Monday, May 25, 2009

Cape Sata ・佐多岬

Cape Sata is well known to the Japanese because it is the southernmost point of Kyushu and therefore of the entire Japanese 'mainland'. For this reason alone quite a few tourists make the long journey here. Sata is actually the end of the large, remote, and mountainous Osumi Peninsula, previously one of the most wayward domains of the Japanese Empire, and now a (still wayward) part of Kagoshima Prefecture. Due to its southern location (Cape Sata just punches through the 31st parallel of latitude) and the influence of the ever-warm waters of the Kuroshio current, the area is one of the few places in Kyushu that enjoys a truly subtropical climate. Plants typically to be found on the islands towards Okinawa can also be seen happily growing here. Relatively untouched by human interference, the wild coasts of the peninsula will impress any nature enthusiast willing to do a bit more than just drive the tourist road to the cape and back.

Cape Sata and environs, showing our kayak courses (red) and bike/walk courses (green). The short trip is 16km on the water, and 3km walking, and can be done easily in less than a day. The long trip is good for a weekend; 68km on the water and 46km by bicycle, with one monster hill. Both trips offer excellent scenery and great value per effort expended. Symbols on map show beaches, caves, rock gardens, and villages. 佐多岬の周辺の地図。シンボルは砂浜、ロックガーデン、洞窟、集落などを表す。


At Kagoshima Port ・ 鹿児島港にて。

Sata is a bit far from Amakusa, so we've only been there twice so far. This time around, a convenient chance to go offered itself because we had to pick up our kayaks at Kagoshima port. The kayaks and gear were delivered by ship from the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, where we spent our spring vacation.

Steep mountains and cliffs along the bicycle route. 自転車から見た大隈の険しい山々。


The scenic beauty of the coast culminates in the complex cliffs, rocks, islets, and reefs of the cape itself. Here, the East China Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. A lighthouse marks this navigationally crucial point of land. 美しい佐多岬の複雑な地形。大輪島と言う岬自体の南にある小島に、灯台がある。

The cape stands at the entrance of Kagoshima Bay at the head of which is Kagoshima City, the largest population center and most important port of the south half of Kyushu. The mouth of the bay is always busy with shipping traffic; virtually all passengers and cargo vessels to and from the Nansei Islands pass through here. 鹿児島湾口を入ったり出てりする船舶。南西諸島の各島と本土を結ぶ便はほとんど皆ここを通る。

Cycad palms grow in abundance on the steep slopes of the cape. Nearby Biro-jima island is covered in fan palm trees. Both are subtropical species and cannot be found growing wild north of here. 岬の急海岸にソテルが茂っている。近くの枇榔島はビロウのやしの木に覆われている。本当に亜熱帯だ。

A collection of large dead beetles under the Cape Sata Lighthouse. The bright beam attracts these nocturnal fliers here from afar, to an untimely death by light addiction. 佐多岬灯台の土台で、死んだ甲虫のコレクション。

Leanne weaves her way through the cape's rock gardens. 里杏は岬のロックガーデンを通る。

Where two oceans meet, strong currents usually flow, and Sata is no exception. We spent a half-hour playing in the rough water off the tip of the southernmost rock. The water moved with the speed of a swift river, and it was just possible to surf the waves generated by rocks below. 二つの海がつないでいる場所では、普段に海流がある。佐多岬もそうだ。ここで、最南端の岩の沖、東シナ海から太平洋へ強い流れがあって、30分ほど遊んだ。

Enjoyable scenery along the walk back to our car. 車までの歩き途中。素晴らしい名前も無い山が後ろにそびえている。新夏の緑の中で、ハイビスカスなどが咲いていた。楽しい散歩でした。

Flowers in a small village along the Osumi coast. 小さな集落の花畑にて。

This vigorous 25m waterfall is one of the highlights of the long circuit. Passing through in the heat of the summer washes off sweat, salt and fatigue. 海に直接落ちているこの25メートルの滝は、二日間の旅のハイライトの一つだった。冷たい水で夏の暑さをいやした。

Snorkeling along the Osumi coast one sees the typical inhabitants of a subtropical rocky seascape. Here, rock shrimp sit motionless amid sea urchins in a dark crack of an undersea boulder. 海が落ちづいているなら、素潜りも楽しい。典型的な岩の海岸の生き物たちが見える。

