At the end of March, having reached the age of 70 three months ago, I'll retire from my post as a lecturer at Okinawa Christian University — mandatory retirement.

Knowing this has given me a real sense of liberation in the past year or so, and since I plan to leave Okinawa and return to my home — Denman Island, British Columbia, Canada — I became determined to see as much of the Ryukyu group of islands as possible.

So in August last year — after I finished teaching a summer intensive English class at Daito Bunka University, in Tokyo — I boarded the Nozomi shinkansen bullet train at Shinagawa Station, changed to the Sakura shinkansen at Shin-Osaka, and arrived at Kagoshima Chuo Station in time to catch the Marix Line ferry Queen Coral 8 bound for Naha, Okinawa.