the Degree Confluence Project

Japan : Shikoku

2.4 km (1.5 miles) NW of Sakodo, Mikamo-chō, Tokushima-ken, Shikoku, Japan
Approx. altitude: 755 m (2477 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreeMap ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 34°S 46°W

Accuracy: 25 m (82 ft)
Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: View to the south #3: Three views of the confluence #4: GPS reading #5: Trace to confluence #6: Confluence at Tokyo datum #7: Trail to confluence #8: Small wooden bridge #9: Small hut before reaching confluence #10: Hamlet of Shimohigaura

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  34°N 134°E (visit #3)  

#1: Confluence N34 E134

(visited by Fabrice Blocteur and Yukiko Kagi)

12-Jun-2005 -- On my previous trip to visit N34 E134. I had encountered some technical problems with my GPS and had to abandon my attempt shortly before reaching the confluence point. I was planning to give it one more try soon after but ten days later Nathan and Francis Hirsh (Visit #2) made it successfully, or at least that’s what I thought until Fumio made a plan to go there as well between August 24th and September 10th, 2004. He or she wrote in his/her plan:

“I am planning to visit the confluence. Visit #2, though claimed successful, seems to be made by using Tokyo datum. I suspect that the monument at the confluence was erected based on Tokyo datum by local municipality. The real point seems to be the point attempted by Visit #1 that is about 400 m southeast (760 m altitude).”

I waited for the story to appear on the DCP website to clarify the reservation raised by Fumio but for whatever reasons it was never posted.

I then decided to send an e-mail to Uwe Luettringhaus, the DCP coordinator for Asia & Eastern US. First I wanted to know if Fumio had made it or not. I also told him that after reading Nathan and Francis Hirsh’s narrative, I had come to the conclusion that Fumio was possibly right thinking that Visit #2 had been made using Tokyo datum.

A couple of days later Uwe wrote me back the following message:

“I sent an email to the visitors asking them if they remember the datum used. Since it was a borrowed (Japanese) GPS chances are that your analysis is correct and that they visited the 'wrong' confluence. (…) I guess someone has to go back to that confluence and clarify.”

That was last October. Winter was coming and I live far from Shikoku. I decided to postpone my plan for a few months.

* * * * * * *

First attempt

On June 11th at 8:30 in the morning, Yukiko and I left Iwataki, located in northern Kyoto prefecture, near Amanohashidate (Bridge to Heaven), rated as one of Japan’s ‘three great views’, along with Miya-jima Island and the islands of Mathsushima-wan Bay. It was raining heavily and we decided to take Yukiko’s car instead of my motorbike. We set the navigation system for the railway station of Awahanda, a few kilometers north of the confluence. We had three options. The first one was fast but expensive, as we had to take expressways with expensive tolls. The second option was some kind of a compromise between the first and the third using only lesser roads. We had plenty of time so we chose the third, but it took us four more hours than if we had opted for the first option. It was past six o’clock when we at last stopped in front of Awahanda station.

The plan was first to go to the location where Nathan and Francis Hirsh went and find out whether that point was the right confluence or not. Here again we had three options to reach that location: route 44 coming from the west, the same route as in Visit #2, a 20 km ride up the mountain; route 258 coming from the east, which is the one I took last July to get near the confluence; or another shorter route coming from the north. As it was getting late we went for the third option. At this point we had to rely on my GPS only, the car’s navigation couldn’t indicate the narrow mountain roads leading to that place and became useless.

Route 257 was probably the shortest but not the easiest. After a few kilometers in the mountains, it branched off into several other roads and after trying a few it started to become too dark to continue. We came back down the mountain and headed for Iwatosou onsen, along Road 438, to spend the night.

The whole area surrounding the confluence is gorgeous. It’s only a few kilometers from the Iya Valley, considered by Japanese to be one of the ‘three hidden regions’ of the country, and romanticized in Alex Kerr’s fascinating book Lost Japan. Usually, human settlements in Japan huddle together on the flatlands, either in a valley or at the foot of a hill, surrounded by an expanse of rice paddies. People do not live up in the mountains, which in ancient times were the domain of gods and considered taboo. But this region is different and unique in Japan. Here the houses avoid the low-lying land by the river, and instead are built high up on the mountainsides. Because the rocky terrain is unfit for rice cultivation, there is no need for people to live in a single village compound to tend for rice paddies. The result is independent households scattered throughout the mountains.

