Things You Won’t See Going to the Maldives on Your Honeymoon

Marine enthusiasts and couples love the Maldives for its emerald green seas, seaside cottages, cruises, snorkeling and so on. The Maldives are highly popular for honeymoons and overseas weddings. For this domain tour, neither a couple nor a marine enthusiast went to check out the Maldives.

Sponsored by Interlink Co., Ltd. which deals with more than 1,050 Top Level Domains (TLDs) around the world, the Domain Island Tour is currently focused on about 50 types of “Island Domains” in the South Pacific and Caribbean, such as “.cc” “.tv” “.sx”, going to these islands even when it takes 40 hours one way to get there, or when flights are only scheduled one a month.
https://islanddomains.earth/
The ccTLD for the Maldives is “com.mv”.

 

◆Where are the Maldives?
The Maldives consist of 26 atolls and about 1,200 islands, located in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka. Of these islands, about 200 are inhabited. The official name is ދިވެ、ދިވެހި ރާއްޖޭގެ ޖުމްހޫރިއްޔާ in Dhivehi.

 

= Table of Contents =

◆Trying to Ride in an Air Taxi Without a Reservation

◆Maldives Bonito

◆Illegal Workers, Lack of Doctors…etc. Things Heard at the Japanese Embassy

◆Artificial Islands for the Capital Malé

◆Cool Postcards of Policemen at the National Museum

◆What to Eat in the Maldives?

◆SIM Speed Test

◆MILO Delivery Trucks & Other Interesting Things in the Maldives

 


◆Trying to Ride in an Air Taxi Without a Reservation

In the Maldives, there’s a “One island one luxury resort” system, so to get to such islands, you need to travel by speed boat or air taxi (seaplane) from the Velana International Airport, near the capital Malé. The air taxis are only available for guests of said resorts or for sightseeing flights. Sightseeing flights allow passengers to take pictures of the islands from the sky. These tours don’t allow passengers to land on any of the islands. For the domain island tour, I’m not staying at a resort, and I don’t have a reservation for a sightseeing flight. But of course, I really want to ride on an air taxi, so I will have to find a way to do so.

Actually, I tried by email to reserve a sightseeing flight with Trans Maldivian Airways, and also with Maldivian Airlines, before I left Japan, but I got no response to my queries, so I will try talking to them directly.

At 9 am, just out of the arrival gate at Malé International Airport, I take a look around for an air taxi counter.

There are many reception counters for restaurants and resorts on isolated islands.

I found one for Jumeirah Hotels, famous for building the first ice-skating rink in the Maldives.

I also found Manta Air, the first to provide regular air taxi services in the Maldives as of November, 2019. Unfortunately, there was no one there. I’m going to give up on this one.

Then I discover Maldivian Airlines. When I asked them: “Can I take a flight even though I don’t have a reservation at a resort?” I was told: “No, you cannot”. When I asked about sightseeing flights, they right away answered: “Private sightseeing flights are available”. When I asked the price: “One flight costs 100,000 JPY”. Although I was shocked at how expensive, I decided to go ahead and do it.

By the way, this company’s official website uses the domain “.aero” which can only be used by members of the aviation industry.

I was told they would arrange my sightseeing flight, and that I should come back at 13:00. There was a lot of time still before 13:00, so I decided to look for the Trans Maldivian Airways counter. I asked the same questions I asked Maldivian Airlines, and got the same answers. Sightseeing flights are possible, but not today. I gave up as there were only flights available tomorrow.

The pilots for Trans Maldivian Airways fly barefoot.

The air taxis basically have no timetables, they seem to make their schedules at the request of the resorts and their guests. As I waited, I passed the time looking outside and I found a pink car, just like the one on the Japanese TV show “Ainori”.

Shortly before 13:00, I return to the Maldivian Airlines counter. As the man I had talked to in the morning was not there, I spoke to another staff: “I have a reservation for a sightseeing flight…” but he answered “The sightseeing flight has already left”. Did I make a mistake? Or did the airline staff miscommunicate? I don’t know, but what is clear is that I won’t be taking an air taxi.

At least there was no financial damage as you pay when you board. If you manage to get on a sightseeing flight in the Maldives, consider yourself lucky.


◆Maldives Bonito

It’s been speculated that Japanese bonito flakes come from the Maldives. So, I will look into the bonito in the Maldives… I need to find out for sure. I head for the fish market in the capital Malé.

Is this a unique design or has the paint just peeled off? I looked closer and it was a taxi.

I stop by to see the landing berth belonging to the President.

There’s a ship moored, but a local guy tells me it’s not the president’s ship.

Another local says to me “That’s the spot exclusively for the President’s ship”. There were two ships at anchor (A555 and A558). The two ships moored looked exactly the same grade.

On either side of those ships were coast guard vessels. The ship in front is the “ISKANDHAR”.
The other has ”NOOR ADHEEN” written on the side. There’s no connection to Japanese “Space Battleship Yamato”.

While walking, I saw many blue pipes on the ground. They seem to be drainage pipes for sewage, coming from buildings and construction sites etc.

The pipes all drain out into the ocean.

I arrive at the fish market. Large letters adorn a blue sign. However, its written in Thaana, so I have no idea what it says. Thaana is the writing system (script) used for the official Maldivian language Dhivehi.

Fresh skipjack tuna (bonito).

Near the back, yellowfin tuna was being cut up. Large fish, such as tuna, are cut and sold according to the needs of the buyer.

The leftover waste of the fish (bones, offal etc.) are collected in a bucket and then once the bucket is full, discarded into the ocean. I waited a little because I wanted to see that part.

Sea birds come out of nowhere and the sea is full of rays. They seem to know that dinner is coming.

Soon enough, a fish monger comes with his bucket of offal. He splashes it into the sea. I imagined it would be like feeding time in the carp pond, but neither the rays nor the seabirds got that excited.

I was happy to see this exciting “offal throwing” event that couples honeymooning in the Maldives are unlikely to be interested in, but my purpose, searching for the dried bonito, still needs to be fulfilled. I decided to check out the fruits and vegetables market down the road from the fish market.

Its crowded with people and bananas.

Ah, there it is. The dried bonito. Locally known as “Maldives fish”, it’s been used in cooking here since ancient times.

I don’t know the type of fish exactly, but this is also a kind of dried bonito. If you try some, its softer than it looks! The texture is like jerky. It’s a little smelly though.


◆Illegal Workers, Lack of Doctors…etc. Things Heard at the Japanese Embassy

To find out more about the Maldives, I visited the Embassy of Japan in Maldives, and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). First, the embassy. I asked the staff to tell me little known facts about the Maldives, and any issues they are facing here.

 

・Foreigners cannot start an independent venture here
The Islamic Maldives have no corporate or income taxes. But, it’s not a tax haven. Its ok to have a branch office here, so some Japanese companies are expanding that way. In addition, the Maldives does not give permanent residency to foreigners.

 

・The Maldives are said to be the worst in the world for population density and a lack of doctors
There’s heavy traffic in urban areas due to the population density. Approximately 130,000 people (1/4th-1/3rd of the population of the Maldives) live in Malé, in an area 2.5 km from east to west and 1.5 km from north to south. This city is said to have the highest population density in the world. Also, there are no medical schools in the Maldives. If you want to be a doctor, you must study at a university overseas. Although there are so few doctors in Malé, and fears about whether people are getting appropriate treatment or not, the luxury resorts have their own doctors.

 

・Illegal employment and illegal residents
Since October 2019, illegal foreign workers have been coming to get registered at the Galolhu National Stadium. Speaking of which, when I visited the stadium, I did find some people scattered around the stands, although there was no game on.

 

・Thefts at the Ferries
Ferry staff is supposed to handle larger pieces of luggage, but it seems that items have been stolen from inside the luggage at such times. You can use a taxi to get to the international airport, but its more common to travel by ferry. Ferry tickets costs $3 per person. Its best to be careful not to leave valuables in your luggage.

