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Roots and Branches
(Aug 2015)

Posted on Aug 15, 2015

Yasu’s sneakers pad up the narrow path strewn with bright pink petals newly released from hovering branches. It’s spring on Okinawa’s Akajima (Aka Island)—trees and bushes burst into colors and shapes of endless variety. Entire trees flame orange and yellow; tiny purple bulbs dot fields, the full expression of their beauty a communal effort.


At the end of the winding walkway, Yasu finds himself on a dusty patch of grass overlooking a medley of lush islands and waters fading from green to turquoise to navy. He hears only a light wind and chirping sparrow. Perching his lanky frame on the wooden fence encircling the lookout, he calmly stares at the world in front of him in silence.

Yasu craves warm weather and activity: two precepts that have become the building blocks of his lifestyle. Years ago, he used to work as a waiter in Hakone, nearby Mount Fuji and the Japanese Alps. But Yasu found the battle with cold weather encroaching on his health and hobbies.

After many years, he decided to build a dual life: part-time in southern Japan where he enjoys the weather and works to save money, and part-time surfing and practicing yoga in Bali.

It may sound idyllic, but it’s a balance that’s hard to maintain. Yasu has been working at a guesthouse on Akajima for a week as he saves up for his next trip to Bali. Akajima is great to live in seasonally – extensive coral reefs and a diversity of marine life draw marine scientists, divers and snorkelers for both short and extended trips in the non-typhoon winter months.

Even so, Yasu won’t necessarily return to Aka after his next trip. Every time he comes ‘home’, he has to find a new job and it’s usually in a new place. He’s almost always alone—with his worn sneakers and a Patagonia sling pack of belongings, he isn’t grounded in one place or another. His life requires constant adjustment to new situations and new people, a tall task for an introvert.

But Yasu takes his quiet, calm demeanor wherever he goes. Sitting in silence with him is comforting; simply being is enough. His appreciation of non-doing rubs onto any nearby companion, immediately diffusing those unfortunate feelings of awkwardness we feel in the presence of a silent stranger.

Yasu’s set up works because he stays true to who he is. In Bali, he stays away from loud and crowded Kuta Beach and opts instead for remote, warm waters and simple housing on Bali’s northern shores. His 20 trips to Bali so far have given him a sense of belonging in an itinerant crowd of international travelers.

And at this point in his life, Yasu prioritizes the calm freedom in having nothing to maintain or look after, living or material. He has roots, but he chooses to live in his branches.


  1. Certainly, being atop branches can have a totally different vantage point than being immersed in roots. For many such an existence would seem precarious. Solitude can still be found in new situations and among strangers; one may feel alone despite being surrounded by people, simply because one is different. In this respect, I feel Yasu’s innate nature is well protected and may contribute a calming influence to the dual paths he has chosen to exist in.

  2. I absolutely love the ending here — having roots but living in the branches. What a magnificent way to say it. I literally have chills!

    • Thank you so much for your beautiful thoughts! I see you both as wonderful examples of balancing this dynamic 🙂

what do you think?


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