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the Degree Confluence Project
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Japan : Kyūshū

2.4 km (1.5 miles) NE of Takega-shima (Island), Saiki-shi, Ōita-ken, Kyūshū, Japan
Approx. altitude: 0 m (0 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 33°S 48°W

Accuracy: 20 m (65 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: View to the north #3: View to the south with ferry linking Kyushu to Shikoku #4: Confluence location #5: Departing Kobe with the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in the background #6: Usuki - Tea ceremony #7: Near Takachiho #8: Yokagura dance at the Takachiho Shrine #9: Tsujun aqueduct near Yabe #10: Kumamoto Port

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  33°N 132°E  

#1: Confluence N33 E132

(visited by Fabrice Blocteur)

Japanese Narrative

10-Aug-2003 -- According to Buddhist tradition, O-Bon (Festival of the Dead) is a time when ancestors return to earth. On the first day, an open-air fire welcomes spirits of ancestors, and on he night of the last day another open-air fire is made to see them off to the other world. Since most Japanese try to return to their native village for the festival, this is one of the most crowded times of year to travel. I had visited the southern part of Kyushu Island in the spring and I had decided to visit the northern part for my 10 days O-Bon holidays. The circuit I had planned included four confluences.

I left Maizuru by motorbike on August 9th at around 2 pm under heavy rain. The day before, planes, ferries and trains had been canceled due to Typhoon Etau that was still raking the eastern part of the nation with high winds and pounding rain. When it finally turned into a tropical depression two days later, twelve people had died and eight others were missing. Fortunately, by the time I got on board the ferry at Kobe at 6 pm, things had started to get back to normal on the western part of the archipelago. The next morning at sunrise, I got off the ferry at Oita.

I first went to Usuki where a collection of some 10th to 13th century Buddha images can be seen. More than 60 images lie in a series of niches in a ravine and are considered the most artistic of their kind in all of Japan. Some are complete statues, whereas others have only the heads remaining. A tea ceremony was taking place nearby in the middle of a field of blooming lotus. The first confluence I had decided to visit was less than 30 km away from Usuki.

The confluence 33N 132E is off the coast, six km from land. As in some of the previous confluences I visited at sea, I thought the biggest difficulty would be to find a boat. But as I was riding south along the coast near the small village of Nabutobana, I saw a five-meter fishing boat coming back from sea and took a chance. I waited until the boat docked at the pier and ask the old fisherman on board if he knew where I could rent one. The reason why I wanted to rent a boat must have sounded plausible because five minutes later I was on board heading for the confluence at a speed of 10 knots. There was no GPS on board and I had to rely on mine to find the confluence. It took less than an hour to find it, snap a few shots and come back. The old man didn’t want me to pay for all his trouble and I had to insist before he finally accepted a small tip.

After visiting the confluence, I cut across the southern part of Oita prefecture, passed east of Mt Sobo and entered Miyazaki prefecture near the mountain village of Takachiho where I decided to spend the night. According to the legend, this is where Ninigi-no-mikoto, a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, is said to have made landfall in Japan. The villagers also claim that Takachiho is the site of Ama-no-Iwato, the ‘boulder door of heaven’. Here Amaterasu hid and night fell across the world. To lure her out, another goddess performed a dance so comically lewd that the sun goddess was soon forced to emerge from hiding to find out what was happening. The owner of the place where I was staying took me after dinner to see a performance of that dance at the Takachiho Shrine.

When I left Takachiho the next morning on my way to the confluence 33°N 130°E, the weather had become uncertain with dark clouds forming toward the West where I was heading. I rode my motorbike south of the gigantic Mt Aso volcano caldera, where I had been a couple of months before, skipped the city of Kumamoto where I had seen the castle and famous garden, and boarded the ferry at Kumamoto port at around noon. I was now leaving the “Land of Myths and Legends” enveloping Japan’s cultural birth en route for a five-day journey through what was left of Japan’s Christian past.