Next, I visited JICA, and spoke with a lady staff member who was recently transferred to the Maldives. Two things that stand out from the interview are that the seniors in the Maldives are not be able to support society as actively as in other countries, and that it’s not so easy to live in an Islamic country, which has a lot of restrictions.

By the way, it was from the Japanese embassy that I heard about the “offal throwing” event at the fish market. The male staff at the embassy said “My family all think that I am working in a lovely environment in the beautiful Maldives. Sure, sometimes I see sea turtles or dolphins from my office, but it’s not a very lovely environment working in a place that is so overcrowded.” Many thanks to the staff of the Japanese embassy and JICA who kindly answered my questions in spite of the sudden visit.


◆Artificial Islands for the Capital Malé

Hulhumalé is a man-made island located on the south side of the North Malé Atoll, it was built to relieve pressure on the most densely populated island in the world, Malé. The buildings are modern and colorful compared to the ones on Malé.

On the front gate of the preschool, there’s a list of names of the students enrolled there. I can’t imagine it in Japan.

Just before noon, a call for prayer was given from the “Masjid Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani” mosque. I wondered if the people walking around the mosque would stop and offer prayers suddenly, but no one did.


◆Cool Postcards of Policemen at the National Museum

If you want to learn about the history of the Maldives, the place to go is the Maldives National Museum, located in Sultan Park, Malé.

The entrance fee is 100 Rufiyaa (about 700 yen) per adult. If you want to take photos inside the building, you need to pay an additional 10 rufiyaa (about 70 yen). Even if you pay this fee, you can’t use flash when taking pictures. Lockers for luggage are available free of cost.

There are exhibition rooms on two upper floors. But let’s start on the first floor. In the large exhibition hall, there’s a display of small boxes etc. made from coral harvested in the Maldives.

Some of the items are modern artifacts. Two of the first telephone sets used in the Maldives.

“The first computer CPU in the Maldives.” The size really gives you a feel for its age.

A corner of the National Museum had the Philatelic Museum (Stamp Museum).

You can also purchase currently issued stamps at the souvenir shop.

Further along, a mannequin police officer.

This marks the start of the exhibition about the police. This exhibition documents the history of the police in the Maldives.

Of course, there’s a souvenir shop. What really caught my eye was the post-cards with police officers.

The one above is called “Police officers in discussion”. Below I thought it would be titled “Police officer with a handgun, looking into a room”, but actually it was “Police officer collecting fingerprints off a doorknob”. I’ve never seen such cool postcards, so I bought them up quick. I regret not buying a cap too.

Up to the second floor.

Instruments used by the famous Maldivian band the “Olympians” were on display, along with whale bones, ivory, ship models, etc.

The YAMAHA “YC-20” (stage piano)

The YAMAHA “YC-20” (stage piano)

The ELK “VIKING 60” (guitar amplifier head)


◆What to Eat in the Maldives?

Tired of walking, I took a break at a cafe. It’s called the Highway Coffee Shop.

The calm colors give a nice feel to the atmosphere. They prepare the drinks fresh, after taking the order.

The coffee came with milk by default. Another drink I ordered was the iced ginger-lemon tea.

As in other Islamic regions, drinking and selling alcoholic beverages is prohibited in the Maldives. You could buy a bottle of Mojito at the supermarket, but it was non-alcoholic.

I thought: “I could get a beer at the hotel,” but the hotel in Malé where I stayed did not handle alcohol. This one was also a non-alcoholic beer ($ 3.2).

I found a sushi restaurant in Hulhumale called “Oishii” (“Delicious” in Japanese). I ordered ramen and roll sushi. Is it delicious? As the name of the shop indicates?

Chicken ramen (185 MVR)

California roll (150 MVR)

Gold Rush roll (180 MVR)

Everything was delicious. For dessert, I ordered the “Chocolate Miso Lava Cake” (80 MVR). This is fondant chocolate with miso inside, vanilla ice cream and berry sauce on top. Lava means like volcano lava. This was also delicious.

After that I visited the Dhidhoo hotel (Cafe) for some local food.
There were many local people at this restaurant. The windows were open and it seems the air conditioning was not working. However, I was given an air-conditioned private room. Nice to get the VIP treatment. Maybe because I’m a foreigner.

I ordered the mas huni, a standard breakfast in the Maldives. In Dhivehi, “mas” means fish and “huni” means coconut.

A picture of mas huni. Divide in two, with a sausage in between, the taste is slightly different. One side is tuna and the other is bonito. Its eaten wrapped in roshi, a local flatbread. It’s delicious!

I also ordered an onion cake, and a dessert that is somewhat like dorayaki, with a small pancake folded in half. I thoroughly enjoyed the light natural sweetness. As expected, the VIP treatment was included in the bill.

 

I also tried a local restaurant called the Belle Amie Bistro. Here I ordered the Garudhiya.

This kind of home cooked meal is not on the menu, but they will make it if you order it. The taste may differ depending on the shop, but this one was surprisingly sour. It reminds me of Tom Yam soup but “Shrimp and Spice Free”. I wasn’t really feeling the bonito soup. A bit too light for me.


◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed

This trip, I tried Ooredoo and Dhiraagu SIM cards. You can buy them at the Malé international airport.

Both are $ 15 and 4 GB (for 7 days). Dhiraagu is also has the registry for the domain “.mv”, and if compared to companies in Japan, it is about the size of NTT. The speed was 25Mbps.

The speed of the SIM from Ooredoo (a company based in Qatar), was 14Mbps.


◆MILO Delivery Trucks & Other Interesting Things in the Maldives

Strolling around the city, I head for the “.mv” registry, just like I did to check out the Saint Vincent registry.

I hear a truck saying: “Backing up, be careful” in Japanese. I heard the same sound in Tuvalu (.tv).

The only item on the truck is boxes of “MILO”, piled high. This is a dedicated Milo truck, carrying only Milo. In Japan, Milo is advertised in commercials that feature children playing sports, so I have a strong impression of it being a children’s drink. However, in Latin America and Asia (especially in East Asia and Southeast Asia), it is popular with adults too. Certainly, I saw plenty of it in the Maldives.

I thought that the number of people in the Maldives who could speak Japanese had really increased, but I was blown away to see a shop called “Naoto Takenaka’s shop”. However, it was a souvenir shop that had nothing to do with actor Naoto Takenaka. The story is that the store’s name comes from the fact that the owner looks like Naoto Takenaka.

The “Naoto’s shop” is also a souvenir shop for Japanese people. In this neighborhood, while we were walking around, people frequently came up and tried to “guide” us. Please note that you will be charged if you follow or listen to these “guides”.

Paint company “Nippon Paint” is advertised by a sumo wrestler with a big smile. It says, “Singapore’s Favorite Paint Brand.”

There were many shops selling tools, paint, painting materials etc.

I thought it was a sports brand shop, but actually they are selling very fashionable work clothes and helmets.

In Tonga, I found a counterfeit for sale, but in the Maldives it was an authentic Mikasa volleyball. In the Indian Ocean region, a sports tournament called the “Indian Ocean Island Games” was started by the International Olympic Committee in 1976. Featured sports include volleyball, judo, table tennis etc. In 2019, the Maldives won a gold medal in women’s group table tennis. The local newspaper reported that it was a “historic victory.” The Maldives have been chosen to host the 2023 games.

It seems you don’t need to wear a helmet when driving a motorcycle on these islands.

Finding the Maldives’ domains “.mv” and “.com.mv” around town.

The domain “.mv” is restricted to government and large companies because it cannot be registered online and is expensive to maintain. Non-governmental and other companies tend to use “.com.mv” and “.net.mv”.

By the way, looking at the map, by now I should have arrived at the “.mv” registry, but there was no such place, instead I found the Presidential Palace (Muleeaage). It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t find the registry address (19 Medhuziyaaraiy Magu Male 20-02 Maldives), but I did make it to a tourist spot unexpectedly.

I found a man wearing a T-shirt with the Japanese word “Continue” on it. Underneath it said “To Be Continued!!!”, so when I told him that the meaning was not wrong, he smiled and posed for a shot. The Domain Island Tour continues.