Second attempt

The next morning at 8:00, it was sunny and warm and we decided this time to take the longest road to approach the confluence from the township of Mikamo. Two hours later, at the T-junction where Road 44 continues down south and another forest road heads northwest to the confluence, a sign indicated that we couldn’t go any further because of what seemed like the result of a landslide. Trying some near by unpaved forest roads ended nowhere. We then decided to ignore the sign and to give it a try. It turned out that it was a landslide but it had already been partially cleared and we were able to make it all the way to the garden and picnic ground where, as Nathan and Francis Hirsh had mentioned in their visit:

“The point itself is well marked by a superb structure and a nearby map signals other confluences within Japan.”

I switched my GPS on and it turned out to be… the ‘wrong’ confluence. As shown in picture #6 , the monument has been erected based on Tokyo datum. At the precise location where Nathan and Francis Hirsh took their picture of what they thought was confluence 34N 134E, the reading of my GPS indicated that for WGS84 the coordinates for this point are 34º00’12”N & 133º59’50”E. The ‘right’ confluence is located at 154º and at a distance of 450 m from the Tokyo datum point.

According to my topo map, I knew that this place wouldn’t be the easiest place to start from to get to the ‘right’ confluence, but we were so close that we thought we might as well try it. It wasn’t the cleverest idea of the day. The first 250 meters down a slope covered by a dense pine forest went relatively fine but it soon became near impossible to walk through the vegetation. After almost half an hour fighting with branches and shrubs, we had only progressed by a mere 80m. I was only wearing a T-shirt and had several cuts on my face, hands and arms. Yukiko, who was just a few meters behind me in an almost similar bad shape, was about to kill me. What she had done so far was truly remarkable considering that she was suffering from a terrible backache. I felt bad to have brought her into such a rough place. It was hopeless to go any further. At 170m from the confluence we gave up.

Third attempt

Monsieur de Talleyrand, once said: “Mistrust first impulses; they are nearly always good.” I decided this time to go back to my first idea of last year and try it from the township of Handa. From where our car was parked we just had to go down the mountain to reach the hamlet of Shimohigaura where I went last time. At this point Yukiko decided that she had had enough of confluence hunting and instead went for some sightseeing at the waterfall of Todoro.

I followed the same hiking trail going up toward the confluence as I did last time, but instead of approaching the point from the east I decided this time that I would approach it from the west. The trail follows the bed of a dry brook for the first two or three hundred meters before reaching a plateau. Then it divides into two. One part, which I followed last time, keeps going up, and the other one remains flat for another one hundred meters before crossing a small wooden bridge. That bridge is very unstable and I almost fell through on my way back when it partially collapsed.

The trail connects to another dry brook and, shortly after, a small hut can be seen between the trees about fifty meters to the left. I finally abandoned that trail and, as I was getting near the confluence, I turned east and continued though the forest for another hundred meters on a very stiff slope. Less than thirty meters before reaching the exact point I started to get into the same kind of bushes that Yukiko and I had encountered earlier. At this point, if no other confluences had been ‘wrongly’ visited, Japan’s on land confluences were now definitely completed.

I took a few pictures and came back down. A few minutes later Yukiko arrived to pick me up and we headed for the Kasura-bashi Bridge in the Iya-key gorge just a few kilometers away. It’s a vine suspension bridge and at one time similar bridges crossed many river gorges in the mountainous interior of Shikoku. Until recently the Kazura-bashi Bridge was the only one left but the increase of tourists has lately spawned a small come back of these bridges. It’s only open from sunrise to sunset and it was too late to cross it. We spend the night in a near by minshuku and the next morning before heading back for Honshu we crossed it

· Note: as can be seen in the insert of picture #5, the latest Japanese topographic maps include both the Tokyo datum (in black) and WGS84 datum (in brown).

