Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Poking around Yushima - 湯島へぶらっと行こう

yushima yukari poster
A poster I threw together to attract interested parties to our school's annual hike. Every year we go to a different, (hopefully) interesting place of our choice in Amakusa. Note the intentional English error, following the 'rules' of a common Japanization of our language - if you can't beat them, join'em! To their credit, the more alert students actually noticed.

Last Sunday we went to Yushima with some students from our beloved Eucalyptus English School (EES). Yushima is a relatively isolated island in Amakusa, offering a unique atmosphere and walking opportunities (see our previous entry). While everyone took the passenger ferry to the island (there is no car ferry as there is no use for a car there), the two of us paddled in by kayak, of course. Usually we come from Oniike, 17km to the west, but this time, we were obliged to go from the Misumi strait, 11km to the east of Yushima, to accommodate the currents that matched the timing of the trip. It was a fun, relaxing day for everyone, and so it seems the yearly EES hiking trip was a success. Here are some maps and pictures.


A simulated aerial view of the trip; imagery is based on LANDSAT data. The red track is our kayak trace; embedded within are yellow and light blue lines representing ebb and flood (respectively) measured current directions and speeds. The swiftest current was about 2.3kt (on the return leg) but at mid-spring tide, expect currents in excess of 3kt, with associated danger of overfalls in windy weather. It's obviously possible to make this 25km round trip very comfortably riding on the currents if your timing is right, and each way oughtn't take more than 1 1/2 hours. Also marked are paths hiked on Yushima and Habo-jima (see also below; the other yellow lines are national highways bridging Amakusa to Kyushu), and shoals to the south of Yushima are outlined in blue. Okinose, a moveable gravel bank, is located on our path directly 'above' Yushima.

A more detailed map of Yushima also showing last Sunday's walking route, which takes in most of the island's interesting sights. The back road around the island is also highly recommended.

The troopers tromp through the tiny town's terraced trails.

In the greenhouse full of Baby's Breath.

Posing by the lighthouse.

Lunch is the happiest moment of any hike. The island's yakisoba or fried noodles are not for pushovers. There is an egg in there too!

When everyone departed on the 2pm ferry, it was time for us too to return. However, instead of going directly back, we took in a few interesting sights along the way. This being our first time here at low tide, we took opportunity to explore the extensive sandy shallows that lie to the south of the island. Around here we saw schools of thousands of sardine-like fish called hadara swimming about; it is their spawning season. There is also a gravelly isolated gravelly spit called Okinosu which just barely emerges from the sea at spring tides; its location was actually more than 100m from its charted position; maybe it gets moved around by storms like the several much larger sand and coral banks around Iriomote Island in Okinawa. At another place, seaweed grew thickly. So even a shoal like this is filled with mystery: why does a spit form just there, while seaweed grows here but not over there?

And off they go back by ferry. There is no car ferry service to Yushima as there is hardly a road here one could drive on!



The tiny uninhabited islet of Habo-jima lies on the way to Misumi.

As we poked around, the tide began to pour in and the flood current picked up. This we rode eastward toward the tiny uninhabited island of Habo-jima. We’d been there only once before (during our Kami-shima circumnavigation), when we found the island’s prominent feature: a gravity-defying natural stone arch. Since then a perusal of aerial pictures revealed a well-hidden roof inside the trees. Maybe someone’s private cottage? We landed and explored; the structure turned out to be a small shrine. What a beautiful little place Habo-jima is, though; a small world unto itself. Bizarre, bare volcanic rocks along the shoreline culminate in wildly overhanging bluffs, atop which sits a small patch of thick, untouched forest. Within this green sanctuary the shrine offers a moment of quiet solitude.

The bizarrely shaped volcanic rocks of Habo-jima are of a rich brown color.


Looking for a secret abode...

Found it! It's a small shrine.

Enjoying a peaceful momet in a beautiful place.

Leaving Habo-jima, we followed the attractive volcanic shoreline of Kami-shima back into the narrow, fast-flowing Misumi Strait. Arriving back at Iwaya about an hour before dark, we packed up very leisurely and chatted with the lively and friendly fishermen and local inhabitants. One of them, a Mr. Torihama, had seen us near Yushima from his fishing boat and was very surprised at the speed and efficiency of our kayaks. He had caught a cooler-full of a variety of fish, including many hadara, and he proceeded to give us a bagful, proceeding to explain in great detail how they are best prepared and eaten. We had a very nice time talking with him and a delicious fish dinner to boot after returning to our humble abode in Hondo.

Following the coast of Ooyano Island with its interesting volcanic rocks.


The sardine-like fish we received from Mr. Torihama (to appear later is the really cool palm-frond hat he gave us - he makes them for kicks).



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