■The following is a summary of the places visited during the Domain Island Tour.

 

■ For Access Details to the Maldives Islands,Click Here

■ For “.com.mv” Domain Details and Application,Click Here

More Than Just Napoleon’s Exile! Google is laying undersea cables to Saint Helena, the 19th stop on the “Interlink Domain Island Tour”, a place with a 187-year-old giant tortoise and many haunted spots.

A British territory, Saint Helena is known as the island where French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled until the end of his life. A more recent hot topic, Google announced that the latest technology would be used to lay undersea cables to St. Helena. After the domain expedition to Ascension Island where I investigated the one-ring-international-call hoax, now I am exploring the little known charms of St. Helena.
Sponsored by Interlink Co., Ltd. which deals with more than 1,000 Top Level Domains (TLDs) around the world, the Domain Island Tour is currently focused on about 50 types of “Island Domains” in the South Pacific and Caribbean, such as “.cc” “.tv” “.sx”, actually going to the these islands and reporting on their features.

◆Where is Saint Helena?

St. Helena, a British Colony, is a volcanic island located in the South Atlantic Ocean, 2,800 km from the west coast of Africa. It is only 122 square kilometers. It is also called a remote island. Administratively, it belongs to the British Overseas Territories of “Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha”, and the official language is English. The currency is the “Saint Helena Pound” (SHP), but British Pounds can also be used without any problem. All pound signs in the text are British pounds. One pound is about 141 yen (as of December 2019).


= Table of Contents =

◆Trouble in Johannesburg

◆Refueling and Arrival at the “World’s Most Unusable Airport”

◆Can We Go Even Though its Closed? ! Napoleon’s House and Jacob’s LadderCan We Go Even Though its Closed? ! Napoleon’s House and Jacob’s Ladder

◆This is where Google is Rumored to be Laying Undersea Cables! !

◆St. Helena is Full of Haunted Spots

◆Meeting the 187-year-old Giant Tortoise “Jonathan”

◆ Interesting Things Around St. Helena, and a 90-Year-Old Grandma Meeting Someone Japanese for the First Time

◆What to Eat on St. Helena

◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed

 


◆Trouble in Johannesburg

From Japan, I head for the island St. Helena via Singapore and Johannesburg. In times past, it was only possible to get to Saint Helena by sea, once a month the Royal Mail ship went from Cape Town, South Africa, to Saint Helena, going 15 knots / hr. (28km / hr.), it took 4 nights and 5 days. However, since October 2017, Airlink has been scheduling flights from Johannesburg Airport to Saint Helena once a week.

Everything went fine until I got to Johannesburg. When leaving for St. Helena there was a problem at the O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. For people going to St. Helena, it is mandatory to have overseas travel insurance. Our company credit cards have overseas travel insurance so I showed the lady at the check-in counter my credit card. But she just ignored the card, and said to me: “Show me your certificate.” I tried my best to explain in English, but her face was like a stone. She kept repeating: “You can’t go without a certificate.”

Of course, there’s no way to present a certificate, so eventually I was able to find the location on the credit card site where it stipulates the compensation for accidents etc. and finally, she let us go. Of course, it may depend on who you get behind the counter, but I recommend printing out your insurance documents (insurance certificate) in English, just in case. The internet connection (Wi-Fi) at the airport was good.

We finally got to the boarding gate for our flight to St. Helena. We made it in time. By the way, Johannesburg has a city domain name “.joburg”.

 


◆Refueling and Arrival at the “World’s Most Unusable Airport”

Two hours from Johannesburg we needed to refuel, so the plane stopped at Namibia’s Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport in the middle of the desert.

When we landed, they opened the airplane hatch, and lowered the gangway ladder. “We can get off and see the airport in the desert! I’m so excited.”

Then the flight attendant tells me I can’t get off. Well, so the refueling goes on. All in all, it took about an hour to refuel. By the way, the ccTLD for Namibia is “.na”.

An hour and 15 minutes from Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport, we arrive at the St. Helena International Airport. Just built in 2017, it’s a modern and beautiful new airport.

There’s an immigration tax of 20 pounds (about 2,800 yen) to enter the country. The entry stamp has birds and the departure stamp has a turtle. Very cute. This island has the world’s oldest giant tortoise, named “Jonathan”. Immigration taxes can also be paid in Euros, US dollars and South African Rands. Although the line for screening resident is crowded, the one for visitors is almost empty. There are not many tourists.

Souvenir mugs, coffee and chocolate are sold in the airport shops. Very different from Ascension Island airport, where there are no souvenirs for sale. There are also snacks and juice, it seems no different from an ordinary airport. Why was it called “the most useless airport in the world”? Well, because the airport took over 5 years to build, at a cost of about 285 million pounds (about 40.6 billion yen). It was supposed to open in 2016, but strong winds, which made taking off and landing more difficult than expected, delayed the opening ceremony. After more than a year of test flights and re-thinking things, the problem was finally solved by changing from the originally planned Boeing 737 to Embraer 190.※参考 AFP

 


◆Can We Go Even Though its Closed?! Napoleon’s House and Jacob’s Ladder

Saint Helena is known as the island where French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled. Napoleon’s mansion “Longwood House” is the most famous tourist attraction on the island. A 79-year-old veteran tour guide, Larry Johnson, took us to sightseeing spots and anywhere else we wanted to visit. The fees for Mr. Johnson were 200 pounds (about 28,000 yen) this was for 2 days, 2 people and included airport transfer and tip. We’re going to go to Longwood House, which has been featured many times on travel shows.

This is a volcanic island, and the airport is surrounded by magnificent rocks.

Gradually we get to areas with more greenery.

About 15km by car from the airport, I caught a glimpse of Jamestown, the largest town on the island. Built on a narrow strip of land in a valley with sides that go up about 150 meters, the population of Jamestown is around 600.

Exiled to Saint Helena in 1815, Napoleon lived at Longwood House until his death 6 years later. I was thrilled at the thought of entering Napoleon old home, but it wasn’t open. It was closed the weekend of our visit…

This is worse than the trouble in Johannesburg. But I don’t give up so easily. After talking with Larry, for a special fee of 150 pounds, they will open it for us! The price of 150 pounds is fixed and then divided by the number of participants. So, for two people, it’s 75 pounds per person. Open only from 11:00 to 13:00 on weekdays, admission is usually 10 pounds per person (about 1,400 yen).

Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside. It had Napoleon’s favorite field bed, and his bathtub for his regular morning bath. Taking photos in the garden is allowed. Now under the control of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the garden is beautifully kept.

Napoleon – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

I bought a postcard at the Longwood House gift shop. I sent off right away and it arrived in Japan 24 days later.

Comments left by previous visitors. There have only been a few Japanese besides us. Of course, there are not many people visiting such an isolated island.

By the way, the boots Napoleon wore in St. Helena were sold for 117,000 euros (about 14.1 million yen) at an auction in Paris.

 

Jacob’s Ladder is the second most famous tourist attraction after Longwood House. It’s a staircase with a total height of 183 meters and 699 steps. First constructed as a sloped cableway by a railway operator in 1829, it was rebuilt as a staircase by the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1871 for the purpose of moving supplies.

If you climb Jacob’s Ladder, you can get a certificate of ascension at the St. Helena Museum next door. The issuance fee was 5 pounds (about 700 yen) for 2 people. The certificate will be sent to Japan at a later date. In addition to this issuance fee, you must also pay museum admission. It’s a donation, so you can choose how much to put in. We put 10 pounds (1,400 yen) for two people. The museum, which opened in 2002, is housed in a power plant from the second half of the 18th century. There are many valuable old items, military uniforms, hats, and swords on display, telling the history of the island up to the present.

After completing the procedures to get our certificate of ascension, we finally face the challenge of the 699 steps. With my incredible leg muscles built up through the domain island tour, I figure about it will only take me about 10 minutes.

After climbing a bit, I looked down and my legs started to shake. After that, I was too scared to take pictures. I do not recommend this for anyone with a fear of heights.