Japanese Narrative

12-June-2005 -- 前回N34E134地点を目指した時(便宜上、以下Visit#1 と呼ぶ)は、GPSのテクニカルな問題が発生して交流点を目前にしながら到達を諦めざるをえなかった。近いうちにもう1度挑戦しようと決めたそのわずか10日後に、NathanとFrancis Hirshが交流点到達に成功してしまった(以下、Visit#2と呼ぶ)。というより、少なくともそう思われていた。フミオがその場所を訪れる計画について次のように書くまでは(それは8月24日~9月10日頃のことだったと思う)…。

「僕は交流点到達を計画している。Visit#2で到達に成功したと報告されているけれど、彼らは日本測地系(Tokyo Datum)を基準にしているんじゃないだろうか。交流点の記念碑は日本測地系に基づいて地元の自治体が建てたものだと思うのだが。本来のポイント地点(それはVisit#1で目指していたポイントだが)は、約400m南(高度760m地点)にあると思う」

フミオの疑問に対する回答がCDPのウェブウェイト上に載るのをしばらく待ってみたが、恐らくなんらかの理由によって掲載されることはなかった。そこで僕はアジア/アメリカ東部地域担当のDCPコーディネーター・Uwe Luettringhaus氏に問い合わせのメールを送ることにした。まず第1に僕が知りたかったのは、フミオが到達に成功したのかどうか、そしてもう一つ、僕自身がNathanとFrancis Hirshのリポートを読み、Visit#2では東京測地系を使ったのではないかというフミオの指摘はたぶん正しいだろうという結論に至ったことも伝えた。




☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



僕らはまず最初にNathanとFrancis Hirshが訪れたポイントに行き、そこが正しい場所なのかどうかを確認することからはじめた。ここでも再び3つの選択肢があった。①西から国道44号線を行くVisit#2と同じルート。これだと山道を20キロばかり走ることになる②東から国道258号線を行く。前回7月に交流点のごく近くまで僕が行ったときに取ったルート③北から下りて行く、もっとも距離の短いルート。結果としては時間も遅くなってきたということで③のルートを取ることにした。この時点で頼れるのは僕のGPSだけになっていた。カーナビは交流点まで続く細い道をさすがに表示せず、役に立たなかった。


交流点のある辺り一帯は「ゴージャス」という表現がぴったりの場所だ。日本三大秘境に数えられる「祖谷(いや)」地区からほんの数キロしか離れていない。祖谷はアレックス・カー著『美しき日本の残像』(原題:”Lost Japan” by Alex Kerr)という素晴らしい本でよく知られるようになった伝説的な場所だ。日本人の習慣では、人々は谷間や山々のふもとの田んぼが広がる平野部に定住するのが一般的だ。あまり山間部に定住しないのは、そういった場所が古代から神々の住まう聖なる地と考えられ、タブーとされたからだという。だがこの地域は違った。独自の文化があり、ここでは川沿いの低地に住居は構えない。山際の高地に家を建てる。ゴツゴツと岩の多い土壌は米作に向かないため、田んぼをコミュニティの中心とする「村」の形態をとることがなく、その結果人々は山のあちこちに散らばって住み、それぞれ独立した家計を営むようになったのである。


翌朝8時、天気も良くて暖かい日だ。今日は三加茂の中心街から交流点に向かうことにする。距離が一番長いルートを取ることにした。そして2時間後、T字路に差しかかった。そのまま行くと南に向かって44号線を下りていき、交流点のある北西方向につながる林道まで行くことができる。ところがどうやらそこで地滑りがあったらしく、それ以上先は“進入禁止”と書いた標識がおいてあった。その辺りの舗装されていない横道をいくつか試してはみたが結局は行き止まりだったので、この際標識は無視して元の道を行ってみることにした。実際には、地滑りがあったもののすでに大方片付けられていて、その先のピクニックが出来る公園のような場所まで行くことができた。そしてまさにそこが、NathanとFrancis Hirshが訪れた場所だった。彼らのリポートいわく、


僕はGPSの電源をONにした。すると……そこは「別の」交流点だった……。写真#6でもわかるとおり、記念碑は日本測地系に基づいて建てられていた。NathanとFrancis Hirshが34N134Eの交流ポイントとして写真を撮ったまさにその地点で僕のGPSに現れた表示は―34º00’12”N & 133º59’50”E―。目指すべき「正しい」交流点は154ºに位置し、日本測地系でのポイントから450m離れた地点だった。








Translated by Yoriko Uemura

 All pictures
#1: Confluence N34 E134
#2: View to the south
#3: Three views of the confluence
#4: GPS reading
#5: Trace to confluence
#6: Confluence at Tokyo datum
#7: Trail to confluence
#8: Small wooden bridge
#9: Small hut before reaching confluence
#10: Hamlet of Shimohigaura
ALL: All pictures on one page