11-Aug-2009 -- This confluence point lies in a fairly remote area of sea in the south part of the Tokara Islands, a chain of small, well-separated, mostly volcanic islands that are among the smallest and most isolated inhabited places in Japan. The closest land to the confluence is the small , tower-like Kaminone-jima, an eroded volcanic plug 18.1-km due south. A kilometer across in size, it is wild, uninhabited, and untouched, its towering coastal cliffs making it pretty much inaccessible to humans. Another 3km to the south lies the slightly bigger, figure-8 shaped Yokoate-jima, whose summit is a prominent 495-m-tall volcano. This island is also uninhabited, although a certain amount of human disturbance is visible on its desolate volcanic surface and semi-wild goats are in abundance. A single beach of black boulders in a relatively protected area of the north coast is the sole access point; whether or not one can actually land there depends very much on the weather and sea conditions. The only other land within reasonable eyeshot of the confluence is the inhabited Takara-jima (21.4-km north-east), literally Treasure Island, reputedly the one of R.L. Stevenson’s novel fame. However, in spite of the concerted efforts of scores of itinerant treasure hunters, pirate gold has never been found there. The island’s true treasure is its subtropical beauty, clear seawater with coral reefs, and the welcoming nature of its 120 or so inhabitants.
We visited these islands and confluence on August 11th 2009 as part of a two week sea-kayak expedition, traversing 450km of mostly open sea from Amami-Oshima Island in the south to the Kyushu coast in the north. This is a challenging tour that has only been completed by kayak a handful of times. The wild seas and weather of the area, the numerous 20-70 km crossings required between the small islands along the way, and the crossing of the powerful Kuroshio Current, which flows about as fast as one can paddle a kayak and can kick up huge waves with little warning, constitute worthy obstacles on this tour for even the world’s best sea-kayakers. As for us, we had good luck with both the weather and currents, and were able to complete the trip very smoothly and without any dodgy incidents.
On the day of the confluence visit, though, we had to endure a 3-meter swell from a nearby typhoon and sauna conditions in the atmosphere. This slowed us down only a little but it did cause a humid haze that reduced visibility and fogged up our camera lenses. While Yokoate-jima and Kaminone-jima remained visible and photographable to within 3km of the confluence, when we actually reached the point the faint outline of the islands could only be made out by the trained eye of a mariner. Unfortunately, no amount of contrast enhancement on the pictures could bring this out – the human eye is still superior even to expensive digital cameras! So you’ll have to take our word for it; yes, we were really there. Nevertheless we would like to apologize for the extremely poor quality of the pictures. We are amateur photographers too and under other conditions these images would all have been sent to the recycle bin.