17-Oct-2015 -- Chiri Otaku. This is "Geo Geeks" in Japanese. And that is what my friends and colleagues and I were doing on a beautiful autumn morning in the rice fields of Japan. After a week of conducting workshops, presentations, university visits, and promoting and supporting Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in education, it was only inevitable that to cap off our time together with what we are always advocating, and that is, "Get out into the field!"
We took a few trains from Tokyo and eventually ended up at the Kokinu Station. Almost nobody was around. This was a small, quaint, semi-country station, and the train was only one car long. One of my colleagues drove and I placed my luggage in the boot of his car, for which I was grateful, as I was set to depart from the airport later that day. This colleague also visited the point separate from us. We bought some tea and set out to the north from the station, walking on the west side of the tracks along a few lanes until we reached Highway 3. We turned east and crossed the river. Looking north, we spotted what we had seen on the satellite image, a long blue structure, which we finally agreed was a water pipe transporting water to either side of the river. We saw many beautiful persimmon trees with fruit ripening and even some traditional Japanese rural architecture. As we walked north along the levee along the east side of the river, the high ground afforded us views into "the real Japan" - what people were actually doing on a Saturday late morning in autumn: Two children were playing catch, many people were out gardening, and some people were fishing in the river that we were walking along.
After about 45 minutes, we turned and departed the levee to walk on the gridded roads that lined the rice and other fields to the east. As we walked, gradually, the clouds thinned and the sun appeared. After ten minutes, we arrived at the confluence. It was, as we suspected, in a rice field, and to avoid stepping on the plants, and to avoid me sitting on the airplane in wet shoes and socks, we contented ourselves with a stop along an embankment of a ditch and also along one of the brick paths that had been placed by the farmers. We came within a few meters of the actual point. With the sun out, it was a glorious day, about 21 degrees C (70 F) under thin clouds and calm winds. I had visited 36 North numerous times in the USA, from California to North Carolina, but this was my first time on 140 East. This was my first successful confluence in east Asia, following two unsuccessful but fun attempts in Taiwan. Due to my upcoming flight at the airport, we only spent about 25 minutes at the confluence. It was sad to depart but we did so.
Being geographers, we could not walk back the same way we had walked in to the site, so we walked to the southwest, crossed the river at a different point, and then walked along the levee on the west side. I photographed a few magnificent river gauging stations and some bamboo forests. A few new houses have been built and are for sale; it was tempting to think about--what if we bought one? We could visit the confluence everyday! We talked about all things geospatial and education. We did retrace our steps when we neared the train station. The total hike time came in at 2:05, just over two hours. We took the train together for awhile and then parted ways at the train station. It was an excellent way to see the landscape and spend some last moments together. Get out there and explore the Earth! Chiri Otaku!