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Japan : Chūgoku

3.6 km (2.2 miles) WNW of Tsukatsuno, Misaki-cho, Okayama-ken, Chūgoku, Japan
Approx. altitude: 317 m (1040 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 35°S 46°W

Accuracy: 5 m (16 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: WGS84 and Tokyo datum #3: A view from across the golf course #4: Route 429 #5: Tsuyama castle #6: Sakura #7: Hanami in Tsuyama #8: Yo-zakura #9: Mitsukuri Genpo (1799 - 1863) #10: About 20 meters east of the confluence

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  35°N 134°E (visit #1)  

#1: A view of the confluence N36 E134

(visited by Fabrice Blocteur)

Japanese Narrative

English Narrative

06-Apr-2003 -- According to a French proverb Jamais deux sans trois, or "Never two without three". After doing my first confluence (N35 E135) in February and my second (N36 E136) in March, it was time to do the third one in April. According to the ancient Japanese moon calendar, April was originally called uzuki, meaning "the month of eggs", and symbolizing new beginnings. And it is truly a month of renewal for Japanese people: the academic year starts in April, as does the financial year.

If you ask any Japanese what symbolizes this renewal, he or she will undoubtedly answer: "sakura!" (cherry blossom). Wherever you go at this time of the year is simply gorgeous. You see Japan's national flower everywhere with blossom ranging from pale green through pure white, delicate pink to a dark shade of rose. And as TV news report the progress of the sakura-zensen (the front-line of sakura blossoms) moving north, this little flower penetrates the innermost core of the Japanese psyche. Couples, entire families and coworkers gather together, ideally under a cherry tree, to appreciate the beauty of the pink petals. This special event called Hanami, literally meaning "watching flowers", takes place during the very short life of the sakura. Partiers bring food, set up barbecues and drink lots of sake to show their highest praise for the renewal of the year and the coming of spring.

Going from my house in Maizuru to Tsuyama where the confluence is located should have been relatively fast and easy. A highway can take you there in just over two hours. But it was sunny, and it was Sunday, and spring had finally arrived: a perfect combination to ride a motorbike through the Japanese countryside. I was on the road by 8:00am and an hour later I got on Route 429. This old "national road" takes you into the center of the Chugoku region, the "middle lands" of western Honshu, the heart of Japan's main island. But the surroundings make it hard to believe that we are in one of the most populated and industrialized parts of the world. Two hour's drive down Route 429 takes you through a succession of mountain passes and isolated villages, right across Hyogo Prefecture to Shibiki Pass. The fact that Japan is 80% mountainous is difficult to believe in Tokyo or Osaka, but not here. I entered into Okayama prefecture and less than an hour later I was in Tsuyama.

I headed directly south of the city to a golf club that, according to the map, was supposed to be very near the confluence. I entered the club, got off the motorbike, walked to a wide space overlooking the entire course and turned on my GPS. It showed that the confluence was across the golf club. I went back on the motorbike, got around the club on a small local road which took me less than 80 meters from the point. From there I just had to follow the navigation pointer and walk directly to the N35 E134 confluence.

After taking some pictures, I double backed to Tsuyama. If the sakura symbolizes an annual renewal, Tsuyama in its own way contributed to a renewal of Japan in the late 19th Century. At the end of the Edo era, the study of Western science and culture became popular. Among the scholars of what was then called Western learning, many came from Tsuyama, the most prominent of all being Genpo Mitsukuri. He and his followers not only adopted advanced Western knowledge in the field of medicine, but also in natural and social sciences -- thus adding greatly to the development of learning in Japan, and paving the way for the country's rapid modernization after the Meiji Era dawned in 1868.

Every year the city of Tsuyama holds a Sakura festival. The 5000 cherry trees in Kakuzan Park are famous for being one of the best places for viewing cherry blossoms in western Japan. And the best time to see them is in the evening when the cherry blossom can be seen by the light of lanterns against a backdrop of the castle ruins. Here hundreds of people gather to enjoy yo-zakura (night-time cherry blossoms), making that festival an utterly enchanting event, a colorful Japanese renewal.