Wow! This kind of wild, beautiful beach can't be found in too many places on mainland Japan anymore. It's a bit too far from civilization, so no tetrapods or concrete here. The full fury of Pacific storms is nevertheless held in check by a massive bar of clean, granitic sand. The two-day tour ends here at the village of Hetsuka which is so tiny as to be entirely lost in the thick foliage just inland of the beach. こんな素晴らしい、自然の砂浜もう日本では珍しいものになっているでしょう。テトラポッドやコンクリートも全くない。 それなのに、砂が台風の太平洋にも耐える。ここ辺塚と言う小さな集落もあるけど、茂っている木に完全に覆われている。二日間の旅の終点はここでした。

Leanne enters the quiet estuary of a clear river - a sudden change of atmosphere from the noise and waves of the Pacific. 清水の川に入った里杏。太平洋の波を後ろに残して、突然の静かな景色。

At dusk, the Fuji-like Mt. Kaimon dominates the opposite shore of Kagoshima Bay. 明け方、鹿児島湾の向こう側に「薩摩富士」の開門岳が見える。



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sekiryo Trails Done at Last! 脊梁山地登山道調査完成!

After three years of on-and-off effort, our fieldwork in the Sekiryo Mountains of Central Kyushu is basically complete. We believe we have found all the hiking trails in this poorly documented area. These are shown in red on the map below. The Sekiryo is a wonderful place where we keep returning to find solitude and communion with nature. Out of the way and little known, these hills are actually one of the remotest parts of the whole country. The old growth beech forest preserved on the high ridges is a real treasure. Last winter, for the second year in a row, we spent our vacation here exploring. Most of the pictures that follow are from that time.



Sekiryo is a cold place in the winter, at least relative to the generally mild climate of the rest of Kyushu. Here one can experience a taste of true winter. On this day, summits shrouded in icy vapors, the mountains show a somber face. 冬の景色を見せる五家荘の上福根山。

Wading through bamboo grass basted with wet snow soon soaked us in ice water and made this hike up Kamifukune-yama the coldest of the trip. Cresting the summit we hurried down the other side and were relieved when we descended below the frost line. 雪に覆われた熊笹の藪漕ぎですぐびしょ濡れになって寒かった!上複根山の全ての登山道は、いずれもこんな深い藪がある。

Someone made this rather attractive sign on the otherwise inconspicuous summit of Heike-yama. 平家山の三角点の位置をGPSで確かめる里杏。この手作りの看板はいきなり美しい。

Frost covers a small stream in the early morning. 早い朝、山沢を覆われる霜。

winter hike 2
A friend joined us on one of our winter hikes. It was a windy, snowy Sunday but everyone held out well. ある寒い日、天草の友達と集合して、雪山のハイキングを楽しんだ。

winter scene
A winter scene. 冬の景色。

The approach to the higher peaks is often through long tracts of planted forest. 人工林を通って、原生林の山を目指す。休みの後半気温が上がって、雪が解けはじめた。

You'd be surprised where you can go when you put chains on a minicar. This winter too we had our share of four-wheeling adventure. Here, we make a winter crossing of the Sekiryo range via the landslide-damaged and officially closed Shiiya Pass Road. Along the way the muffler wanted to stay behind and had to be provisionally re-attached using bonsai-tree shaping wire. 4WDアドベンチャーも楽しんだよ。軽車にチェーンをつけると信じられない場所まで行ける。ここは、冬の状態の、土砂崩れなどで現在通行止めに成っている椎矢峠の林道を通り抜けた。だが、途中マフラーが外れた。

All but the highest reaches of the hills are the domain of tree plantations and strange construction ventures. Here, the construction folks left a tree over a mud slick for the benefit of hikers. ハイカーたちのことを考えて、林道の工事の人は滑りやすい泥の上木を置いた。

Leanne squeezes through a bamboo grass tunnel. This kind of thick undergrowth was par for the course in the Sekiryo, but the last few years, disquietingly, the grass has been dying wholesale over much of the area. This has made hiking easier, but leaves one with an uneasy feeling. What's going on? 平家山にて熊笹の森。ここはまだまだ茂っているけど、脊梁山地の大部分は最近多く枯れている。なぜでしょう。

Leaning into the slope of the mountain, Cryptomeria trees stand like matchsticks in this tree plantation. 杉林の景色。

Later in the winter, or was it the beginning of spring, we ventured out to the Sekiryo on several weekends to tie up some loose ends in our trail survey. Mostly, we ended up looking for nonexistent trails and got lost in some thick jungle, but we also found many scenic places like this nameless valley and stream.