From the top of Jacob’s ladder, you can see Jamestown far below. The 699 steps led us to an amazing view. All in all, it took about 15minutes to climb the steps.

Jacob’s Ladder(セントヘレナ島) – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Larry drove to the top and waited for us.

The certificate of ascension came 5 weeks after the ascent.

 


◆This is where Google is Rumored to be Laying Undersea Cables! !

There’s an exciting rumor in the news, that the government of Saint Helena invited Google to lay undersea cables in a project called “Equiano”. The news doesn’t mention the planned site for this big project. I heard from local people that the location is Sandy Bay. I decided to check it out.

We drive over hills and valleys, hills and valleys.

After we pass a coffee plantation,

the road starts to get worse and worse.

The road got so bad, it was impossible for Larry’s normal passenger car to keep going, so we got out of the car at this point. And walked to Sandy Bay.

It was about 15 minutes’ walk to Sandy Bay.

Strolling along the beach, is that a cable?!!

It seems to be some kind of hose, not a cable.

Ah, a mysterious floatation device.

Well, there’s nothing there yet, just a sandy beach, but the locals say this is the mystery location where the undersea cable will be laid. Maybe in the future, there will be a “Mid-Atlantic Cable Hub” that will lay undersea cables across the South Pacific via St. Helena.

Google海底ケーブル予定地(セントヘレナ島) – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

 


◆St. Helena is Full of Haunted Spots

When I was looking at the map, I found a word I wasn’t familiar with. It said “haunted house”.

Larry said: “I don’t know this place on the map very well, but there are a few haunted houses on the island, I can take you to one of them”. So, we decided to take the “Haunted House of Oaklands Tour”.

We decided to go after dinner, so it was dark when we headed out.

We arrive at the haunted house. The admission was pretty high, 20 pounds (about 2,800 yen).

Once inside, our host Philip Mercury welcomed us. He told a scary story about this mansion that was hard to understand in English. I was quite scared because of the strange smells and an eerie atmosphere, but actually the drive to the mansion was even scarier.

There are other rumors of ghosts on St. Helena, such as at the Pilling School, Shy Road, Alarm House, and the Plantation House where “Jonathan”, the 187-year-old giant tortoise lives. After spending 45 minutes here, we drove past Jacob’s ladder lit up, and then went back to the hotel. That looks even scarier to climb at night.

 


◆Meeting the 187-year-old Giant Tortoise “Jonathan”

Although he’s so very old, Jonathan is virtually unknown in Japan. Before we go to meet Jonathan, we start the day with a delicious breakfast and the same fragrant coffee that Napoleon used to drink. This is really good coffee! It’s the kind of coffee that makes you think: “If I got to drink this coffee every day, maybe exile wouldn’t be so bad…”

Before meeting Jonathan, we went to High Knoll Fort on a little mountain 584 meters up. The British army built it in 1799 to prevent an invasion from the French army, and it was reopened in 2010 for tourists.

Finally, we get to Plantation House to meet Jonathan. The oldest giant tortoise in the world is just around the corner, but again… it’s closed. The main gate is open, but closed to visitors. I was really stunned that this would be closed on weekends.

But I want to meet Jonathan! So, I took my feelings to Larry, who said, “You might be able to see him from the outside,” and took us around to see.

There he is! The world’s oldest giant tortoise, 187-year-old Jonathan!

He’s moving! I wanted a chance to get to know him better, but there’s nothing to be done because it’s “closed”. At 187 years old, that means he was born in 1841. It was an honor to meet him.

 


◆ Interesting Things Around St. Helena, and a 90-Year-Old Grandma Meeting Someone Japanese for the First Time

Walking though Jamestown.

We met some of Larry’s friends. The lady on the left is over 90 years old. She was very healthy and energetic, and said “It’s the first time for me to meet a Japanese person.” Is St. Helena a kind of “longevity island”?

There’s a lot of wind power generation.

This was built to be an oil base, but failed somehow. Larry says there’s a lot of money wasted in this kind of way.

This area is called “CHINA LANE”, because there used to be a lot of Chinese workers living here.

There are several churches around China Lane, all of which have several hundred years of history.

The domain for the churches is “.church”.

The Jamestown Supermarket. Until around 2015, St. Helena Island was so short on supplies that people said it was like living in the Soviet Union. Of course, most things have to be imported, but there was better selection than I expected, everything from daily necessities to pet supplies.

A bulletin board in the supermarket. Some kind of picture book for children? The domain “.sh” is used in the email address.

Information on discounts for bulk purchasing in front of the supermarket. The domain for this email address was also “.sh”.

The air conditioner in the Hotel was a Japanese DAIKIN. Speaking of which, the air-conditioner on Ascension Island was made by Fujitsu. Did these Japanese companies really come to do business on such remote islands? It’s amazing.

 


◆What to Eat on St. Helena

The sunset from the remote island of Saint Helena is spectacularly beautiful. But of course, I’m soon hungry. We head to a restaurant run by Larry’s friend.

This lady friend of Larry’s recently opened the restaurant and called it “Rosie’s”.

She serves beef, chicken, mutton, seafood etc. The price is reasonable.

Since there is no local beer in St. Helena, we drink South African beer.

The seafood is flavored with coconut and curry. It’s very good.

Classic fish sauté.

The beef steak that Larry ordered. There was a good quantity of everything.

 


◆◆ How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed

I purchased a SIM card at “Sure”, a shop which offers broadband services at Saint Helena Airport. The cost was 18 pounds (about 2,500 yen). The staff at the store didn’t know how to make it work, so I tried by myself to install the SIM, but I couldn’t get it activated.

I tried again at the hotel near Longwood House, but it still won’t connect… I wasn’t able to use it the whole time I was there.

I gave up using the SIM, and tried to use the hotel Wi-Fi. We stayed at the “Mantis St Helena”, but you can only connect to their Wi-Fi at certain times, such as midnight or early morning, and it doesn’t work when there are many users. It was the worst internet environment in the history of the Domain Island Tour. When those undersea cables are laid, this island of about 4,500 people will be connected to an ultra-high-speed Internet of several terabits per second, and the network environment will change completely.

Well, it’s time to go back to Japan. When I saw Saint Helena Airport from the sky, I realized that it was more “cliff-top” than I imagined. So glad we were able to land and take off safely.

 


Optical Illusions in the Picturesque Faroe Islands, and Can You Really Meet Olaf From Frozen in the Fairy Tale World of “Ólavsøka”?

The Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, has a unique traditional festival called “Ólavsøka” (Saint Olaf’s day) that takes place on July 29th, a national holiday. The name “Olaf” reminds me of the cheerful snowman from the Disney movie “Frozen,” which was loosely based on the fairy tale “The Snow Queen” by Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson., But, I thought, would Olaf, who so longed for summer, come to this summer festival? I am hoping the Faroe Islands is a fairy tale world where I can meet beautiful women like Anna and Elsa. On the 18th stop of the Domain Island Tour, I visited the Faroe Islands; last paradise of unspoiled natural attractions in Europe.

◆Where are the Faroe Islands?

The Faroe Islands, an archipelago of 18 islands, is a territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, located between Iceland and Norway. Of the 18 islands, 17 are inhabited and one is uninhabited. Out of a population of about 50,000, 19,000 people live in the capital Tórshavn. The official language of the Faroe Islands is Faroese.

The currency used is the “Faroese króna”, and one Faroese króna (hereinafter “kr.”) is about 16 yen (as of November 2019). The exchange rate is the same as the Danish króna, and the Danish króna can also be used in the Faroe Islands. The only difference is the banknote design. Banknotes with motifs of nature and animals from the Faroe Islands are Faroese króna. The coins used are the same as the Danish króna.

Here are some Faroe Islands banknotes (From the top: 500kr., 200kr., 100kr., 50kr.)


= Table of Contents =

◆A Folksy Pride Parade

◆I Want to Stand on the “Most Picturesque Soccer Field in the World”

◆Is the Ólavsøka all about “Frozen”?

