Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take me Fishing


Strong north winds and 1.5 meter swell was the perfect combination for our friendJerremy as he requested to be taken kayaking. Sounds fishy to you? In fact, for fishing Suzuki (Japanese Seabass) these conditions are ideal.

Jerremy's choice spot was the uninhabited island of Oshima in Ushibuka. Launching from the small village of Komori, we skirted a shoal of rocks, mentally recording them for the journey home when the tide would be different and the swell larger.



Stuggling a bit with the headwind, we fought our way past the old coal mine of Eboshi-Se, a unique historic site located on the sea shoals. According to the Education Ministry, this mine was established in 1897. The coal extracted from the seabed was famous with the navy as it produced "Smokeless Coal", a high quality coal that burned very hot with no smoke. Production was terminated after a few years due to water welling up from the bottom. The mineshaft opening is lined with red brick, and that together with the breakwall constructed to protect it is still very much intact after all these years of weathering rough seas.



Mr. O, with his shiny new kayak and fancy tuliq.

Today as usual, we had the sea mostly to ourselves. Small fishing boats were absent thanks to the bad weather. After more than an hour of hard work, we finally reached the shores of Oshima.


Jerremy was so excited to go fishing that he didn't even appear to be fatigued after the arduous crossing. On the beach, he gave me a quick crash course in suzuki fishing. It is very important to be able to cast accurately. After a few admitttedly pathetic attempts on my part, he deemed that I was ready and off we went. Scrambling over boulders we jogged to the northern extremity of the island. The swell was impinging violently on the shore and the wind was formidable. Casting inside the sheltered port,and casting among boulders into the gale are two quite different things. In no time I managed to snag the lure on a rock. Jerremy, on the other hand wasted no time in hooking a beautiful fish.


Over the next few hours as we hopped and waded from one rock to another; I managed at least to keep my lure, although I failed to catch anything. One time (at least according to Jerremy) a fish was following my lure and was about to bite, when I reeled in the line too quickly. I'll have to take his word on that one, because with the salt water crusting up my sunglasses and my primary concern being not to catch the lure on the rock, I really didn't see this happen. Now with two sizable suzukis, we headed back to port where we built a bonfire and ate delicious sushi dipped in ponzu sauce.




Before setting out into the roughage again, we made the short and pleasant hike up to the lighthouse at the top of the island. 大島の灯台まで行ってから荒れた海に漕ぎ出して帰りました。



The journey home was slow if uneventful and we arrived safely back at the Komori port just as it was getting dark. The day was capped off with a wonderful soak at the nearby hotspring followed by a satisfying dinner.


NOTE: Most people, when they are learning to kayak (and sometimes for years thereafter), only paddle in calm water. We believe this is a mistake that, in the end, compromises one's safety. No matter how well one may check the weather forecast and conditions, the sea is too unpredictable to always guarantee that conditions will remain within one's comfort zone during a day of paddling. Sooner or later paddlers get caught in the rough, and if they lack a modicum of experience, they could be in trouble in conditions that are nevertheless eminently controllable with a little bit of practice. We encourage all kayakers to paddle with more experienced friends or guides in rough waters, practice bracing, rolls, and rescues, and get comfortable in that environment. Then, when you are faced with rough conditions, you can avoid panicking, locking up, forgetting basic maneuvers, overfocusing on remaining upright to the point of not paddling forward at all, and other such predictable reactions. With practice, common sense reactions such as maintaining speed in rough water, instinctive bracing, etc., will happen on their own.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Overnight Trip in the Straits - 夜のカヤック旅


Last Saturday night after work we packed up our kayaks and camping equipment and set out on a 42km overnight kayak trip with our friend Kazumi. As we launched from the beach the moon was just beginning to peek over the mountain tops on the horizon. With the moon as our light and calm seas to boot, we spent a quiet evening cruising down the straits toward the uninhabited island of Toshima.




Kazumi struggles to make headway against the current off Naga-shima. Ubu-shima is in the right background.


Kazumi had brought some delicious homemade brown rice balls for breakfast, and we wolfed them down before we set out on the day's journey. Upon leaving the island Kazumi and I set out in a direct line, unintentionally getting caught up in the back current of the island. Note to the captain in training: The most direct route is not always the fastest. As we glanced over at Rik speeding along away from the island in a different direction, I realized the error, and soon we were all paddling together in the fast moving current. Nearing Nagashima Island we once again encountered a back current where the water was moving so quickly that it was neccesary to tuck in behind each shallow shoal and protruding rock in order to make any progress. For river kayakers climbing up a river this is a basic maneuver, but for sea kayakers it might not be so obvious. Our friend Kazumi said 反対の流れを進む途中に岩や瀬があるなら手前の部分は流れが止まってるので、そこで少し休憩できることなどたくさんの事を教えてくれました。まだカヤック経験の浅い私にはほんと勉強になりました。

Rick and Kazumi in the wake of a fishing boat, Chichi-no-seto.

乳の瀬戸に入るとまた追い流れになって、周りの漁船と浅瀬を注意払いながら瀬戸を擦り抜けた。Going through Chichi no seto, (literally 'Boob Pass') an aptly named narrow strait with 2 round rocks protruding from the middle, we had to carefully skirt our way around the shallow areas and out of the way of local fishing boats that travel through this strait.



The inland sea on the east side of Shoura Island is a maze of fish farms and small islands. As we passed through this area we saw several fishing boats displaying decorated flags from their mast. In the distance the rhythmic pounding of the taiko drums created a festive feeling in the air.
Fall is traditionally a time for many festivals in Japan.



Stopping for lunch on Hyotan-jima a small island, we soon found ourselves lulled into a deep sleep in the warm sunshine on this autumn day.

Wildlife of sorts: a flock of crows caroosing on a rock in the Mebuki Strait. 海の岩場での烏の会議。

The final traverse back to Tate Beach was thankfully uneventful as we ferry-glided our way across the Hachiman Strait. Arriving at Tate, a light rain began, right on schedule according to the weather forecast.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall 秋

We'd like you to enjoy these pictures from our weekend trip to the Miyazaki mountains. 先週末宮崎の山に行って、秋の風景を楽しんだ。








And a couple of pix from our English school's Halloween parties. Happy Halloween! 11月31日は内の学校でハロウィーンパーティーがあった。




Sunday, November 01, 2009

Against Magazine アゲンスト雑誌

Japan mexico1

Awhile back we lived for a year in Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. While there we grew to love Mexican people, culture, food and the country. Mexico is still very much a part of who we are, even now.
While living in Mexico, we made many great friends and lifelong connections. Recently we received an email from an acquaintance asking if we could write an article about a kayaking adventure in Japan. Our efforts have been published in the Mexican Adventure Magazine "Against". The article can be viewed free of cost (it's in Spanish).

japan mexico2


mexican mag
Siempre extrañamos muchísimo de nuestros amigos en México.

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