, but under-utilized, beach.
Most recently I revived the island's 400-year-old pilgrimage, a 10-km trail with 88 stone statues of Buddhist deities that encircles the island via a mountain forest route. After a five-year effort the Shiraishi Pilgrimage will officially launch its reawakening in autumn, 2017. The inauguration will include the "Run with Kobo Daishi 10k Trail Race" (to be an annual event) on Oct. 29, in which the profits will be used to help maintain the pilgrimage route.