Hermit Who Lived for 30 Years on a Secluded Island Went Back

Andrei Tapalaga

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Mafasumi Nagasaki on his island in 2014Alvero Cerezo/Docastaway

Masafumi Nagasaki or better known by some as the “naked hermit” has become somewhat famous for becoming the longest-lasting voluntary castaway alive. Nagasaki moved voluntarily to the island of Sotobanari, on the Yaeyama Islands, an archipelago in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan in 1989.

Since 1989 he lived in solitude, without bothering anyone or being disturbed by anyone outside of the island. Truth be told, no one knew about his move to the island, nor the existence of Masafumi Nagasaki.

It was only in 2012 when Nagasaki at the age of 76 was discovered by some fishermen passing by. Fishermen rarely passed by the island and most of the time they would not notice anything. When asked why he left civilization, he answered that he did not like to comply with the rules implied by modern society:

“I don’t do what society tells me, but I do follow the rules of the natural world. You can’t beat nature so you just have to obey it completely” (Quote by Masafumi Nagasaki)

His reasoning was that he loved the peaceful life of being secluded and most importantly, away from civilization. During his many years of seclusion, he feasted on what mother nature provided, but that was not always enough. Every once and a while he would throw some clothes on and go to a settlement that was two hours away by boat to collect the 10,000 yen ($120) his family sent him and buy food as well as water.

When asked by those who interviewed him in 2012 if he wanted to return to society, he responded that his wish is to die on the island.

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Masafumi Nagasaki interviewed in 2012Reuters
“Finding a place to die is an important thing to do, and I’ve decided here is the place for me. 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. But to die here, surrounded by nature — you just can’t beat it, can you?” (Quote by Masafumi Nagasaki)

In 2018 however, the Japanese government forced Nagasaki, which at the time was 87 years old, to return to civilization. Although he was very sad to leave his paradise behind, he willingly decided to give civilization another try. The Japanese government offered him a bedroom and what was described as “very little money” to cover his basic necessities.

Nagasaki struggled to reintegrate himself into society, he never likes socializing so making friends did not work out for him. For the past two years, he has spent most of his time secluded in his bedroom due to the pandemic. Within those two years, he had contemplated a lot about leaving his paradise behind and the most dreadful thought was for him to die without living another day as a castaway.

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Masafumi Nagasaki walking in the city in 2019Alvero Cerezo/Docastaway

His journey since 2018 had been chronicled by Alvaro Cerezo who documents the lives of castaways through his company “Docastaway”. Within his blog he had described how Nagasaki’s mental health had declined since being reintegrated into society:

“His tiny room became like his desert island where he could isolate himself, as it was the only place where he was able to live with clothes off and feel free like he did for the last 29 years,” (Quote by Alvaro Cerezo)

With the help of Cerezo, they managed to convince the authorities to allow Nagasaki to return to Sotobarani island, despite not specifying to the government that Nagasaki is planning not to return from the island. The main concern of the Japanese government is the health of Nagasaki.

“We didn’t mention about his desire of staying forever on the island until his death. We just asked them if he could stay there for a while.” (Quote by Alvaro Cerezo)
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Nagasaki happy on Sotobarani island in June 2022Alvero Cerezo/Docastaway

Cerezo and his team managed the logistics to take Nagasaki back to the island. Upon arrival, Nagasaki jumped with joy, happy that his wish had been granted. The crew that helped him get back does not know how well he would manage to sustain himself at his age, but his happiness says it all.

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