Japanese Narrative

05-Apr-2003 -- フランスに、「2度あることは3度」ということわざがある。2月に”北緯35°東経135°”、3月に ”北緯36°東経136°”の交差点を訪れた私は、3つ目を4月に訪れることにした。陰暦では、4月はもともと、”卯月(卵の月)”と呼ばれ、新しい命の象徴であったという。まさに、4月は日本の人々にとって新しい出発の月だ。学校も会社もすべて4月から始まる。

「新しい門出を象徴するものは?」と日本人に聞けば、おそらく誰もが「桜!」と答えるだろう。この時期、どこへ行ってもその華麗な姿を見ることが出来る。日本の国花でもある桜は、花の色も薄緑や純白、淡いピンクから濃い紅色へと多彩である。テレビニュースは連日、桜前線の北上を伝え、この小さな花は、日本人の心の奥底を揺さぶるのだ。恋人達、家族連れ、会社の同僚、皆、桜の木の下に集い、花を楽しむ。”花見”と呼ばれるこの行事は、桜が咲くほんのわずかの間だけのものだ。ごちそうを持ち寄り、あるいはバーベキューをし、酒をくみ交わし、春の訪れと新年度のスタートを祝うのである。

舞鶴の自宅から津山(北緯と東経の交差点がある)までは、たやすく行けそうである。高速を使えば2時間余りで着いてしまう。が、しかし、日曜で天気も上々、しかも春爛漫とくれば、バイクで田舎道を走る方がいいだろう。8時前に出発し、1時間で429号線まで来た。この旧国道は、西日本の真ん中である中国地方へと続く。が、まわりを見渡せば、ここが世界の中でも先進国で人口密度の高い国の一つだというのが信じられないだろう。兵庫県から志引までの429号線を、2時間走っても、山が続き、ぽつぽつと民家が点在するばかりなのだ。日本の80%は山で占められるという事実は、東京や大阪にいては信じがたいが、ここならうなづける。岡山県に入ってから、1時間足らずで津山に到着した。

私は、町の南にあるゴルフ場を目指した。地図を見ると、そこが交差地点に最も近そうである。コースが見渡せる場所に立ってGPSのスイッチを入れると、交差地点はゴルフ場のむこう2、3百メートルにあるらしい。バイクに乗り、ゴルフ場を迂回する狭い道をたどると、ポイントまで80メートルに迫った。そこからはナビゲーションをたどり、徒歩で北緯35°東経134°の交差点を見つけることが出来た。

写真を撮った後、再び津山市内に戻った。桜が年ごとの再生を象徴するように、津山はある意味で18世紀後半の日本の再生に貢献したといえる。江戸時代末期、西洋の科学や文化が人気を得ていた。当時、蘭学者と呼ばれた学者の多くは津山出身で、中でも、箕作阮甫(みつくりげんぽ)は、優れた業績を残した。彼とその一派は、西洋の知識を薬学だけでなく、自然科学にも取り入れた。このことは、学問の進歩を促し、1868年に明治時代となってから後の急速な近代化の礎となったのである。

津山では毎年、桜祭りが開かれる。5000本の桜が植えられている鶴山公園は、西日本の桜の名所として有名だ。ことに城跡を背景に提灯の中に浮かび上がる夜の桜の美しさは格別である。今年もここに、人々が集い、夜桜を楽しみ、美しい日本の、新しい季節の始まりに酔いしれている。

Translated by Eiji & Yuko Hashimoto


 All pictures
#1: A view of the confluence N36 E134
#2: WGS84 and Tokyo datum
#3: A view from across the golf course
#4: Route 429
#5: Tsuyama castle
#6: Sakura
#7: Hanami in Tsuyama
#8: Yo-zakura
#9: Mitsukuri Genpo (1799 - 1863)
#10: About 20 meters east of the confluence
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)