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Japan : Chūgoku

2.4 km (1.5 miles) NE of Chōfu-Miyazakichō, Shimonoseki-shi, Yamaguchi-ken, Chūgoku, Japan
Approx. altitude: 0 m (0 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 34°S 49°W

Accuracy: 15 m (49 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: View to the east #3: Captain with view of confluence behind #4: View of confluence with Shimonoseki Power Station in the background #5: Passengers on the ferry to Hirado #6: Hirado Castle #7: Hirado port - circa 1630-1640 #8: Imari #9: Takeo onsen #10: Kanmon Bridge

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  34°N 131°E  

#1: Confluence N34 E131

(visited by Fabrice Blocteur)

Japanese Narrative

17-Aug-2003 -- It was shortly past noon when I got on the ferry bound to Ikitsuki Island after my unsuccessful visit to 33°N 129°E located in the Goto Islands. I was now on my way to the confluence N34 E131. It was sunny and warm but the crossing was rough. Most of the passengers were lying on the floor to attenuate the effects of seasickness. There were many families going back to their homes after their O-Bon holydays. Babies were crying, fathers were irritated and mothers were often crawling to the toilets where loud vomiting sounds could be heard. I got off the ferry at around 15:30 for my final journey through the last vestiges of Christianity brought to Japan in the mid-16th century.

Like the Goto Islands, Ikitsuki Island with a population of 8,000 inhabitants, is one the last remaining places where “Kakure Kirishitan” (Hidden Christians) can be found. It’s probably also their last bastion. But here as well, their number is rapidly decreasing. The Japan Times Weekly, in its August 30th edition, relates the fate of the Hidden Christians of Ikitsuki. Households practicing the faith on the island have declined more than 30% in the last six years. “I will feel sorry for our ancestors if Kakure Kirishitan were to disappear from Ikitsuki,” said 55-year-old Yoshiaki Isomoto to the Japan Times reporter. “But realistically, I have to say such concerns may prove to be true in 10 years.” Like in so many other places, not only are young people not to keen on traditions but those islands are also hit by depopulation.

I crossed the bridge linking Ikitsuki Island to Hirado Island and was almost blown off from the motorbike by the strong wing coming from the North. It was about five when I stopped near St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church. The city of Hirado claims to be the oldest international port in Japan where tea (from China), bread and tobacco (from Portugal), beer (from England) and Western medicine (from Holland) were first introduced into the country. Xavier came to Hirado in 1550 and was allowed to stay and propagate Christianity. The first Portuguese ships had landed here one year earlier. They established a trading post in 1584 and were soon followed by the Dutch and the British. After the ban on Christianity imposed by the Tokugawa government, all Portuguese and Spanish were expelled from Japan (1639) in response to their insistence on the indivisibility of trade and Christian propagation. Two years later the Dutch Trading Post on Hirado Island was moved to the manmade island of Dejima in Nagasaki. Subsequently, Japanese foreign trade was confined to the one port of Nagasaki and to only two partners: the Chinese and the Protestant Dutch who came to Japan for the sole purpose of trade. It would take more than two centuries for Japan to reopen its doors to Europeans.

Before leaving that western part of Japan, once mostly inhabited by Christians and where I had been traveling for the last past five days, I thought it would be a good idea to spend my last night in Hirado where so many Christians, foreigners and Japanese alike, had lived together. I went to the small tourist office near the harbor and asked for a place to stay. The girl inside made a phone call and handed me a paper with my name on it to give to the hotel. “What’s the name of that place?” I asked her. “Chaperu”, she replied (The Chapel). All’s well that ends well.

The next morning the rain was back. I stopped at Imari, famous for its pottery, and in Takeo Hot Spring to warm up and relieve the effects of the cold rain on my body. I got on the Nagasaki expressway shortly afterward and a bit later joined the Kyushu expressway. Traffic jams started to appear shortly before Fukuoka but without too much implication for a motorbike. I crossed the bridge linking Kyushu to Honshu at around 5 pm and went directly to the Shimonoseki Youth Hostel on Mt. Hino-Yama and located near the confluence. I took a room for the night with a superb view overlooking the Kanmon Straits and the km-long illuminated Kanmon Bridge. It was getting dark and it was still raining. I decided to postpone my visit to the confluence for the next day. Shimonoseki is famous for “fugu” (poisonous blowfish). I spent the evening at the nearby Shimonoseki wharf drinking some excellent Nihon-shu (sake) and eating the deadly delicacy. I woke up the next morning. It was Sunday and still raining.

It took me less than 10 minutes to get near the confluence. By looking at the map I thought I could get closer through the premises of two companies nearby. The first company had two security guards who prevented me from going any further. The second company, the Shimonoseki Power Station, had no security guard at the entrance and I went through. I hardly got off the motorbike when a man in uniform showed up and told me to leave right away. The only remaining option was to find a boat. The rain had stopped but not too many people were out. I finally found a man strolling near some fishing boats. He told me to wait while he made some phone calls. Five minutes later a small pick up with two men arrived and they told me to get on board a medium-size fishing boat. As I expected the confluence was within a few meters of the Shimonoseki Power Station and less than two km from where I had taken the boat. The two fishermen didn’t want to accept any money for those 20 minutes at sea and even gave me three kilos of freshly caught octopus. My O-Bon holidays - with more than 1500 km by motorbike and 1000 km by ferry - were almost over and the last of the four confluences I had planned to visit was done. At 7 pm, after a hot bath at the onsen city of Beppu, I was in Oita on board the night-ferry to Kobe.

