An Island Guesthouse
The island of Sashima is so tiny it doesn’t even have a convenience store! However, it is a favored base for cyclists in the Setouchi area.
As I step off the boat at the harbor, I am welcomed warmly to the island by Keiko Tomida, the manager of Shiomi House.
After working at guesthouses in Australia, among other places, Keiko moved here to the island of Sashima. After her warm welcome, she tells me that she tries to come out and greet guests as often as possible, and that she loves talking with new people.
Shiomi House is the birth home of first-generation Japanese national Robert Shiomi. Though he rebuilt the house after the war, it stood empty for many years. Enlisting the help of more than 100 islanders, including architects and potters, his granddaughter, Nobuko Nishimura, renovated the building. Robert Shiomi was a man who dedicated his life to improving the relationship between Japan and the US. Inheriting his goodwill, the house has been reborn as a guesthouse for Japanese nationals and foreigners alike.
Eastern & Western Beauty
At the entrance there’s a piano that was given by a neighbor.
Moving inside, there’s a spacious 18-tatami Japanese-style room with gentle sunlight coming in from the veranda.
The woodwork and decorations are breathtakingly detailed and sophisticated. One example is the ‘lattice’ woodwork above this glass door.
This flower-like doorknob is an item Shiomi imported from overseas.
The flooring is sometimes finished with olive oil during morning cleaning. The garden was designed by an English garden designer who used the mountain villages of the island as inspiration. Traditional Japanese beauty and exotic accents go hand-in-hand throughout the entire residence.
I was told that the guesthouse seems to have a particularly mysterious power. Cyclists come and visit Shiomi House from not only Japan, but also from Europe. On one occasion when a guest from France was staying there happened to be a Japanese guest fluent in French staying at the same time. The house seems to bring together people that have some sort of connection.
A Special Kind of Dinner
When evening rolls around and it’s time for dinner, guests can join Keiko’s family and the staff and enjoy each other’s company. Everyone – staff, the family and guests alike – get together and help make the food and clean up afterwards. Food sure is best enjoyed in the company of others.
The meal usually consists of whatever people want to eat, or whatever is in the pantry at the time. They grow their own vegetables, and the neighbors in the area also share with each other.
After dinner, I recommend experiencing the traditional goemon-style bath. Here, you build the fire to heat the water by yourself, yet another unusual joy. As a result, the warmth of the firewood-heated water reaches even the inner-core of the body.
Keiko says that since there are no shops or other places to go for amusement, evenings are an important period spent preparing for sleep.
Time stands still at Shiomi House. Here, as previous generations have always done, people spend their evenings together eating, bathing, chatting and slowly falling asleep. A home from home that everyone can return to, this warm, hospitable residence welcomes anyone from anywhere.
Address: 299 Yugesashima, Kamijima, Ochi District, Ehime Prefecture
Online reservations: http://shiomihouse.com/reservations/
Fees: 4,000 yen per night (meals not included), elementary school children and younger 2,000 yen, infants free-of-charge. Discount available for longer stays.
Rental of the entire house: 30,000 yen per night. (Prices may vary depending on season)
※ Communal meals 1,000 yen. Breakfast 400 yen. Goemon bath free-of-charge.
※ Free WiFi available.
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Kaori Masuda
Kaori Masuda I was born in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture and am a writer and a poet. I run Hoshimugi (https://hoshitsumugi.wordpress.com/), a workshop website dedicated to poems and essays. I spent many years in Tokyo and Kanagawa studying at university and starting my adult life there. I moved to Shikoku with my husband and son about 10-years ago, and am going to write about all the breathtaking spots we have here on the islands of Ehime. Ehime is really a fantastic place. Please come and see for yourself.
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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