Japanese Narrative

10-Aug-2003 -- 仏教の伝統によると、お盆(死者を祀る行事)とは先祖がこの世に帰ってくる期間のことである。お盆の初日、迎え火で先祖を迎え、最後の日、夜送り火であの世へと送り出す。たいていの日本人はこの行事に合わせ故郷に帰ろうとするので、旅行するには1年のうちでも最も混雑した時期の1つである。春、九州南部を訪れた私は、お盆休みの10日間で北部を訪れることにした。計画した経路には4つのConfluenceが含まれていた。

8月9日午後2時ごろ強い雨の中、バイクで舞鶴を発った。前日、飛行機、フェリー、そして電車までも、強い風と叩きつける雨を伴った台風が日本の東部を依然通過中のため、運行中止を余儀なくされていた。やっと2日後に温帯低気圧に変わるまでに、12名が亡くなり、8名が行方不明になっていた。幸運なことに、午後6時神戸でフェリーに乗るときには、群島の西部も平静を取り戻しつつあった。翌朝日の出の頃、大分でフェリーを降りた。

初めに10~13世紀の石仏群が見られるという臼杵へ行った。峡谷にズラッと並ぶ60体以上の石仏があり、日本全体で考えても最も美術的に優れたものであると見受けられる。完全な像もあれば、頭部しか残っていないものもある。蓮の花が咲いている庭の中央辺りで茶道が行われていた。行くつもりにしていた最初のConfluenceは臼杵から30キロもないところにあった。

Confluence北緯33度東経132度は陸から6キロの、海岸から離れたところにある。以前訪れた数ヶ所の海にあるConfluenceと同様、1番骨が折れるのは船を見つけることだと思った。しかし、なぶとばなという小さな村近くの海岸に沿って南にバイクを走らせていると、海から戻ってきた5メートルの釣り船を見つけたので、一か八か賭けてみることにした。その船が埠頭につくまで待ち、乗っている老漁師に船を借りられるところを知っているか尋ねた。私が船を借りたい理由がもっともらしく聞こえたに違いない。というのは5分後、私は船上におり、10ノットのスピードでConfluenceに向かっていたからだ。船にはGPSなどなく、Confluenceを探すには私のものを頼るしかなかった。見つけるのには1時間もかからず、写真を数枚撮り、引き返した。老漁師はお金を受け取ろうとはせず、やっとわずかなチップを受け取ってくれるまで、粘らなくてはならなかった。

Confluenceを訪れた後、大分県南部を横切り、祖母山の東を過ぎ、その夜滞在することにした山間の村、高千穂近くの、宮崎県に入った。伝説によると、ここはニニギノミコトという、太陽の女神アマテラスの子孫が日本に初めて降り立ったところだと言われている。村人たちもまた、高千穂がアメノイワトという、『天国の境界口』の跡であると言う。ここにアマテラスが隠れ、全土が夜になった。彼女をおびき出そうと、別の女神が舞った踊りがあまりに滑稽でいかがわしいものであったため、太陽の女神は何が起こっているのか確かめようと隠れ家からすぐ姿を現すハメになった。私が滞在していた所の主人は、夕食後、高千穂神社にその踊りを見に連れて行ってくれた。

Confluence北緯33度東経130度に行く途中に高千穂を翌朝発つ頃、私が向かっている西の方は黒い雲で覆われ始め、天候が怪しくなってきた。巨大な阿蘇火山の南にバイクを走らせた。ここは2ヶ月ほど前に滞在したところだった。以前城と有名な庭園を見た熊本市を通り過ぎ、正午頃熊本でフェリーに乗った。私は5日間の旅の途中で日本の文化的な誕生に関わる『神話と伝説の地』から、日本のキリシタンの足跡が残る地へと向かった。

Translated by Yoshimi Ishida


 All pictures
#1: Confluence N33 E132
#2: View to the north
#3: View to the south with ferry linking Kyushu to Shikoku
#4: Confluence location
#5: Departing Kobe with the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in the background
#6: Usuki - Tea ceremony
#7: Near Takachiho
#8: Yokagura dance at the Takachiho Shrine
#9: Tsujun aqueduct near Yabe
#10: Kumamoto Port
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)
  Notes
In the Saiki-wan bay, with view of land on three sides.