Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Around Shishi-jima


Shishi-jima is a sizeable island which at first sight seems to belong to the Amakusa group but, in fact, is part of Kagoshima Prefecture along with the larger Naga-shima to its south, as well as a number of other, smaller, inhabited and uninhabited islands and islets in their vicinity. Shishi-jima is very sparsely populated because there is virtually no flat land available; it is mountainous and its coasts are steep. It is a true back-waters of Japan and its only notable point is that recently, dinosaur fossils have been discovered there. Though it lies only about 4km from Amakusa, most of our friends and colleagues barely if at all know that it exists.

Landing at Hachi-no-shima, the northernmost land in Kagoshima Prefecture.

nishikawa lighthousing
Nishikawa uses is newly acquired rock climbing skills to climb to the top of the lighthouse at Hachi-no-shima.

A paddle around Shishi-jima, starting and ending at the tiny port of Tate on Amakusa’s east coast, is about 28km and a fun day trip involving ferry glide crossings, tiny islet landings, fossil hunts and ever-changing views of near and distant coasts as one turns full circle around this island in an inland sea.

guano cliff
Tatsuno-saki, the southernmost extremity of Shishi-jima, has a earthen cliff embedded with boulders; it is a nesting ground for cormorants, whose plentiful guano has whitened the cliff face.

As February turned to March, we got the first really warm spell of the year. The temperature exceeded 20 degrees for several days in a row, the sun was bright and there was no wind. We decided to go around Shishi-jima with our friend Nishikawa, whose experience was sufficient to go with us on such a nice, calm day. With three leisurely stops, the trip took 8 hours. The sea was extremely clear, which is very unusual for these inland waters, so we could see coral and other sea creatures quite far down along the numerous shoals on the way.


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