Friday, September 30, 2011

Ryukyu pine

Recently, I had a little free time and I needed to get some walking exercise. I started out by going down to the aquarium near Dolphin Port (25 minutes) and visited the ferry terminal next door. Unfortunately, this one was just for Sakurajima, so I continued past the aquarium to the next terminal a block farther on. This one included the ferry to Amami island. As I was looking over the map outside, trying to figure out where Amami is, a guy came out of the building to smoke a cigarette. I asked him about travel times and was told that Amami is about 12 hours away by boat. He suggested Tanegashima, the island that has the rocket launch pads, as an alternative, but that's still something like 5 hours away. Since it was already 4 PM, I gave up on taking the ferry somewhere and just started walking up the coast in the direction of Sengan-en. My ultimate goal was just to check out the beach just short of Sengan-en. With the side trips I took and stopping for photos, it was 20 minutes from the ferry terminal to the beach. The beach looked like a typical strip of sand with a roped off swimming area. There were a few swimmers, some windsurfers, and a couple guys farther down along the coast snorkeling. Sengan-en was another 6 blocks past the beach. Because of the car traffic backed up at the lights, the narrow sidewalk, and the dirty air right beside the cars, I turned around and headed back at this point.

About 4 blocks back, I suddenly noticed this lantern across the street from me. Earlier, I'd walked right past it without realizing it. From the marker:

"Landmark for Ryukyu Ships
Ryukyu Pine
...Famous tree, 142 years old...
Here at Iso, there used to be a famous pine with magnificent branches that looked as if they held the nearby stone lantern in their arms. It was known as the "Ryukyu pine" because it formed a landmark for ships arriving from Ryukyu (Okinawa). The hill behind was also famous for its cherry blossom and was a favorite spot for sightseeing from ships. The pine, however, was attacked by insects after World War II and died.

On October 2nd, 1953, the then Mayor, Katsume Kiyoshi, cut down the pine and had several Himematsu planted in its stead. One of these can still be seen to the left of the stone lantern. The original ryukyu pine was said to have 142 growth rings.

On May 15th, 1973, to commemorate the first anniversary of Okinawa's reunification with Japan, Naha City presented Kagoshima with a new Ryukyu pine which now grows on the righthand side of the lantern."

(Photo of the original pine.)

I pretty much went nonstop back to the apartment. Total trip time was between 3 and 3.5 hours. Taking it in stages makes it easy, but going directly from the beach to the apartment left me really tired. Especially since the humidity was fairly high. No idea what the temps were, but they weren't that crippling. Maybe high 80's. At 2:30 AM the following morning, there was a heavy rainstorm, so maybe the air was heavy during the walk.

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