the Degree Confluence Project

Japan : Kantō

14.4 km (8.9 miles) ESE of Minami-Bōsō, Maruyama-machi, Chiba-ken, Kantō, Japan
Approx. altitude: 0 m (0 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 35°S 40°W

Accuracy: 30 m (98 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: View to the north #3: View to the south #4: View to the east #5: Confluence location #6: GPS reading #7: Kawaguchi harbor -  Arai-san, Yoriko, Watanabe-san & Asako #8: Statue of ama near N35 E140 #9: Traditionnal basket with cultured awabi #10: Boso Peninsula coast

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  35°N 140°E  

#1: Confluence N35 E140

(visited by Fabrice Blocteur, Yoriko Uemura and Asako Ishimine)

Japanese Narrative

26-Sep-2004 -- Amazingly enough, although I had been living in Japan for more than four years and been almost all around the country, I had never been to Tokyo until the day I decided to pay a visit to the confluence in Chiba prefecture located less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo station. I had been thinking for a while that it was about time for me to see the national capital, formerly known as Edo (literally ‘gate of the river’), when the opportunity to do it just occurred this summer after meeting two girls from Tokyo in Nagano Prefecture where I was spending my week long vacation. Our first encounter happened at a hotel in Norikura where I stayed for a night before we came across each other again the next day in Kamikochi in the center of the northern Japan Alps. It is famous for having some of the most spectacular scenery in Japan. Asako and Yoriko invited me to join a small group of tourists for a short hike along the river and after talking about the Degree Confluence Project we thought it would be a good idea to kill two birds with one stone and meet again in Tokyo as well as trying to visit a confluence near by. The closest one that had not been visited yet was N35 E140.

On Saturday 25th in the morning I boarded the shinkansen ‘bullet train’ in Kyoto and got off at Tokyo station less than 2½ hours later. Asako and Yoriko were waiting for me. The sky was clearing up and we walked through Ginza where we had lunch before going to Shinjuku to rent a car for the next day and find a place where I could stay for the night. We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around Shibuya before coming back to Shinjuku for dinner. Shinjuku was what I expected and not so different from Umeda in Osaka: a place to dive headfirst into the modern Japanese phenomenon with high-class department stores, discount shopping arcades, push-and-shove crowds, strip clubs, restaurants, boutiques, neon and sleaze.

The next morning at seven o’clock we got into the car and headed for the confluence located off the southern coast of the Boso Peninsula. Leaving the congested city and trying to find the right direction amid a tangle of expressways wasn’t as hard as I thought, thanks to the girls’ navigation skills but moreover to the car’s ‘nabigeta’ (navigation system), the latest Japanese high-tech device equipped with a woman’s voice telling us which road to take and where to turn. As we were going down the Tateyama Expressway it even told us how much we would have to pay at the next tollgate. At ten o’clock we arrived at Kawaguchi harbor and stopped the car in the parking lot of the Chikura Fishery Association. Asako and Yoriko had spent the previous few days making phone calls and sending e-mails trying to find a place where we could get a boat. Arai-san, the captain of the Araimaru fishing boat, and Watanabe-san, a member of the Association, were waiting to take us to the confluence.

Although it had rained on and off during the morning, the sky began to partially clear up and at a speed of seven to eight knots it took about 40 minutes to cover the eight kilometers between the harbor and the point. We approached the confluence with the help of the marine GPS but switched to mine set on GPS84 to zero in on the confluence. The captain stopped the boat for a few minutes and I snapped a dozen pictures. Meanwhile Yoriko started to get a bit seasick but fortunately she quickly recovered as soon as we got back to the harbor. After that Arai-san took us to a shellfish nursery farm where awabi (abalone) are kept during their first year before being released into the sea where they are picked up four or five years later by ama divers.

Japan's legendary ama women shellfish divers, immortalized on stamps and in the 1967 James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", are famous for pearl diving. Now they dive mostly as a tourist attraction in coastal Mie Prefecture, but originally they dived for food like seaweed, shellfish, lobsters, octopus and sea urchins - and oysters which sometimes have pearls. In the Boso Peninsula, they still dive for food but they are growing older and their numbers is declining. In the Kawaguchi area they now number only 100 (with the majority being men who are known as ‘kaishi’) and are aged between 60 and 70, the two ‘youngest’ ones being around 30 and 40. According to Arai-san, 20 years ago they harvested 800 tones of awabi each year, but this year they caught only 100 tones.

Japanese tradition holds that the practice of ama divers is about 2000 years old. Traditionally ama dived wearing only a loincloth and even in modern times, Ama dive without scuba gear or air tanks. Depending on the region, ama may dive with masks, fins and torso-covering wetsuits at the most. Only divers who work for tourist attractions use white, partially transparent suits.

