01-Oct-2004 -- When returning towards Tokyo from 44N 143E, a magic gravity started to pull us towards 37N141E, eclipsing plans to visit some historic sites. First we hoped that the point would be on land, although our map and this confluence site indicated the opposite. Indeed, the information of this site was slightly inaccurate, but not quite enough. Instead of 4 km, the point was 1.7 km from land, the lighthouse of Toyama village.
The sun was just setting behind the mountains giving a good opportunity to some snapshots of the beautiful landmark. There was a fishing port only 2.1 km from the confluence and with almost one and half hours until darkness I was hoping to be able to negotiate a boat trip from some of the fishermen.
However, with my virtually non-existent, but nonetheless indispensable Japanese skills, the stars shone bright before I succeeded in making myself understood and understanding that they understood. The picturesque lighthouse did not make the task any easier. After indicating that I want to take pictures (at the confluence), I was repeatedly advised to take the pictures straight away before 9 pm, after which the building would not be illuminated anymore. As it slowly dawned on them that I wanted to take pictures at the confluence, there were sceptic comments that the lighthouse would look awfully small from so far away.
Eventually we agreed to meet the next morning 10 am at the pier, and Captain Suzuki presented the tiny boat which we were supposed to be sailing with. I was slightly sceptic, considering the swell, but who was I to judge? These guys were twice my age and had probably spent all their lives at sea and survived so far. My wife however (a naval architect, BTW), categorically refused to end her life in that “dingy”.
We were kindly guided to a nearby ryokan (Japanese style inn), where we enjoyed a superb dinner, prepared by another Suzuki-san and his wife (see picture #6). Next morning, before the boat trip, we had still the honour to be presented by Mr Suzuki to two shinto-priests, father and son (see picture #7).
A taifun had passed during the night a couple of hundreds of kilometres north from where we were, and that was probably responsible for the fairly heavy swell inspite of the calm weather. Instead of the dingy we therefore sailed with a real something you can already call a ship (see picture #8). So, in the end everyone was right: I trusting the fishermen, Mari-Helena refusing to board the small boat and the fishermen would survive yet another day.
The skipper was changed as well and instead of Captain Suzuki, we were taken to the confluence by Captain Masai Tadashi (see picture #5). Captain Tadashi fortunately knew the word stoppo [sic] and I knew the words left and right in Japanese, which combination enabled me to guide the boat close enough to the confluence to take the pictures.
As celebration drink Captain Tadashi handed us two bottles of cold green tea.
Meanwhile, back in the Office, a colleague of mine had fabricated the following e-mail and forwarded it to other colleagues pretending to have received it from me. Here it goes.
“Subject: News from Olli Sundell, Japan
I am in big trouble. I need your help. Did you know that there were no confluence points left in Japan? I guess I must have told you. So I took a sailing boat to reach Vladivostok in order to trek into deep Siberia and to write my name in Times New Roman on the world map by collecting the points in the desert. The problem is that in Yokoshicucu, the wife of an ex-collleague of a friend of my sister in-law sold me a boat that has a hole in the hull and the mast is off-set. Instead of reaching N° 52 L° 12, we are now seeing the coast of the Philippines. I know you have some files to do in the B65D field but could you check if there are some points left in Philippines? What about Malaysia?
I’m afraid that the fact that this mail was actually taken seriously tells more about my reputation than the gullibility of my colleagues.