◆Chain Dancing all Night Long in the Faroe Islands

◆Portable Urinals in Full Public View

◆The Illusion of the Lake above the Sea

◆Restaurants and Credit Card Use in the Faroe Islands

◆Purchasing a SIM Locally & Testing the Internet Speed

◆The “.fo” Domain, Full of National Love

 


◆A Folksy Pride Parade

After departing Copenhagen Airport in Denmark, we fly about 2 hours, 15 minutes before arriving in Vágar Airport, Faroe Islands. For many Nordic people, this is a place to go and enjoy nature. A man I talked to at the airport said he was travelling from Norway. I was surprised at how beautiful Vágar Airport was, especially for an island airport.

It was also quite crowded when we arrived. Due to turbulence, fog, and a short runway, Vágar Airport is a difficult airport at which to land.

From Vágar Airport it’s about 50km to the capital Tórshavn. As you can see from the timetable, there are not very many buses. Also, the taxi fare is 600kr (about 10,000 yen), so I recommend rent-a-car. The road to Tórshavn is scattered with pastures, crisscrossed with small rivers.

Getting from Vágar Airport on Vágar Island to Tórshavn on Streymoy island requires passing through many undersea tunnels, only passable by car. The solid red lines on the map are the routes that can be driven by car. The dotted red lines are the routes than can be traveled by ferries that can also carry cars.

I got to Tórshavn after about 45 minutes. This particular day, there was a gay pride parade held for LGBT rights, and many people, both young and old, were gathered. Many people may have returned home to the Faroe Islands for the Ólavsøka (Saint Olaf’s day) Festival.

The Gay Pride parade is an annual event held just before Ólavsøka. Denmark was the first country in the world to introduce same-sex partnerships in 1989, and in 2012 same-sex marriage became possible. Since 2016 the Faroe Islands have allowed same-sex marriage.

A boy changed “GAY” to “CAY”. The little prankster took away the horizontal bar in the letter “G”. After that, he started to work on the “A”.

A little way from the city center, you can see the old houses and the cityscape. There are also houses with rooves thatched with sod. These grassy rooves are unique to the Faroe Islands.

A tradition since the Viking era, they apparently are excellent thermal insulators. Because of time constraints, we couldn’t go to Saksun village on Streymoy Island, but it is famous for these turf-rooves.


◆I Want to Stand on the “Most Picturesque Soccer Field in the World”

I heard that the Faroe Islands have the “most picturesque soccer field in the world”. Working from this photo, my search begins. It’s unclear who decided on the “most picturesque soccer field in the world”, but I wanted to go and see for myself if the rumors were true. I hope this will be helpful for those in the future who want to visit “most picturesque soccer field in the world”.

※出展:shutterstock

About 50 minutes by car from Tórshavn, we arrived at Eysturoy island. I went by car because there were so many undersea tunnels. Towards the northwestern tip of the island, we’re headed for a town called Eiði, which means “Isthmus” in Faroese.
When I get there, I see a soccer field.

Approaching it, I can see that it’s a nice, new soccer field, but there’s nothing to make it stand out as the “most picturesque soccer field in the world”.
When I asked the local people, they said to go further on, so I head in that direction.
As I climbed a gently sloping hill by a cliff, I was sure I was on the right track to the “most picturesque soccer field in the world”.
Following the directions of the locals in my search for the soccer field, I found a campsite. Drinks in hand, everyone seemed to be friendly and happy to chat. But where is the soccer field I’ve been looking for?

I went up a small mountain to check out the area from above. There it is! If you look closely, this campsite is the “most picturesque soccer field in the world”!

The “world’s most picturesque soccer field” has become the “world’s most picturesque campsite”. Also, I feel like the photographer needed a fair bit of ingenuity to get this shot of the “most picturesque soccer field in the world”. I’m not sure you can call it the “most picturesque” when so much effort is needed for the shot. When I asked the locals, they said the name of the former soccer field was “Eidi Stadium”. Apparently, it wasn’t a very good soccer field due to strong winds, so now it has become a campsite for campers. Didn’t they know about the strong winds before they built it? Nearby, a new soccer field has been built. Just like the one I saw when I first arrived.

So, in conclusion, the “most picturesque soccer field in the world” is actually the “most picturesque (?) campsite in the world” or just a normal campsite, depending on the angle. That’s what I think anyways. You can check it out for yourself.


◆Is the Ólavsøka all about “Frozen”?

If you’ve watched the Disney movie “Frozen,”, you’ll probably think of the character Olaf when you hear of the “Ólavsøka” (Saint Olaf’s day) Festival. In the first place, the original story “The Snow Queen” was written by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, and in the Faroe Islands, part of Denmark, Ólavsøka is very popular. I attended the Ólavsøka Festival in Tórshavn.

The main event the day before the festival, is a boat race. The islanders are very serious about this competition. They are passionate about supporting their team.

Just looking at the excitement and cheering of the spectators when the boats cross the finish line is highly enjoyable.

The winners of the race have something they need to do after the race. In order to receive blessings from the spectators, they need to carry their boat above their heads. Taking the boat from the sea, they need to carry it for several meters on dry land. It looks like a punishment.

Among the spectators, many wore national folk costumes. This is not formal dress for boat race viewing, but formal dress for the Ólavsøka Festival. In recent years, the colors and designs of the costumes have become increasingly original.

 

Walking around the venue on the day of the Festival. This is not a 3D theater, but a 7D mobile theater. And I’m curious what it is exactly.

Lottery corner. If you win, you get a huge candy.

Since its only 5kr. (90 Yen) for one ticket, I think I’ll buy a few.

All losers. I started to think this was the kind of lottery that no one could win, but after watching for a while I saw this girl win a huge candy. Congrats! She looks happy!

 

I thought it was a photo booth like Purikura, but it’s a semiprofessional photographer taking photos.

 

There are many live music bands around the venue.

I looked around on the day before the festival and on the day of the festival, but I didn’t see Olaf from Frozen. In fact, Ólavsøka in the Faroe Islands has nothing to do with Olaf from Frozen. Ólavsøka actually means Saint Olaf’s Day, and marks the day that Olaf II, (St. Olaf) King of Norway, died in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. On the other hand, Olaf from Frozen is completely unrelated to the history of Denmark and the Faroe Islands, and his name was derived from the words “Oh! Laugh”. That being said, I saw Olaf from Frozen twice, but only in the form of balloons.

Saint Olaf’s Day has nothing to do with the Olaf from Frozen, but don’t you think the fairy-tale-like folk costumes are somewhat similar to the costumes in Frozen? And I was able to meet many Scandinavian beauties like Anna and Elsa.

The Olaf Festival goes until the morning. People who enjoy it the next day too, when you take a rest and get some sleep?


◆Chain Dancing all Night Long in the Faroe Islandsる

The main event of the Ólavsøka Festival is the Faroese chain dancing, where people hold hands and dance in circles or chains while singing. Looking at the timetable, the orange frame on the left is the chain dance that starts at 22:00 (on the 28th), and the orange frame on the right is the chain dance that starts at 1:00 am on the 29th. I’m not sure which one is more famous, is there any difference between the one on the 28th, the day before the festival, and the one on the 29th? I was curious so I tried to participate in both.

I arrive at the venue the day before the festival. It seems the dance will be held in this small theater.

When I entered the hall, the chain dance had already begun.There seems to be a lot of elderly people, but they keep dancing and no one misses a beat in the chain dance. It looks like the Polka.

A local couple I met on the way home, dressed in their national costumes. They look so nice.

According to the locals, the chain dances the day before the Olaf Festival are for people who know chain dancing and love it. So that’s why there are many older people who just wanted to enjoy chain dancing.

 

Next, the chain dance on the day of the Olaf Festival. This one is held in Tórshavn. This day was not as exciting as the previous day, there are just too many people. It’s difficult to move.

Suddenly it was raining and a little foggy, and a single male voice came singing out of the speaker. And this voice triggered a great chorus of singing from the crowd.

