島にはまったく人影がなかった。

English Translation

The island was completely deserted.

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#3222725: 島にはまったく人気がなかった。(人気 = ひとけ)

人影(ひとかげ)and 人気 are interchangeable in this context. 人気(ひとけ)consists of 人の気配(ひとのけはい). 気 means “atmosphere/mood/feeling/condition”. So, 人気がない(ひとけがない)literally means “I cannot feel the atmosphere of living people here”.

Please note that 人気 can be pronounced as either ひとけ or にんき. 人気(にんき)means “popularity”, and 人気がない(にんきがない)is “someone/something is unpopular”.

From the overall context with 島には, you cannot interpret 人気 as にんき, but ひとけ. However, if you change the original sentence to 島まったく人気がなかった, it is more likely to be interpreted as “This island was not popular (among tourists) at all” rather than “The island was completely deserted.” – It’s a very tricky lesson for には as a particle.

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English Translation

The island was completely deserted.

It’s interesting how these expression come to be similar in the end.

The kanji for hitoke may be interpreted as the “soul of a person”.

In Italian, we would say “non c’era anima viva” (there was no living soul, maybe it works in English too) to say a place was deserted.

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