Lazy Days in a Tropical Haze

By Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Have you ever wanted to run away to a tropical island? Laze away on a beach, sipping cold drinks, eating food made by someone else, listening to the tide roll in and back out again? I did just that. I flew to an island off the coast of Tokyo and for 8 glorious days I lived the island life. Well as much as I could… it’s still Japan and still pretty conservative, so I couldn’t really walk around flaunting it, not that I would anyway because as you may have noticed I’m not exactly petite.

Hachijo Island was once a prison for civil dissidents as well as a location for the Japanese military during World War 2. Next to the Philippine Sea, the waters are warm in summer, filled with tropical fish and green sea turtles, making it a divers’ and snorkelers’ paradise within easy reach of the Tokyo Metropolitan area with 50-minute flights from Haneda Airport, three times a day. Hachijo is not your typical tourist destination. It’s a very small island with one major town, centered between two volcanoes. I love this island because it reminds me so much of Hawai’i, especially the Big Island, with black sand beaches filled with lava rocks, lush rainforest jungles, friendly people and passionfruit, lots of passionfruit. Also, it’s so much cheaper than flying home. I can get my island fix without going completely broke.

This was my first real vacation since before the pandemic, which ironically enough was when I last visited Hachijo in 2019. Originally, we had planned to go somewhere new in Japan, since I have a goal of visiting all of the prefectures one day, but we decided to just be beach bums and camp for free. Can you believe we camped for free? That still amazes me about this island. They offer free campsites with showers, toilets, and bbq areas. It’s the only reason we could afford to stay for so long. Plus, the campsite we stayed at was only 100 meters from the beach. So for us, it was a win-win situation.

I really needed this vacation. If you have been following along with my talk story blog or my Wind & Root column, you know that I have been struggling. I’ve had too many things on my plate: writing a novel, in a workshop since last June, part of various writing communities online as well as my roles at a couple of literary journals. I needed a reboot, a reset, time to just be. Honestly, just sitting on the beach, swimming in the sea, seeing the horizon, gazing at the stars at night was such a balm to my soul. You never really know how much you miss these things until you are face to face with them again and realize maybe you need to be reevaluating your life choices. I don’t know how much of this balm I will be able to carry forward with me but I do feel better. There were actual moments during my vacation when I smiled for absolutely no reason other than I was so happy to exist in that moment. I haven’t done that in so long.

Also on my list of things to do on Hachijo, besides beach days and passionfruit, was visiting my favorite hot spring on the island. All of the hot springs on Hachijo are a mix of fresh spring water and salt water from the sea. It’s a very unique experience. My favorite hot spring is Uramigatake Hot Spring which is in the middle of a rainforest jungle and next to a waterfall. It’s a mixed bath so swimsuits are required. I know hot springs aren’t for everyone but just being able to soak in hot water and admire a waterfall as you bathe is right up there with being in a hot spring when it’s snowing, which I also highly recommend.

I left Hachijo on July 31, and as I write this (August 3), I am not sure how I feel. Am I recharged, reset, in the moment? I don’t know. I do feel better than I did before I left which I will take as a positive. I don’t feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities and I am hoping to find more balance in my life. Is this the magic of island life or is it just that I had a vacation where I didn’t bring my laptop and I had no other tasks than to get food and booze and chill out? Probably both. Not having to constantly check my phone and all of the social media platforms was definitely necessary. I hope that as time passes, I will feel that this trip was the thing I needed to get past whatever it was that was making the first part of this year so damn hard.

As always friends, I am so grateful for you. Sending light, love, creativity and massive tropical island vibes to you all.

Read Melissa’s other work here at Reckon.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, The Razor, Ruby Literature, Milk Candy Review, Cotton Xenomorph, Lost Balloon, Best Small Fictions 2021, and Best Microfiction 2022. Read Hard Skin, her short story collection, from Juventud Press. She doodles on Instagram and tweets @lumchanmfa. She posts the occasional ukulele video on Instagram @lumchanukulele and talks story at