I don’t know Faroese, so I didn’t understand the lyrics, but the pamphlets distributed at the venue contained old folk songs from around the islands written in Faroese. In all, 21 songs were printed out. It seems they will sing them all tonight.

When the chorus is over its time to chain dance. But I can’t find where the dancing is happening in the square. Even when I asked those around me, they didn’t know either. It seems that not so many attend this event. After searching for a while, I found the chain dancing in a square in the center of the city.

Many people, young and old, men and women, were dancing. This chain dancing on the day of the Ólavsøka Festival seems to go on for a long time. Incidentally, the songs sung while dancing are old folk songs from around the Faroe Islands.

Chain dancing was commonly practiced over a wide area of Scandinavia during the Viking era. It seems the custom only remains in the Faroe Islands. Around the world, you can only find these enthusiastic chain dancers in the Faroe Islands.


◆Portable Urinals in Full Public View

As Ólavsøka is a national holiday, many businesses are closed from the afternoon of July 28th. This is an event that many locals look forward to as a time to meet up with old friends. While listening to the performances of Faroe country music bands at outdoor venues, people sincerely enjoy themselves, drinking beer, singing and dancing.

However, if you drink a lot you will definitely need to go to the bathroom. A little way from the center of the square, there are three things as shown in the photos. These are the portable toilets of the Faroe Islands, dedicated urinals. Four men can stand diagonally to each other and pee into the little holes. Although portable, I have never seen such toilets in Japan before. They are in a location with many people passing by, so I think I’d have to be pretty drunk before I could pee here. I really had to go, but I just didn’t have the courage to use it. The photo is out of focus, because a local lady got mad and shouted at me for taking a picture of the toilets. Please see the comic for details on how to use this urinal.

If you ever come across this kind of toilet, please use it according to the usual method.


◆The Illusion of the Lake above the Sea

I’d like to mention some of the places I really enjoyed in the Faroe Islands.

1) First of all, there is a scenic spot in the town of Miðvágur on Vágar Island, where you can enjoy the illusion of a lake above the sea. To hike to the spot, you need to go to the Bøsdalafossur Trail Head in Miðvágurt. The admission fee to hike is 200kr per adult (about 3,200 yen).

I went to the lower left cliff and back. It’s a 3-hour round trip hike.

I feel like I walk forever. It’s pretty far but I’m excited to see the spot.

And the road is a pleasant place to walk.

I finally get to the cliff. To my surprise these cliffs exceed my expectations. I go to the edge of the cliff, being careful not to fall off the edge.

Here we are. It really looks like a lake above the sea. Of course, it is an optical illusion, but it was fun to see this scenery and enjoy a little hiking.

By the way, the actual reality, not the illusion, looks like this. Depending on the angle, it looks like the lake is high above the sea.


2)Next, I take a boat tour from Vestmanna to see the cliffs from the ocean and to observe the birds. I arrive at the Vestmanna information center, where the boats are waiting to go.

The Saga Museum was on the second floor of this information center. Since I came all the way, why not take a look?

There are life sized, realistic figures of the Vikings of the Faroe Islands. Although the scenes depicted are quite shocking, the place itself is very small, so I recommend that you listen to the explanation if you have time. (Available in English only)

 

After the museum I go on my boat tour.

We go directly to the cliffs. On the way we pass cabins and vacation homes.
We didn’t put the helmets on immediately. Only when we approached the cliffs, the crew gave us helmets as a precaution.

I can see the cliffs.

Around August, many birds, such as puffins (Fratercula arctica), come to the cliffs for nesting.

Puffins are such cute birds.

Source shutterstock

After this, we go further and pass through a tunnel in the cliff. It seemed almost like an artificial attraction.

On this tour, I was able to see animals and nature unique to the Faroe Islands up close. The nature of the Faroe Islands as seen from the boat tour is quite different from what I enjoyed on the hike.


◆Restaurants and Credit Card Use in the Faroe Islands

In the Faroe Islands, I found a sushi restaurant called “Etika” that looked very nice. In the food court of Vágar Airport, Etika has a small stand where they sell take-out. It was so good; I couldn’t believe I was in an airport. The taste was just right for Japanese people, maybe that’s why I thought it was so good.

I found Etika in Tórshavn as well. The building itself is very modern, but the roof is turf. It’s in the center of town, so it’s unlikely that you will miss it. I wonder, is the taste different from the sushi sold at the food court in the airport?

The interior has a calm and sophisticated atmosphere. Shichimi (7 spice blend) is set on the table.

This is portion of Etika’s menu. One skewer is 42kr. (about 672 yen), and a set menu of sushi and skewers goes as high as 520kr. (about 8,320 yen), but these kinds of high prices are normal in Northern Europe.

The sushi is as delicious as sushi in Japan, but the salmon is especially fresh and delicious as it is usually caught nearby. The skewers were somewhat unique, but the teriyaki sauce was excellent. There was also edamame and shrimp cutlet.


A five minute walk from Etika. I arrived at Fish House “Barbara”. In the middle of the photo, the building lit with lights. Looking only at the exterior, the restaurant seems to be just a house.

The ceiling inside is quite low, but the feel is compact and cozy.

You can choose from a set menu or a la carte. The selections from a la carte were not so different from the set menu choices, so I chose the “Set Menu Chef’s Choice”. The price was about 700kr. (11,200 yen). The furniture and tableware were also very fashionable.

The following are the dishes that came with the course. Everything was fresh seafood caught in the Faroe Islands, and the flavor was exquisite.

Finally, dessert.

I can’t remember all the details, but the waitress carefully explained the dishes one by one. I was very satisfied with both the taste and the service. The staff wore uniforms that were folk costumes from the Faroe Islands.


And finally, a crepe stand I chose to try out of all the stalls and stands at the Ólavsøka Festival. As with festivals in Japan, there were all kinds of food stands. They were selling things like hotdogs, pizza, hamburgers, crepes etc. Near the city center, I found a crepe stand with a long line-up. I thought this place must be delicious so I join all the other people, in a lineup that took 1.5 to 2 hours.

Among the Ólavsøka Festival stalls, some accept credit cards, but some only accept cash, so if you want to enjoy the stalls, prepare some cash ahead of time. There was an ATM, but the line-up for it was very long.

So, this is the crepe. For an hour and a half wait, I had high expectations, but it was just a normal crepe. Like Japan, it may be that many people wanted to eat crepes just because it’s a festival!

When I researched ahead, before visiting the islands, I found that many shops don’t accept credit cards, so I brought a lot of cash. But actually, most shops did accept credit cards, so I had a lot of cash leftover.


◆Purchasing a SIM Locally & Testing the Internet Speed

I purchased a local SIM at Vágar Airport. Whereas GlobalMe was unstable in some places, the local SIMs were stable in the Faroe Islands. The following is the local SIM internet speed.


◆The “.fo” Domain, Full of National Love

The deep love the people of the Faroe Islands have for their nation that I felt at Ólavsøka, was also apparent in the domain use.
Many businesses in the Faroe Islands use the ccTLD “.fo”. I rarely found the “.com” address.

〇Taxi company
http://www.auto.fo/

〇Bank
https://www.banknordik.fo/

〇Supermarket
https://www.bonus.fo/

〇Beauty salon
http://adore.fo/

〇Drinking water
http://auroraspring.fo/


■The following is a summary of the places visited during the Domain Island Tour.

 

■For Access Details to the Faroe Islands, Click Here

■For “.fo” Domain Details and Application, Click Here

 

I have found the truth regarding rumors that “dying is illegal”, “being NEET is illegal” and “even Japanese can easily get permanent residency and start a business” in the world’s northernmost settlement of the Svalbard Islands.

“Dying is illegal!?” This rumor about Svalbard is circulating the internet. What will happen if you die in this town? Will violators be imprisoned for life? Besides that, there is an unusual town where Japanese people can get easily get permanent residency. On the 16th stop of the Domain Island Tour, I went to Svalbard to find out the truth. The ccTLD (country code top level domain) is “.sj”.

