In 1989, a man named Masafumi Nagasaki arrived on Sotobanari Island, a small island within the administrative region of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. His goal was to break free from modern life and live alone on the uninhabited island for a few years. Little did he know that his plan would turn into a nearly three-decade-long solitary adventure.
Nagasaki, immersed in the solitude of Sotobanari, relied on natural resources to sustain his life. Collecting rainwater, foraging for food, and building a shelter became part of his daily routine. Despite the challenges, he found a sense of purpose in living in harmony with nature, far away from the comforts and norms of modern society.
Nagasaki’s eccentric lifestyle gained media attention in the 2010s when he was discovered living like a hermit. By choosing to forgo clothing, he rejected modern conveniences, emphasizing his belief in following the rules of nature. In a 2012 interview, Nagasaki stated, “I don’t do what society tells me to do, but I follow the rules of nature. You can’t beat nature, so you just have to fully comply.”
Living on an island about 2,000 kilometers from Tokyo, Nagasaki faced the harsh coastal sun that darkened his skin. He built a protective tent to shield himself from nightly insects and crafted simple cooking tools. Sunset signaled his retreat to the shelter, showcasing his determination to endure the challenges of isolation.
Before his solitary life, Nagasaki was a full-time photographer in the entertainment industry in Fukuoka until the age of 46. Witnessing a solemn prayer ceremony for the atomic bomb tragedy during a photo assignment profoundly affected him. The emotional experience led him to abandon his profession, realizing the limitations of capturing sacred moments with a camera.
Nagasaki maintained a strict daily schedule, involving sunbathing, meal preparation, cleaning, and bug-proofing his campsite. Despite his reputation as an eccentric hermit, Nagasaki was not entirely estranged from modern civilization. He occasionally visited the nearest inhabited island for essential supplies, according to his friend Jun Aoki.
In April 2018, after 29 years on Sotobanari Island, the Japanese government forced Nagasaki to leave due to reports of his deteriorating health. He was relocated to Ishigaki Island, 60 kilometers away, where officials provided basic necessities. The COVID-19 pandemic further confined him to this new residence. In 2022, as the pandemic eased, Nagasaki was allowed to return to Sotobanari Island.
Nagasaki’s philosophy revolves around living by the rules of nature. He advocates for a society where people prioritize nature as their primary guide, believing it would lead to a better Japan. Despite his unconventional choices, Nagasaki expresses a desire to die alone on Sotobanari Island during a typhoon, free from the need for external assistance.
Masafumi Nagasaki’s unique journey on Sotobanari Island captures the essence of an unconventional life dedicated to simplicity and harmony with nature. His story challenges societal norms and prompts reflection on the importance of a balance between modernity and the natural world. As Nagasaki resumes his solitary existence, his experiences continue to intrigue and inspire those who contemplate the meaning of a truly solitary life.