[Why I Travel to Entô] “I also want to feel something on this island ” Entô guest, Ms. Tomo Yamaguchi . The Oki Islands / Sightseeing | Ep.03


Interview Ama town

Yumiko Shiramizu

[Why I Travel to Entô] “I also want to feel something on this island ” Entô guest, Ms. Tomo Yamaguchi . The Oki Islands / Sightseeing | Ep.03

A journey to Entô is like travelling to a remote and exotic country that can only be reached by ferry.

Even though it is far away, why do I want to visit it again and again?

What makes Entô so different and worth visiting?

Guests who are planning to visit the Oki Islands, or those who have already visited, may think this way.

In this series [Why I Travel to Entô], we ask our guests about their reasons for visiting the island and the abundance and light they found during their stay.

This time we interviewed Ms. Tomo Yamaguchi (we will address her as Ms. Yamaguchi in the article) who is here at Entô for the first time!


Ms. Tomo Yamaguchi, who gradually lost her hearing from the age of five, only encountered the world of the deaf and sign language after entering university. After working as a designer for a corporation for 13 years, she began working at a major coffee chain she encountered at a local sign language course. Despite her inability to hear, she has accumulated skills in customer service and currently communicates with customers in various ways at a select cosmetics shop.

The interview was conducted online, with a friendly exchange of chat and text throughout.

Text by: Yumiko Shiramizu
Photos by: Tomo Yamaguchi
Interviewer: Nana Sato and Runa Sasaki
Interviewer & Editor: Educare
Translation by: Nicharee Plubsiri

── We are very curious, please tell us about your encounter with the Oki Islands and the various activities that you have been up to.

Ms. Yamaguchi Thanks to my appearance at the NHK Welfare Program (NHK is Japan's national public broadcaster and the largest television network in the country), I've received lecture requests from corporations and universities and have been honing my skills daily as a coffee shop and cosmetics customer service staff.
These activities gradually became known, and I could feel that my actions were inspiring others. It gives courage to people in society and to children who have hearing disabilities. However, when I wondered if these satisfactions were enough, I realised it was time to challenge myself a little further and gain more confidence to move forward.

My birthday is in October. For the past few years, I have been busy with various qualification exams, but this year I finally had some time to spare. Suddenly, I thought of taking a trip to celebrate the past years of my life. It was in May 2023 that my husband travelled to the Oki Islands alone, taking a step ahead of me and showing me pictures and stories of his trip to Entô, I intuitively felt, "This is it! The place I want to travel to."


── So, after hearing about your partner's travel stories and seeing the pictures he took, it inspired you to visit the Oki Islands.

Ms. Yamaguchi  Yes. My husband has been working from home more frequently for the last two years. Therefore, I encouraged him to take a solo trip for refreshment. While researching, he discovered the Oki Islands, which, I'm embarrassed to say, I had never heard of before.

What struck me was how lively my husband was when he returned from his trip, saying, "The Oki Islands was amazing! Thank you!" (laughs). At that moment, I intuitively felt that the Oki Islands must be a wonderful place. However, I also thought it would be challenging to go there since it's quite far away.

── Despite the distance, what made you decide to come?

Ms. Yamaguchi  Seeing my husband return so lively, I wanted to feel something while being there too. I also wanted to see the horses grazing on top of a cliff in Nishinoshima Town. The sophisticated design of the geopark booklet he brought back caught my eye, and I felt a different charm from Entô than from other hotels. I wanted to see it for myself, what it'd be like to be there.


Even Though I Couldn't Hear, I Chose to Speak. A Solo Trip For the First Time in Ten Years.

── Thank you for coming to this faraway island.

Ms. Yamaguchi No, no need to thank me at all (laughs). The truth is, this is my first solo trip in ten years. Since getting married, I've always been travelling with my husband, and right up until the moment I had to leave for the trip, I was feeling anxious and nervous about travelling alone, wondering if I should cancel the trip.
Ten years ago, I didn't want to be seen as someone with a disability and hid the fact that I couldn't hear. So, for a long time, I struggled with communicating with other people who have no hearing disability.

What I prioritised on this trip was not to overburden myself with communication. In other words, I decided to properly convey that I am deaf. I could hear until around the age of five, so I can still speak. However, I can't hear the other person's voice. When I speak, people might misunderstand that I can hear them and they respond with their voices. By clearly stating that I cannot hear from the beginning, the other person can prepare themselves, they will understand and say "I see, you can't hear." This makes it easier for us to communicate through writing and gestures.