◆Where are the Svalbard Islands?

Svalbard is an archipelago in Norwegian territory, approximately halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the Arctic Circle. The largest town is called Longyearbyen and is the most northern settlement in the world. Many things here can be prefaced with “The World’s Northernmost…” From April to August is the time of the midnight sun, meaning that the sun doesn’t set for months.

= Table of Contents =

◆The Northernmost Town in the World “Longyearbyen”

◆An Archipelago with more Polar Bears than People

◆Dying is Illegal!? Being NEET is Illegal!?

◆It’s Easy for Japanese People to get Permanent Residency and Start a Business?

◆ “The World’s Northernmost…” Found Around Svalbard

 ①The World’s Northernmost Ghost Town: “Pyramiden”

 ②Eating at the World’s Northernmost Sushi Restaurant

 ③Other “The World’s Northernmost…

◆Interesting Things in Svalbard

◆How to Purchase a SIM Locally & Test the Internet Speed

◆The Phantom Domain “.sj” and the Norwegian Domain “.no”


◆The Northernmost Town in the World “Longyearbyen”

Longyearbyen, the main town of Svalbard, is the northernmost settlement in the world, with a population of over 1,000 people. I arrive at Longyearbyen Airport well after midnight.

But, take a look at my photos. During August, the time of the midnight sun, it’s so bright you can’t believe its late at night.

At the airport, a bus waits for passengers from the incoming flight. I ride the bus to the center of town. I need to tell the bus driver the name of my hotel.

Opposite the airport, I found this interesting signpost, which is not surprising in the world’s northernmost town, I guess. From here it is 5,581 km to New York and 6,830 km to Tokyo. It sinks in to me just how far I’ve come, once again.

It takes about 10 mins. to get to the center of Longyearbyen. From the blue skies of Saint Vincent, the last place I visited (domain “.vc”), to the grey skies of Svalbard.

For people to be able to sleep at night, the hotel has unique black blinds to keep out the midnight sun.

I spot some snowmobiles, a winter mode of transportation. Many of them are made by Yamaha.


◆An Archipelago with more Polar Bears than People

There are about 3,000 polar bears on the Svalbard Islands. In contrast, the human population is about 2,600. So, there are more polar bears than people. Polar bears usually live on the ice, near the seals and other prey, so there is little fear of them coming into town. However, it’s well known that if polar bears start eating human food, they will remember the taste and the location and will keep coming back. For this reason, the residents of Svalbard are very careful about food storage.

If you go a little distance out of town, you’ll see a polar bear sign like this one.

If you go past the sign, you need to carry a gun with you. A warning shot is used to scare off the bears, but the guns would only be used to actually shoot a bear if someone were attacked. It’s important to give a warning shot first because the population of polar bears is declining due to global warming.
These guns were for sale in a corner of the Mountaineering equipment shop in the town center. I was really surprised to see guns for sale in a shopping area.

At the entrance to many buildings, such as supermarkets and restaurants, there are signs that prohibit carrying a gun inside. Though it seems there have never been any crimes committed with these guns. I feel very safe, maybe because of the bright midnight sun.

I wasn’t able to see any real polar bears, but I did see polar bear illustrations all over town. When you visit, look for a cute, Instagram-able polar bear to take a picture with.

These stuffed toy polar bears are being sold from a fridge. But the fridge is not running.
By the way, do you know the difference between a polar bear and a white bear in Japanese? Actually, their official name is polar bear, so there is no difference.

f you want to know more about polar bears, I recommend the northernmost museum “Svalbard Museum”. You can get a close-up view of the museum’s main attraction, a real stuffed polar bear. Getting this close, you get an overwhelming sense of the polar bear’s size and power. Also, you can learn about the polar bear’s ecology and relationship to humans, as well as the history of Svalbard.

This male polar bear ignored several warning shots and kept approaching humans in March 2005, unfortunately he had to be shot and killed.

If you want to see polar bears in the wild, there are plenty of tours you can take, so you might be able to see them.
There is also something called “Polar bear jokes” in this area. Best to know before you visit.


Dying is Illegal!? Being NEET is Illegal!?

From 1918 to 1919, the Spanish influenza was pandemic worldwide. An estimated 500 million people were infected and some 50 to 100 million people died. The Spanish flu came to Longyearbyen as well, but due to the extreme cold, if a body was buried, it froze, allowing the virus to live on. For this reason, there’s a rumor on the internet that dying in Svalbard is illegal, for fear a pandemic virus will live on to re-infect future generations.

When I asked the local authorities if this was true, they said to me “If that were so, what could we do to punish a corpse?” There did seem to be some inconsistency there.
It turns out that “dying is not illegal” on Svalbard, but there are some particular regulations and circumstances around dying.

①You cannot be buried on Svalbard

This is connected to the unique climate of Svalbard. Because of the severe cold, bodies buried in the ground don’t decompose. If a corpse doesn’t decompose, viruses etc. will remain in the corpse, therefore, the government prohibits burials for fear of a virus living on to re-infect people.

As Svalbard has no crematorium, bodies are shipped to Norway, where they are cremated and then the ashes returned to Svalbard for burial.

②Medical Care on Svalbard

The locals told me that there is only one hospital in the Svalbard Archipelago, with one doctor and several nurses. When a woman needs to give birth, she usually goes to the Norwegian mainland because the hospital is not well enough equipped on Svalbard.

Besides giving birth, there are many other treatments that are not available on Svalbard, so people go to the hospitals in Norway.

For this reason, many people who are ill or facing death, end up meeting their end in hospitals in Norway, not on Svalbard.
For these two reasons, I supposed the false idea came about that dying is illegal on Svalbard. It’s not illegal to die, but most people meet their end in Norway, and then are buried on Svalbard after being cremated in Norway.

Being NEET is illegal (Not in Education, Employment or Training) that is, you can’t live in Svalbard if you don’t have a job. Unemployed people will be immediately deported. However, if retired and unemployed people can prove that they have sufficient means to support themselves, they will not be deported, so really, it’s ok to be NEET if you have a lot of money.

[reference]

Is It Illegal to Die in Longyearbyen, Norway?

A Harsh Climate Calls for Banishment of the Needy


◆It’s Easy for Japanese People to get Permanent Residency and Start a Business?

Japan is one of the member nations of the Svalbard Treaty. Citizens of treaty member nations can go to Svalbard without a visa, they can live there, start a business or work part-time. In front of the supermarket, children open a street stall.

In order to clarify these matters regarding permanent residency and doing business, I went to the government office to ask “Can I open a Sushi restaurant on Svalbard?”

I went inside and explained the situation, then I was taken to a private room for a consultation.

First, about permanent residency on Svalbard. If you are from one of the member nations you have the same rights as a Norwegian citizen, so you can have permanent residency without a visa. However, because it’s so cold, most people can’t live here long term, the average people can stand it seems to be about 4 years. Incomes on Svalbard are lower than in Norway, but it seems if people have their own reasons for coming here, such as ‘they want to spend their time doing more interesting things than making money’ or ‘they feel it’s worth it, because Svalbard is not as developed as mainland Norway’ etc., then they can make it work.

What about a Business? As with permanent residency, a citizen of a treaty member nation can open a business without a work permit. So yes, I can have a sushi restaurant. The most difficult part of starting a business on Svalbard (in this case a sushi restaurant) is securing a location. The area allocated for businesses in Longyearbyen is more limited than you might expect. But, if you could overcome this difficulty, there would be no other problem.

I was also given advice to look for work on sites like “Facebook and nav.no”.
There seems to be a temporary need for part-time workers. I actually checked some of these sites earlier and there was one for a watchman to “warn if a polar bear starts to approach”. I’d like to try my hand at this, if the job is still available.

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1880619582227141/

 

https://www.nav.no/

 

The biggest challenge of living on Svalbard is adapting to the harsh climate. So, if you want to become a Svalbard resident, that is ‘a guest of the polar bears, the true residents of the islands’, please contact the Svalbard government office. A kind person will answer your inquiries.


