It happened during spring, in a beautiful and warm morning of the 26th of april in 1979 whilst my mum was picking wild azalea flowers behind our house for the local Shinto shrine. My grandad was with her when she broke her waters and so he didn’t only helped bring her back home but also assisted my birth, in his own very traditional way; at home, with two candles, and a bucket of lukewarm water, that he collected the very same morning at Ookawa waterfalls nearby our home.
That’s why my granddad has been always an important figure whilst I was growing up. He always helped my mum too, his only daughter. So my granddad is also an important person in the life of my mum. That’s why she asked him to find a name for me, and so it was Ilan, which means “sacred tree”.
Misaki is our family name and it means “beautiful blossom”, I think personally that it fits the spiritual essence of my family for many generations because so far as we know about our ancestors, everybody had dedicated themselves to “the way of the people” (as we call it here in Yakushima), which is a work that reconnects people with nature, in order to reestablish a harmony between their most inner selves and the Earth’s life force.
I can’t remember much about my granddad now, because he died when I was 4, but for some reason I keep two significant memories; the first one was my “earth’s custody ceremony” by Jomon Sugi tree (the most sacred place in our island), and the second memory is when I approached his bed on the last day I saw him alive and he gave me a sort of treasure map (that’s how I saw it then anyway), and the only thing he told me when he handed it to me was that I would know when it was the moment to undertake “the journey”.
I work as a gardener in the Shinto shrine gardens, and I don’t really get any money for it, because here in Yakushima we trade. We don’t have money, because we consider money an interference between people’s real values and abilities. One day you repair the roof of your neighbour, and another day, your neighbour brings you a basket with rice and shitake mushrooms from their vegetable gardens. And that’s how we get things done around very quickly.
But my real passion lies with horses. The Misaki horse is a breed that again, for generations my family has been breeding and raising. What makes them so special is their unbreakable loyalty to their owners, their resistance to any weather, and that despite their loyalty and obedience to humans, you will find most of them very wild in behavior. That’s why before we give away any horse, the person has to take a little time to be trained by one of us to understand this breed in a holistic way. Also there is one last requirement; you don’t choose the horse, the horse chooses you. And there, is the secret of our breed that we call “the bond”, but I can’t tell you more for now. I ride my own Misaki horse since I’m 3, which is the age when Shobo (as I baptised him when I was that age) chose me. I ride him in the valley where I live, and I know the rest of the island very well, but since a few years, I’m dreaming of undertaking a longer adventure with him.