By using various communication methods, I finally arrived in Ama Town by plane, train, bus, and ferry.

...But, it was indeed tiring (laughs).


The Time Spent at Entô Dining was an Eye-Opening Experience

Ms. Yamaguchi This solo trip was also a journey to celebrate my birthday, and although I was a bit embarrassed, I requested a birthday message plate, dressed up, and enjoyed my dinner.


Ms. Yamaguchi They had already prepared a boogie board (*1) with various explanations written on it. Throughout my stay, the board was available at both the front desk and at the shop, ensuring that we were able to communicate, I felt welcomed and moved by this.


(*1) Boogie board: An electronic memo pad that can be written on and erased multiple times.

Ms. Yamaguchi This might just be my imagination, but having worked in customer service for a long time, I can sometimes sense a little bit of anxiety in the staff's expressions when communicating with me. However, Ms. Fujiwara, the dining staff member who took care of me, happily accepted all of my requests with a smile. I learned from her professional attitude, and thanks to her, I was able to enjoy my stay comfortably.

Ms. Sasaki, who guided me to my room when I arrived at Entô was the same. I was nervous and hesitated about whether I should speak at the reception, but everyone welcomed me proactively. The feeling that they treated me indifferently regardless of my age or disability warmed my heart. It wasn't just a superficial interaction; as we talked about why I came here and what I do, my distance from Ms. Sasaki became closer significantly, and I felt safe to entrust myself with her. She even performed the island's Kinnyamonya dance right in front of me! It was like watching a summer festival, and I was really thrilled (laughs).

── We're very happy to hear you say that. Ms. Sasaki, how are you feeling listening to Ms. Yamaguchi's story?

Ms. Sasaki  Speaking with Ms. Yamaguchi, I felt inspired in return, and I want to echo back the words she gave me!


The Sense of Distance From People is Unique to Solo Traveller

・   ・   ・


A solo trip planned to celebrate the hard work I've put in, after ten years.

Despite feeling nervous and anxious, Ms. Yamaguchi gradually experienced a fun and heart-warming moments.

In the next part, Ms. Yamaguchi will share what she gained from her trip to the Oki Islands.

Click here for the second part:
[Why I Travel to Entô] “I feel like I have become so lively without knowing the reason why” Entô Guest, Ms. Tomo Yamaguchi. The Oki Islands / Sightseeing | Ep. 04


― Writer ―
Yumiko Shiramizu
Born in the prefecture of Fukuoka. From 2017–2021 she worked as a waitress at a long-established ryokan (Japanese-styled hotel) at Kurokawa Onsen in Kumamoto Prefecture. She came to Ama Town with her pet cat in the summer of 2021 intending to understand the future of tourism through hotels for the first time in her career in the hospitality sector. She's been employed by Ama Co., Ltd. which runs Entô. First, she worked as a housekeeper where she was responsible for cleaning guest rooms and creating spaces. She is also a part of the dining team, where cuisine represents the island's ingredients. Currently, she is working in all departments as a supporter. She's a person who cooks and writes to express her life on the island.

― Photographer ―
Nana Sato
Born in Sapporo, Hokkaido. She spent several years in the United States and became interested in Entô and Ama Town because the hometown of Entô CEO (Atsushi Aoyama) is the same as her. She moved to the island in 2022 after returning to Japan. Even within the company, her taste and style are excellent in the casual pictures she takes of her daily life. She currently works in both marketing and the front desk. She has a habit of dying her hair to colors she likes, and these days she is letting her bright green short hair flow.

― Interviewer / Editor ―
Takuro Komatsuzaki
Born in Ryugasaki City, Ibaraki Prefecture. He is the representative of Educare LLC. After living in Germany, he now lives in Omori Town, Shimane Prefecture, a town nestled in the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine Site. His family consists of him, his wife, and two chickens.

Nicharee Plubsiri (Yaleen)
Born in Thailand and raised in New Zealand, she moved to Japan in 2017 for her studies. Having to move to the island after her graduation during COVID-19 was an exciting new journey. She currently works as a front desk staff at Entô and as a copywriter, and translator for Oki Islands Geopark Management Bureau. Being the only Thai living on the Oki Islands, she has a hobby with the purpose of promoting Thai culture on the island by joining the local food stall events to sell Thai food that she cooked, while bringing out her unique characteristics and ideas with her handmade goods. She describes herself as a "third-culture kid" and a "jack of all trades."

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