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Living out a dream in paradise

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-07-30

Have you ever thought about dropping everything, moving to paradise, and writing a book? Hiroko Nomura and Hiroshi Toriya did exactly that when they quit their jobs in mainland Japan and headed down south for warmer weather and fun at the beach here on Okinawa. Nomura had been working as a nurse and Toriya as a physician at the emergency ward of Fukuoka University Hospital, before they decided to escape life in the big city. Both were looking to get more in touch with nature, so they decided to leave their lives behind in Fukuoka and moved to Okinawa about three and a half years ago. In that short time, while the couple continued helping people through their careers in medicine, they have completed a book and will be holding their first photo exhibition at Mihama Makeman from August 6 until August 15.

Sitting at their beach-side home in Yomitan, Nomura and Toriya talked about their book and upcoming photo exhibit. "We were so moved by the way the clouds would float through the sky, by the way the tides flowed in and out, and by the beautiful sunsets. We thought to ourselves that we should write down all of those wonderful experiences before they became just normal, everyday occurrences," explained Nomura. They both agreed that it wasn't until they came to Okinawa that they realized there was so much magnificence to the world around them.

The couple began to tell the story of Okinawa's beautiful sky, flowers, and ocean. While Nomura put her camera to work both on land and in the water, Toriya recorded each memory with words. The result was "A Gift from the Island," and was published in June of this year.

"I think there are many people in Okinawa that do not realize how beautiful Okinawa is," commented Toriya, who grew up skin diving as a child off of Kyushu's eastern coast in Oita Prefecture. "I think it's important for Okinawans to have pride and a feeling of beauty for their own island - this is one of the reasons why we wrote this book."

Nomura explained how she and Toriya would marvel everyday at the fact of being able to arrive at the ocean in twenty to thirty minutes and be amongst so much beauty in the underwater world of Okinawa's fantastic sea. "Living in the city you would have to travel very far to get to somewhere that was nice, but even in those places, it can not be compared to Okinawa," said Toriya.

The book is filled with dynamic photographs taken mostly by Nomura, with a few sunsets and flower images captured by Toriya. "When I take a photo, I seem to only be able to get the colors and the shapes, but when Hiroko takes a picture, you can feel the emotion that comes from her heart," remarked Toriya about his partner's work. Amazingly, Nomura is an amateur photographer, who picked up a camera as a hobby.

The entire essence of both Nomura and Toriya's experiences can be heard in their conversations and seen in their everyday life. "I used to think that just taking care of our own place was enough, but since coming to Okinawa I no longer feel that way, commented Nomura. "We all have to do our part to take care of Okinawa," she continued. After moving into their new home, they both began cleaning the beach in front of their house once a month, despite insistence from locals that it was not necessary. Nomura explained that now several of the neighbors join them in keeping their neighborhood beach clean.

Looking at Nomura's photos, you can feel that both she and Toriya truly love Okinawa, and are trying to give some of that same warmth to others that they have discovered here. She tells me that her photos are taken right here off the coast of Yomitan and Onna-son. "This island is just as beautiful as anywhere."

For those interested in seeing some of the beautiful marine life and nature depicted in "A Gift from the Island," Nomura and Toriya's photographs will be on display just inside of the entrance to Makeman, located in the Mihama shopping area of Chatan from 10 am until 8 pm.

In the future, they plan to have their book translated into English and also hope to publish a children's picture book. Together, Nomura and Toriya are living out what most people dream about. And, they are helping to create a love for our island along the way.

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