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the Degree Confluence Project
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Japan : Tōhoku

4.3 km (2.7 miles) W of Masuda, Sakata-shi, Yamagata-ken, Tōhoku, Japan
Approx. altitude: 239 m (784 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 39°S 40°W

Accuracy: 5 m (16 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Nobustugu and his wife took me 700 m from confluence. #3: Kids at the school I passed. #4: Dark forest on way up the mountain. #5: Chokai mountain viewed from the plain. #6: Blooming cherry trees on hill behind the confluence which is in front of blue shack. #7: GPS at confluence. #8: Confluence east view.  Deteriorating car in shade of trees. #9: Confluence south view. #10: Confluence west view. Looking out to the sea of Japan.

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  39°N 140°E (visit #1)  

#1: North view of confluence.

(visited by Greg Michaels)

02-May-2003 -- This confluence journey was particularly scenic, enjoyable and a bit surreal. I had split up with my friend Alex the previous day, not long after our successful journey to 40N141E, and was on my own now. After spending the night in the west coast town of Akita, on the morning of May 2nd I hitched a ride south along the coast in the direction of Sakata so that I could get closer to this confluence point. Once further south I thanked that driver and got out to hitch on a smaller road toward Chokai Mountain, a 2236 meter volcano, the lower flanks of which contained the confluence point. But it was now getting into the afternoon and I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the point that day.

Luckily I didn't have to wait too long for a car to pick me up on the smaller road. It was a young friendly couple that spoke pretty good English which helped me because my level of Japanese could probably be categorized as 'nursery school'! The husband, a man named Nobustugu, worked for the NEC computer company. They were heading up the volcano's flanks to spend a night at an onsen (hot spring) bed & breakfast in a town called Yawata. It was on the way to where I was going but I needed to continue down an even smaller road past Yawata.

Because they spoke English well I was able to explain the confluence project to them. They took an interest in it and showed me that they had a map-based GPS on their dashboard. Nobustugu inputted the point and I could see an ever-changing, color 3D horizon-perspective of where the point was in relation to us. I think it was a combination of them being very nice and their interest in the confluence hunt that led them to drive me past their destination and further up the small road toward the point. I thanked them profusely.

Finally our GPS's closed in on the point. The closest we could get to it was about 700 meters. I thanked them, said goodbye and found myself in front of a school next to a steep hillside. The point was somewhere past that hillside covered with conifers and deciduous trees including splotches of pastel pink cherry blossom trees. Behind me, on the other side of the road was a small river with a few white-V's of stirring rapids forming the center of a several-hundred-meter-wide valley.

I walked up a driveway next to the school. Some playing children were excited to see me and followed me for a little way. I discovered that hidden behind the school was a nicely-paved road winding its way up the hill and through what turned out to be a very thick, dense and dark conifer forest.

Once at the top of the hill I reached a sunny high-plain, which had been plowed. It was a kind of surreal and peaceful place. Here, the dark forest world had opened up to a seemingly hidden plain with a wide-open-sky vista of the grand, snow-covered Chokai-san, behind another green and pink mountain with more splotches of cherry blossom trees. An eagle or bird of prey soared in the blue sky above my head as if it were curious about what I was doing. A small stream churned down the far side of the plain.

There was a small weather station on my left-hand side where the road exits onto the plain. The confluence point would turn out to be just in front of a little blue shack visible from where I was.

There were also a small number of people scattered around the plain going about business of their own. One or two couples seemed to come for strolls or picnics. Civil engineers were planning an irrigation aqueduct from the stream. And there was an old woman in traditional clothes plowing what seemed to be a small private plot of land.

The plain had a kind of a dark side to it too. Hidden in the shade of the trees on the sides of a few areas of the plain were an abandoned Honda and two other deteriorating cars of unknown make. They had been left to rust and rot in a place where few people would notice their illegal disposal. The Japanese cannot easily sell used cars because of high taxes and insurance, so older cars have little value and disposal fees are probably expensive. Want a cheap used car? Come to Japan.

After soaking up the atmosphere of the place, I walked down to the little blue shack at the edge of the plain and documented the point which was actually a few meters into the plowed field. There weren't any plants growing in the field but I tried not to damage the dry soil. The west-view contained a vista of the far-away Sea of Japan. There was a spectacular blooming cherry blossom tree only about 30 meters to the northwest of the point. It had been a pleasant and enlightening confluence-hunting afternoon on the hidden high-plain.


 All pictures
#1: North view of confluence.
#2: Nobustugu and his wife took me 700 m from confluence.
#3: Kids at the school I passed.
#4: Dark forest on way up the mountain.
#5: Chokai mountain viewed from the plain.
#6: Blooming cherry trees on hill behind the confluence which is in front of blue shack.
#7: GPS at confluence.
#8: Confluence east view. Deteriorating car in shade of trees.
#9: Confluence south view.
#10: Confluence west view. Looking out to the sea of Japan.
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)