When we landed at the tiny port on Zamami Island last week, we had no clue where to stay.
At the tourist desk, Sean randomly chose a local guesthouse, The Patio House Reef. I let him do the choosing because I tend to go as cheap as possible, mostly with dismal results. We weren't disappointed with Patio House Reef at all. It had colorful plants, a communal meeting area, and most importantly, air-conditioning.
Patio House Reef is located on the eastern side of Zamami, a 5 minutes walk from Ama Beach. It's tucked away behind sugarcane fields and off a paved main road. We loved how isolated it was.
The problem with the isolation on an island like Zamami, however, is that there weren't streetlights. We discovered the potential hazards walking back to our guesthouse in the dark after getting dinner in the port area. The 20 minute walk in pitch black was interesting to be sure. Bats overhead, strange noises in the dark, dense island foliage.
"Did I ever tell you about the first time I saw the Blair Witch Project?" Sean asked a few minutes in.
"Don't even!" I yelled.
Later, he tried again.
"Do you know what I think about when I pass a sugar cane field?"
"Stop it!" I yelled again.
Needless to say, we did find our way back unharmed. Arriving back, we stopped at the vending machine for water.
A lively group of Japanese people were sitting at a table outside.
"What are you drinking?" they asked.
"We don't have water, but we do have... awamori!" they cheered and invited us to join.
Sitting down, we learned more about them. Most guests were from mainland Japan, but also at the table were Kazu, the diving instructor and his parents, owners of the Patio House Reef.
"Today is my birthday," Kazu said and made us each a strong awamori cocktail.
Soon after, things got lively. Plates of snacks were brought out and passed around. Someone handed me some beer nuts, which I spilled all over the place.
When we told them our names were Mary and Sean, they got all excited.
"Sean Connery!" they exclaimed. "Mary Hopkin!"
(I didn't know who the singer, Mary Hopkin was. I had to look her up)
The conversation led to Kazu and why he didn't have a girlfriend, and then a discussion of SONY products. Eventually, the night led to singing.
Yes, what is a birthday celebration without singing? It started with some mild sanshin banjo playing, and quickly elevated to full out singing by everyone except for us, which despite the awkwardness of not really being able to understand Japanese, was pretty cool.
When they brought out the birthday cake and shared with us, the man next to me said, "You're timing is good tonight. You are lucky to have some cake."
I agree. Our timing was good that night.
Our new friends waving goodbye to us at the port the next morning
Zamami Island has 20 or so guesthouses to choose from. The tourist desk at the port has information about each one and they will make the reservation for you. The Patio House Reef cost 6,000 yen (~$60 US) each including a fabulous breakfast. (Pricey, but this is Japan, right?) We opted out of dinner at the guesthouse, but we regret that decision since offerings in the port area were slim.
There are more budget friendly options available too ( as low as 3,000 yen per person), including camping on Ama Beach for about 1,000 per night, provided you have your own gear.