Striding back into the blazing rays of the sun, the urge to chill my skin with a dip into Okinawan waters soon overwhelms. The Yaeyamas can sear year-round and are never less than balmy, ranging from the 70s in winter to the 90s in summer. So I ride to Kondoi Beach, a mellow haven in which I can soak up the warmth and bathe in a translucent rippling sea. The white sands approach the beach here like the undulating flow of a Saharan dunescape, creating tiny temporary islands that elegantly breach the surface. I settle in a patch that’s dipped a shade below the waterline like a natural, ocean-water Jacuzzi. By now, the tumult of Tokyo’s ultramodern metropolis seems as real and as tangible as an oasis — even if I’m now lying face to the skies within one.
The sound of the three-stringed shamisen, coming from a live lobby performance, alerts my ears. It has always evoked the smells and tastes of Okinawa for me, especially chanpuru, the region’s unique egg stir-fry dish heavy with the bitterness of goya and the healthfulness of tofu. But I am instead served an extraordinary concoction of French-Okinawan dishes at the Hoshinoya’s on-site restaurant. Nine courses of distinctive scrumptiousness include a piperade of Ishigaki black chicken eggs and salt-cured pork with vegetables, papaya soup and goat navarin, ending with a Shikuwasa-lemon-and-pineapple sorbet. The blend of Taketomi ingredients with French finesse lives up to what head chef Tatsuo Nakasu calls “imagination food.”
Afterward, I while away the last few moments of a silent island night floating in the central oval pool of the villa village, resolving to ramp up my “another Japan” mission the ensuing morning from exotic to truly wild.