old road
An old wall is all that remains of what used to be a horse trail through these hills in samurai times. Because of the difficulty of traversing the extremely steep valleys, through roads usually wound along the high ridges. Finding old traces of roads like this, we feel the history of this land first-hand, and take care to record their location before they are lost to human knowledge. 耳川水源の近く、西郷隆盛が通ったと言われている古い道の跡を発見。こんな物を見つけるの日本の歴史の流れを感じる。全く消える前、少なくともGPSでこの位置を記録した。

Where we need to run long stretches of logging roads, we use our mountain bikes. In the Sekiryo, such roads frequently gain 1000m of elevation before petering out in the jungle. Leanne recharges her strength while I am busy marking trails below. 脊梁の林道を、歩くよりMTBで走る事が早いけど、ここでは昇進者の坂がない。里杏は、僕がなんだか調査した間、体の電池を充電する。

Closer to the villages, shiitake mushrooms are grown en masse on logs stacked in the shade of the woods. These mushrooms grow only in winter, and are quite delicious. 山の集落のもうちょっと近くでの椎茸の畑。

Curiously, different districts in Kyushu seem to have different ways of stacking hay in the rice fields. Whereas in Amakusa, it's hung from bamboo poles, here in the Gokase area of the Sekiryo, miniature haystacks are the norm. 稲の藁の積み方も、地域によって違います。天草で竹の棒に架ける方法があるけど、ここの五ヶ瀬で、こうゆう風に積んでいた。

From the summit of Kamure-dake spreads a view of Kuraoka, a typical farming village on the foothills of the Sekiryo. 脊梁山地の麓にある典型的な集落。これは、冠岳からみた鞍岡です。 


Our most recent venture to the hills was last weekend, to explore a remote valley at the headwaters of the Mimi River. Spring has come, and the forest floor is resplendent with wild peonies and other mountain flowers. Following hints gleaned on the Net, we were also able to find a 'Fossil Forest' where fossiliferous rocks can be had by the handful. Here too, only the thinnest of trails penetrated the wilderness, affirming our convictions that we're pretty much done with our survey.




Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cherry Blossoms and Rough Seas 花見と荒れた海

Cherry blossom season has come and gone, and summer temperatures are here. The sea is nearly warm enough to swim. This year, during the season's final north blow, we combined cherry blossom viewing with a little fun out on the sea. もう大分季節が外れているけど、今年の花見は、荒れた海での遊びと組み合わせて面白かったから、少し写真を入れます。


One of our favorite parts of Amakusa is the lower west coast of Shimo-shima. Here there is a great variety of scenery, scant human interference, and unlike much of the rest of our home island, geography makes it possible to spot a bike and make a one-way kayak tour. Starting in the deep inland bays of Kameura and Yokaku, transitioning to the exposed, rocky coast of Mukobeta, onto a mini (5km) open water traverse of Oniki Bay, then getting lost among the shoals of Mogushi, the tour finishes near Amakusa's southern limits at Satsuki Bay. Shorter variations of this 32km tour are also possible, and to return to the car by bicycle takes less than 45 minutes. This time, the contrast in the scenery was heightened the considerable swell along the exposed areas of the coast.

Old stone walls and abandoned houses tell of a busier past along the calm shores of Kameura Bay.


A chance meeting. 'Amakusa Kayak Club' members Suemitsu-san and Ishihara-san send us off at the edge of the rough. なんと偶然だ!羊角湾にて、「カヤッククラブ」のメンバー二人に会った。

Things begin to get a bit more serious along the exposed Mukobeta coast. Near Cape Oniki, the coast is very steep and so it's possible to approach the cliff in relative safety for a bit of exciting water-treading.


Look, we're not the only crazies around. Rough water is the best for fishing, a most popular pastime in these parts. Truth be told, a kayak on the water is way safer than standing on a slick rock getting washed over by surf. こんな状態でシーカヤックが危ないと思っている人は、この釣り人はどう思う?勿論、荒れた海はよく釣れる。でも確かに、カヤックのほうが安全でしょう。

Too slow in the fog. Rick attempts to ride a boomer. 魚貫湾の横断途中、浅瀬が転々あって、こんな荒れた時ブーマーになる。リックが、一本の波に乗って見る。

Wild Boar enjoyed a dip. 猪も、海水浴を楽しんだ。


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