The season lasts from April to September but they don’t dive every day. This year in Kawaguchi, they dived for only 17 days. Collecting abalone is hard work. Equipped with a long stick, the divers go down about 8-10 meters, either diving from small boats or swimming out from the beach, and only have as long as their breath holds -- about one minute 20 seconds – to pry the mollusks from the rocks and place their catch in wooden baskets that they leave floating at the water surface. They can stay in the water for up to four hours a day, resting and chatting with friends on a floating wooden box.

Traditionally, the ama themselves were considered a good catch. According to a recent newspaper article, in 1965, a good ama could earn the equivalent of 10 million yen (90,000 dollars) in today's money for a season's work. Nowadays it remains a substantial extra income for these elderly women whose main livelihood these days is farming rice, soya, broad beans and flowers.

We left Kawaguchi at around noon and had lunch near the Nojimazaki lighthouse before going to the Yakushi onsen (hot spring spa) to relax for a while. We got back on the Tateyama Expressway and the car’s navigation system made us take a shorter course across the Tokyo Bay Aqualine to go back to Tokyo. This 15km toll highway, which opened in 1997, runs across the central portion of Tokyo bay and consists of ⅓ bridge and for ⅔ tunnel, the world's longest undersea road tunnel. At the transition between the bridge and the tunnel portions lies Umi-hotaru (Kisarazu Man-made Island), a gigantic futurist mega structure resembling a luxury liner floating on the middle of the bay. We finally got stuck into the Sunday night Tokyo traffic jams and it took us another hour to cover the last 15km to Shinjuku.

Japanese Narrative

26-Sep-2004 -- すでに4年以上日本に住み、ほぼ国中を旅して回ったというのに、今回東京駅から約100キロ弱の地点にある千葉県内の交流点を訪れようと決めた今まで、意外にも私は東京へ行ったことがなかった。かつて江戸(河への入口を意味する)と呼ばれた首都をそろそろ見ておくべきかもしれないと思い始めてしばらく経った時、その機会は巡ってきた。今年の夏1週間の休暇を過ごした長野で、東京からやって来た二人の女性に出会ったのだ。たまたま同じ乗鞍のユースホステルに1泊し、翌日日本有数の景勝地として知られる北アルプスの上高地でばったり再会した。あさ子と依子に、梓川沿いを散策する小グループに誘われ、歩きながらthe Degree Confluence Projectの話をしたところ、それならば一石二鳥を狙って近くの交流点を訪れがてら東京で再会しようということになった。まだ誰も訪れていない近くの交流点は、東経140度、北緯35度地点だった。

25日、土曜日の朝、京都から新幹線 (”bullet train”)に乗り2時間も経たないうちに東京駅で降りた。あさ子と依子が迎えに来てくれていた。空は快晴。銀座まで歩き、ランチを食べてから新宿へ向かった。明日の朝借りるレンタカーの手配と今夜の私の宿を確保するためだ。その日の午後は渋谷近辺をぶらぶら歩き、夕食を食べるため再び新宿へ。新宿の様子は想像していたとおりだった。大阪の梅田とあまり変わらない。高級デパート、ショッピングアーケードに立ち並ぶ安売りの店、押し合いへし合いしながら歩く人達、風俗店、レストラン、ブティック、ネオンサインといかがわしさ……日本の性急な現代化を体現している街。

翌朝7時、私達はレンタカーに乗り込んで房総半島の外房沖にある交流点を目指して出発した。都市部の混雑を抜け、入り組んだ首都高を走りながら目的の道を見つけるのは思っていたほど難しくはなかった。これも彼女たちのナビゲーションのおかげ、それ以上にカーナビ(navigation system)のおかげと言ったほうがいいだろうか。この日本のハイテク機器は女性の声でどの道を進み、どこで曲がるかを逐一教えてくれる。館山自動車道を走っていると、次の料金所でいくら払うかまでアナウンスしてくれた。午前10時、川口港に到着。ちくら漁業協同組合の駐車場に車を停める。あさ子と依子はボートを貸してくれる人を探して、数日間あちこちに電話やEメールで連絡を取り奔走してくれた。そして港では荒井丸の船長・荒井さんと、ちくら漁協の渡辺さんが私達を交流点まで連れて行くべく、待ってくれていた。








Translation and additional comments by Yoriko Uemura

 All pictures
#1: Confluence N35 E140
#2: View to the north
#3: View to the south
#4: View to the east
#5: Confluence location
#6: GPS reading
#7: Kawaguchi harbor - Arai-san, Yoriko, Watanabe-san & Asako
#8: Statue of ama near N35 E140
#9: Traditionnal basket with cultured awabi
#10: Boso Peninsula coast
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)
In the ocean, 2 km from land.