Japan’s 87-year-old ‘Naked Hermit’ returns to remote island for a final farewell

Japan’s 87-year-old ‘Naked Hermit’ returns to remote island for a final farewellJapan’s 87-year-old ‘Naked Hermit’ returns to remote island for a final farewell
Bryan Ke
July 1, 2022
After returning to civilization in 2018, Japan’s “Naked Hermit” went back to the remote island he once called home for nearly three decades to give it a proper farewell.
Masafumi Nagasaki, 87, returned to Sotobanari Island in Okinawa Prefecture in early June with the help of Docastaway founder Alvaro Cerezo and his team. They documented the man referred to as the “Naked Hermit” in 2014 and stayed with him on the remote island for less than a week last month.
In a June 16 blog post, Cerezo provided insight into the life of the voluntary castaway after he was “rescued” from the island and returned to civilization in 2018.
Cerezo said Nagasaki was unable to build new friendships, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also could not make any progress adjusting to the modern world after living alone for 29 years.
“Nagasaki had quite a ‘complicated’ personality, and always spoke with no filter,” Cerezo wrote. “In a quintessential society like that of the Japanese, there was hardly anyone who could either understand his eccentric way of life or his extreme desire to live naked on a desert island.” 
“As a result, most people in his neighborhood looked at him with contempt and a little bit of fear,” he added.
Nagasaki was “rescued” from the island around four years ago after a local fisher spotted him nearly unconscious by the beach. According to Cerezo, the Japanese government only provided him with “a little bedroom and very little money to cover his basic needs.”
After returning to civilization, Nagasaki spent most of his years confined inside his tiny room that became his own deserted island, where he could live without his clothes on, just like he did on Sotobanari.
Cerezo noted that Nagasaki, who would sometimes go out and collect trash on the street, was “horrified” by the amount of garbage left by people.
During his “moments of despair,” Nagasaki would use the only old phone booth still operational in the city and call Cerezo’s Japanese operation manager, Tamiki, to tell him that he struggled being surrounded by people and that he missed Sotobanari Island.
Nagasaki first arrived on the island in 1989 as a voluntary castaway at the age of 53. Speaking to Reuters in 2012, Nagasaki said he chose the island as the place where he would die.
“It hadn’t really occurred to me before how important it is to choose the place of your death, like whether it’s in a hospital or at home with family by your side,” he was quoted as saying. “But to die here, surrounded by nature – you just can’t beat it, can you?” 
Cerezo and Tamiki managed to convince the local Japanese authorities to let them take Nagasaki back to the island for a few days to visit. They did not mention Nagasaki’s wish to stay on Sotobanari Island and eventually die there.
As they took a boat to the island, Nagasaki grinned at the sky and “thanked life with folded hands.” Upon reaching their destination, the elderly man raised his arms in delight and cheered.
After finding his old belongings at his former campsite inside the jungle, Nagasaki, Cerezo and his team returned to the shore. The “Naked Hermit” then proceeded to take off all his clothes slowly, and Cerezo noticed that age had taken its toll on the once agile man.
“Tamiki and I realized that he was not as strong as he used to be in the past,” Cerezo wrote. “Although Nagasaki was 79 when I first met him in 2014, at that time he was very agile, energetic and capable of surviving on a desert island. Now he is almost 87 and the last four years of which he spent in a tiny room.”
Cerezo and his team planned to leave Nagasaki on the island the next morning, but they had to reconsider after seeing the man looking exhausted. It soon became clear to Cerezo and his team that Nagasaki was not as youthful as he used to be.
Nagasaki eventually asked Cerezo and Tamiki if they could stay and take care of him for a few more days on the island. He would then return with them to civilization after that.
On the day of their departure, Cerezo said Nagasaki chose to leave all of his old belongings behind, adding, “Luckily, Nagasaki was not sad to leave. It seemed he was satisfied to have had the opportunity to bid ‘Farewell’ to his island.”
“Perhaps in a few years from now, if he still desires to spend his last days at Sotobarani [sic] Island, and feels his time is right and he is ready to depart this world, we will be there to help him undoubtedly,” Cerezo added.
After his nostalgic journey, Nagasaki returned to his government-subsidized room in Ishigaki, Japan, Cerezo told the New York Post on Monday.
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