Back in 1972 when I first lived on Denman Island in the Georgia Strait of British Columbia between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, I was one of about 300 residents. By the time I left 25 years later for Japan, its population had just topped 1,000, and each year sees a few more drawn to live in that beautiful place.

So, in a burst of what seems like a blend of wanderlust and nostalgia, I've been seeking out islands of the Ryukyus with similar populations, lifestyles and (lack of) infrastructure. Last winter I visited Aguni Island, population 1,000. Like Denman, it has one store; unlike Denman, it has a cop — also just the one.

So when my two-month vacation from university teaching in Okinawa began, I wasted no time in planning a trip offshore from Okinawa Honto (Okinawa Main Island) and, quite possibly, back in time.