01-Feb-2003 -- The fact that the confluence 35N 135E hadn’t yet been visited was a bit of a mystery as it is easily accessible from nearby cities, such as Kobe, and the point using Tokyo datum is considered to be the “Navel of Japan”. As we live on the less populated Japan Sea coast of Japan, we had a little further to go, but the two and a half hour journey down National Route 175 was a pleasant Sunday morning drive. Arriving at the small town of Nishiwaki we visited a bookshop in search of a map with grid coordinates. Unfortunately the only map they stocked didn’t have grid lines, so we set off for the “Navel of Japan” just outside of town hoping to go from the Tokyo datum confluence to the WGS84 confluence using just the GPS.
The Tokyo datum confluence near an art gallery was marked by a post and sundial sandwiched between train tracks and a river. The GPS set to Tokyo datum confirmed that we were at the confluence, so we reset it to WGS84 which gave a reading of 35°00’12N & 134°59’50E. We walked up the road away from the art museum until we reached 135°00’00E and then turned south and headed along a track between a small factory and a field. The track ended after a hundred metres at the base of a small hill. Continuing on course was hampered by a steep slope and lack of path and when we reached the top the GPS was still only reading 35°00’05N, so we continued down the other side, going off course a little to enable us to make better progress through a cedar plantation which had less undergrowth than the mixed woodland. As the GPS reading neared the confluence we staggered, blinking, out into the brightness on the far side of the wood only to find ourselves at the Nishiwaki Earth Science Museum. We had tramped over a hill and through a wood, only to find ourselves just 200 metres or so up the road from where we had parked the car. What was more, a 4-pillar monument resembling a mosque had been built on the WGS84 confluence. Feeling more than just a little stupid at having “discovered” a point which had already been visited by thousands of people, we went and warmed up in the Earth Science Museum’s planetarium. Driving back into the cloud and bleak mountains of Northern Hyogo Prefecture as it got dark we could understand why the Japan Sea coast area is described as “Ura Nihon” the back of Japan. However, sitting in an outside hot spring at Kurokawa Onsen as the snow fell, we wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else.