If you want to get to Tsushima, an island in Nagasaki Prefecture, by ferry, you will have to start in Fukuoka — or a quicker option would be to start your journey in Busan, South Korea. The jet foil from Busan zips passengers across the nearly 50 km separating it from Tsushima in little over an hour. Compare this with the 138 km and the more than two hours you will need if you start in Fukuoka.

One early morning in late July, I found myself at the Busan International Ferry Terminal chewing on a sample of seaweed chocolate from the small duty-free shop. I had first learned about Tsushima from the history books as the island had played an important role in Japan-Korea relations. Later in life, I met a resident of the island who rekindled my interest in it. I had promised myself that I would someday visit Tsushima, and I was finally going to make good on that promise.

The sealed windows and the whir of the engines made the experience feel more akin to an airplane flight than a boat ride. In no time I saw the mountainous outline of Tsushima in the distance and recalled "The Records of the Three Kingdoms," a third-century Chinese text that described the island as having steep mountains and deep forests. In fact, 89 percent of the island is still heavily forested and it abounds with mountains and hills.