◆”The World’s Northernmost…” Found in Svalbard

①The World’s Northernmost Ghost Town: “Pyramiden”

Discovered by Sweden in 1910, Pyramiden is located on Spitsbergen Island. In 1927, it was sold to the former Soviet Union, and became a busy mining town. But the coal mine closed in 1998, and the entire town was abandoned.
Owned by the Russian company “Trust Arktikugol”, it is now a popular ghost town. The infrastructure has been improved and there is a hotel there open for business.

I’m going on a ghost town tour by boat.

The boat crew and guide.

Not only can we see the ghost town on the tour, but also glaciers and dramatic cliffs.

It’s a surprisingly spacious boat, with room to get seasick in peace, or if a polar bear attacks there’s space for running away.

In winter, the sea is frozen so you can go to Pyramiden by snowmobile. On our way to the ghost town, we pass the Nordenskiöldbreen Glacier and observe many cliffs full of seabirds.

August is nest-building season. I was able to see a variety of birds including the Atlantic puffin.

I found a seal drifting on an ice berg.

I tried zooming in. It was far away but I could see it moving a little. In other words, we could have polar bears nearby.

This tour includes barbecued whale meat for lunch and whiskey with glacier ice.

Wow, I’m excited to drink whisky with ice from a glacier right in front of the glacier! While I’m waiting expectantly for my whiskey, two of the crew throw a kind of net into the ocean. It catches some of the ice drifting by. The 1st time they missed, the 2nd time they got it. Locally procured ice! I was so engrossed with the surrounding scenery, I didn’t pay attention to the ocean, but I have a feeling it was a little dirty.

On the deck, the crew crushes the ice they caught.

This ice tastes of history, formed over many years.

Although the color of the water where the ice was drifting was a bit worrisome, it goes without saying that the whisky tasted better than ever before. Please note, there isn’t always drifting ice, and even if there is, they might not be able to catch any, so there’s no guarantee that you can drink whiskey with glacial ice if you join this tour.

We arrive at Spitsbergen 2-3 hours after we left Longyearbyen. From this point on we’ll have a Russian guide. He explains the history of Pyramiden and the life of people at those time in an easy-to-understand way.

Pyramiden has a variety of buildings such as apartments (with names like Paris and London), pools and sports facilities, schools, cultural centers, including music halls, dining facilities for residents, and warehouses for storing food. You could see that it used to be a prosperous town. The people who worked here at the time had generous support from the government, it seems that housing and food were free.

The world’s northernmost Lenin statue. According to the guide, this Lenin statue is one that is commonly found around Russia (mass produced).

At the cultural center behind the statue of Lenin, the former library has been partially renovated into a souvenir shop and small cafe.

You can buy Russian vodka in Pyramiden, but most Russians have never heard of the place. However, since Pyramiden is historically significant for Russia, in recent years more people are coming to sightsee here.

As a ghost town, I had the idea that Pyramiden would be in ruins, but the central part of the town has been completely renovated, so there’s no impression of “ruins”. Rather, it was impressive that almost everything from that era of Russia remained intact.
The coal mine a little way away does have a bit of a ruined atmosphere. I wanted to go in, but it was not part of this tour.

For some reason, this apartment building alone has become a residence for birds. Even the guide says “Why did the all the birds choose this building exactly?” It’s mysterious. The birds are so noisy all the time.

②Eating at the World’s Northernmost Sushi Restaurant

A sushi restaurant in the Svalbard Islands. I went because I had to try the world’s northernmost sushi restaurant.
It’s called “NUGA Sushi & Noodles”. I’m thinking that ocean-going fish caught near the Arctic Circle must be strong, healthy fish.

The restaurant was in “Hotel Svalbard The Vault”

I ordered “Kyoto” off the menu.

The roll had broken a little by the time it was served, but the salmon was amazing! So, I can forgive them if the rice is not a good as Japanese rice.
European sushi often has fruit in it, or complicated arrangements, but this place keeps it simple.

I see that there is ramen on the menu. I order the chicken ramen. This is the northernmost sushi restaurant in the world.

The soup is a little thinner than it would be in Japan, but this is not bad ramen. The noodles are very tasty, but I feel like they are a little soft, like Chinese style noodles. It’s a creative ramen with crispy chicken. Also, broccoli.

I ordered gyoza dumplings as well.

The taste of the gyoza is quite different from the taste I’m familiar with. The skin is crispy but the sauce is sweet. It might be better to think of it as a “Svalbard dumpling” and eat it with different expectations.
The world’s northernmost sushi restaurant; “NUGA Sushi & Noodles” was also the world’s northernmost ramen shop.

③Other “The World’s Northernmost …”

  • “The world’s northernmost tourist information center.” If you want to enjoy Longyearbyen safely, I recommend taking a tour. This is where I booked my tour to Pyramiden.

 

  • “The world’s northernmost tourist information center.” If you want to enjoy Longyearbyen safely, I recommend taking a tour. This is where I booked my tour to Pyramiden.

 

  • “The world’s northernmost post office. There were a lot of postal boxes.

 

  • “The world’s northernmost museum”; the North Pole Expedition Museum. The who and what of those trying to reach the North Pole is explained here in detail. In those days, trying to reach the North Pole was a daring and incredibly difficult endeavor.


◆Interesting Things in Svalbard

① This town map is helpful to figure out where you want to go in Longyearbyen. I think it takes about an hour to walk from one side to the other.

 

②When you want to go to Pyramiden or other places beside Longyearbyen, this is a guide of available boat tours.

 

③A “Sushi Kit” for sale in the supermarket.

 

④A statue of a coal miner in the center of town. I wonder if the local people meet up here, like at the statue of Hachiko in Shibuya?

 

⑤The “Svalbard Buss og Taxi”, where you can take a two hour ride around Longyearbyen with a local guide as your driver.
This is the view from the top of the hill, about 10 minutes from Longyearbyen.

I also saw a flock of birds like geese.

This is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Currently, the area is under construction, so we couldn’t go close. Construction will be finished soon.

I was surprised to see quite a few wild reindeer near the town area. They don’t seem to have any natural enemy.

This is a facility for sled dogs. Getting in shape for the winter performance.

Thank you, knowledgeable local taxi driver!

 

⑥If you want to eat something unique to Svalbard instead of just sushi or ramen, I recommend “Gruvelageret” in Longyearbyen.

They only have dinner courses, with very specialty dishes.
“Local mushroom ravioli with winter-dried reindeer and mushroom sauce” on the left,
and “Arctic char with king crab sauce and baked beetroot” on the right.


◆How to Purchase a SIM Locally & Test the Internet Speed

At Svalbard Airport, I couldn’t find anything like a communications kiosk, so I couldn’t get a SIM card.

I looked for a prepaid SIM card for travel in the supermarket, but I couldn’t find it, so this time I used “GlocalMe”. Around Longyearbyen it works just fine. When I measured the speed at fast.com, it was faster than I expected. Because we are so far north, the Internet may be an important means of communication (or of killing time).


◆ The Phantom Domain “.sj” and the Norwegian Domain “.no”

The country code top level domain (ccTLD) assigned to the Svalbard archipelago of Norway is “.sj”. However, although it is registered to a route server, the registry policy is to not use the domain name. So, “.sj” is a domain that no one can use. In Longyearbyen, I found “.no” the Norwegian ccTLD being used, rather than “.sj”.

  • Restaurant “KROA”, (in the right season, you can eat seal steak here.) This waitress has been living in Svalbard since February 2019.
    https://www.kroa-svalbard.no/

 

I thought “The World’s Northernmost Town” was going to be a remote, lonely area for solitary exploration. But actually, August isn’t that cold, and it seems like this is a summer get-away place for elderly Europeans.
I guess I’ll have to come back in winter to experience the truly harsh climate of Svalbard.


The following is a summary of the places visited during the Domain Island Tour.

 

■For Access Details to the Svalbard Islands,Click Here

■ For “.no” Domain Details and Application, Click Here