Japanese Narrative

17-Aug-2003 -- 私が33°N 129°E のコンフレンスを探し損ねた後、次のN34 E131のポイントに向かうため 生月島行きのフェリーに乗ったのは正午を少し回ったところだった。 外は良い天気で暖かかったがフェリーの中はお盆の帰省から帰ってきた家族連れでいっぱいで 海が荒れているため子供は泣き叫ぶし 父親たちは怪訝そうな顔つきになり母親たちはトイレにひっきりなしに向かい中で嗚咽をあげ、とそれぞれが必死に船酔いと戦っていた。 15:30分ごろ船を降りこの旅最後の目的、16世紀中ごろのキリスト教伝来の痕跡を探しにむかった。

五島列島と同様この生月島の住民は8000人あまりで隠れキリシタンが生きた最後の地であり、そして最後の砦だったと推測する。 この島もまた他の地と同様急激な過疎化に悩んでいる。ジャパンタイムスWeekly(8月30日付)も隠れキリシタンの末路をのべている。 過去6年間で30%以上ものキリスト教信者が信仰を捨てた。 ”もし信者がすべていなくなればご先祖様達にもうしわけない”と 磯本よしあきさん(55歳)はジャパンタイムスの記者に語った ”実際にはそういう懸念はこれからの10年間に現実となるかもしれない”とも付け加えた。 よその地と同じように伝統を重んじる若者が少なくなったのと過疎化も少なからず影響を与えている。

生月島と平戸島をつなぐ橋を渡っていると北からの風で単車ごと吹き飛ばされそうになった。5時ごろフランシスコザビエルメモリアル教会に到着した。平戸市は日本で最も古い国際貿易港であり中国からお茶、ボルトガルからのパンとたばこ、イギリスからビール、オランダの薬等が最初に日本に持ち込まれた港である。 フランシスコザビエルは1550年に平戸を訪れ定住を許されそしてキリスト教の布教活動に努力した。それより1年前に最初のポルトガル船が来航した。 かれらは1584年に交易所を開設しその後すぐにオランダ、イギリスがつづいた。ポルトガル人の「布教活動と貿易を切り離せない」という彼らの主張のため徳川幕府の禁教を言い渡しすべてのボルトガル人、スペイン人は1639年日本を追放された。2年後オランダの交易所は長崎の出島へ移されその後日本の海外との貿易は出島で中国人とプロテスタントを信仰し貿易だけを目的とするオランダ人に限定された。その後再びヨーロッパに開港するのに2世紀以上の時間を有した。

九州を離れる前に数多くのクリスチャンと外国人、それと日本人がいっしょに住むここ平戸で最後の夜を過ごそうと港近くの小さなツーリストオフィスに行き宿を尋ねた。中にいた女性が電話をかけてくれホテルで渡すように私の名前を書いた紙切れを渡された。”何という名前のホテルですか?”と私がたずねると ”チャペル”と彼女は答えた。終わり良ければすべて良し。

次の朝また雨が降りだした。陶器で有名な伊万里を訪れそして雨で冷えた体を温めるため武雄温泉で止まった。長崎高速道にのりその後九州道と乗り継ぎし福岡の少し手前で渋滞に巻き込まれたが単車ではさほど問題はなく5時ごろ本州と九州を結ぶ橋を渡り火の山にある次のコンフレンスに近い下関ユースホステルに向かった。私が泊まった部屋からはすばらしい眺めの関門海峡と数キロにわたりライトアップされた関門橋が見えた。 暗くなってきたのと雨のため翌朝に次のコンフレンス行きを延ばしその後は下関ですごくおいしい地酒と”死ぬほどおいしい”ふぐを食べた。次の朝日曜日、まだ雨が降っていた。

目的のコンフレンスに到着するまで10分とかからなかった。地図によれば2つの建物の敷地を通ればもっと近くに行けると思い1つ目の建物の敷地に入ろうとしたが二人のガードマンに止められた。二つ目の建物(下関発電所)にはガードマンはいなかったので入れたが制服を着た男にすぐに立ち去るように言われた。最後の手段は船。雨は止んだが外にはほとんど誰もいない。やっと漁船の近くで散歩をしている人を見つた。 彼は電話をするので少し待ってくれと言い5分後二人の男と軽トラで帰ってきた。 彼らは中型の漁船に乗せてくれた。 予想していたとおりポイントは下関発電所か数メ―トルの所で私達のいる所から2km先だった。 この二人はお礼のお金を受け取らなかった、それどころかとれたての3Kgほどのタコをもらった。 私のお盆休み―単車で1500kmそして船で1000km―はもうすぐ終わり。別府温泉につかった後7時に神戸行きのフェリーに乗った。

Translated by Naohiko Kurahashi


 All pictures
#1: Confluence N34 E131
#2: View to the east
#3: Captain with view of confluence behind
#4: View of confluence with Shimonoseki Power Station in the background
#5: Passengers on the ferry to Hirado
#6: Hirado Castle
#7: Hirado port - circa 1630-1640
#8: Imari
#9: Takeo onsen
#10: Kanmon Bridge
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)
  Notes
In the industrial harbour area of Chōfu, only about 40 m from a quay.