Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sakura-jima, the back 40, part 1

(My target. The plan is to go to the left and then around and behind the volcano.)

One year ago (wow, I can't believe it was that far back) I walked from the ferry port on Sakura-jima, down to just short of Sakura-jima Guchi (Sakura-Jima Entrance). The weather had been bad, including rain, and I wasn't able to see the volcano cone. I've been wanting to go back and try again, but it wasn't until Oct. 14 that I got the "perfect storm" - a full day with no online work scheduled, no classes scheduled, and clear skies. So, at 10:45 AM, I headed out of the apartment, walked down to the ferry port, and rode the ferry over to the island. My intent was to take a bus to where I'd left off last time, and keep walking counterclockwise around the island to return to the port from the north end. But, when I arrived there at 11:45 AM, I found that the nearest bus had departed 15 minutes earlier and the next bus wouldn't be until after 12:30. (Afterward, I also found out that the bus only goes clockwise around the island, and it would have cost more than I was expecting to pay. Details later.) So, I started from the ferry port and went straight north. I've followed this route several times before, because it's the way to get to the main observation building halfway up the volcano. This time, when I reached the intersection with the grocery store and junior high school, I just kept following the coastline. I was annoyed to discover that the grocery store was closed, I guess for refurbing until Oct. 15, because I had only gotten a 2-liter bottle of water, half a liter of can coffee and a hot dog sandwich at the grocery store near the apartment and had been planning on getting some other snacks at the store at the intersection. This put more pressure on my finding a ramen shop along the way (which never happened).

(Details of the layering in the ridge at the north end of the volcano, which is much older than the south end.)

I ended up walking about 20 kilometers (12 miles) in 5.5 hours. I could have gone faster, but I was constantly looking for opportunities to take photos. I have 190 files, including several videos of the volcano. I had no idea I'd taken that many... I brought both cameras, but the big one ran out of battery the second I turned it on, so it became just a heavy paperweight for the entire walk. I had to resort to the new pocket camera, which was a problem occasionally. I really needed the x50 zoom of the bigger camera when photographing birds, and the x30 zoom on the pocket camera just wasn't enough then, which is part of the reason why I got so many photos - I kept taking extras in the hopes that one or two would turn out. Anyway, even if I delete the ones I don't want, I'm going to have 96 shots, so I'll have to break this blog entry up into 3 parts.

(Finally found where they've been keeping Godzilla.)

I got down to Sakura-jima Guchi at 5 PM, and the next bus was scheduled for 5:14. I didn't have time to visit the little fishing village that I saw from the road, which was about a mile out of the way from the main bus loop, so I continued to the next stop and waited for the bus there. On the bus, I kept studying the road, looking for the point where I gave up last year. I found it a few minutes later, but I'm not sure how fast the bus was going. It may have been 3-4 kilometers from where I got on this time. So, I've almost made the full loop around the island. The bus fare back was 440 yen ($4 USD). I'd almost like to try visiting that fishing village (I don't know the name, it's in the direction of Tarumizu) some time, but there's nothing in that 3-4 km gap that I haven't walked to make the trip worthwhile, and if I take the bus both out and back, it's going to be almost $10 just for that. On the other hand, it would be kind of fun to go back to the observation deck where I was watching the volcano cone, and try getting photos of the sun setting behind the mountain (assuming I could return to the ferry port after it got dark out).

Ok, for the trip. There's not a lot to look at from the ferry port to the north end of the island, except for houses, both new and broken down, boats on the water in the bay, and hawks. Several hawks. Who all kept messing with me, with their flying away when I got the camera out. Stupid hawks. Spent almost 15 minutes just trying to get one good shot of them. Stupid hawks. [grumble] [grumble]

I could hear them, laughing at me.

Persimmons are popular in Japan, and most families will have at least one or two trees in the backyard. Sakurajima, which also raises daikon (Japanese radish), ko-mikan (small oranges) and grapes, is no exception.

Tetrapods are very common around the docks.

The view north towards Aira and Kirishima.

A scary old tree, just in time for Halloween.

This marker sign was in an empty lot in front of a house. "Sakurajima forever. Ganbare Sakurajima" (ganbare = "don't give up", or "fight on"). I assume the numbers mean that it's 35 km back to the ferry port if you go the long way, 5 km if you go the short way. It's safe to say that I've covered 5 kilometers (3 miles; 1.6 km = 1 mile) to this point.

You never know what you're going to find out here, so don't blink.

It does look like a covered tunnel, but it's just the way the trees are shaped from this angle. I like the results.

I wouldn't say that fishing is a really common activity here, but even in the middle of a workday on a Wednesday, there were people out fishing on every flat area along the water.

The honor system is big here. There are tables or little sheds set up along the busier roads to sell home-grown produce. 200 yen per container of grapes or ko-mikan (the small green oranges).

Not really sure what the shop is selling, but the outside artwork is definitely eye catching.

One of the rundown buildings along the road. I'm getting up to the north end of the island at this point, and most of the houses are in neighborhood blocks a little ways back from the water, behind stone and tree windbreaks. I didn't see the majority of houses in this area because I stayed on the coast road, so I can't say how prevalent dilapidated buildings are on the island as a whole. But there were several where I could see them.

In America, this would be labeled either a rat trap, or an attractive nuisance for children, and torn down. In Japan, kids are smart enough to stay away, and all of the stray cats eat the rats.

View from the front door in to a factory that makes tatami mats.

Some of the shelters for protecting people from falling rocks from the volcano are also purposed as bus stop shelters. This was one of the few to actually have comfortable furniture.

View of the north side of the volcano, with a preschool building in the foreground. This was one of the few locations where I could get a good shot through all the overhead power lines.

Just for reference, from the Geo Park booklet, which I picked up at the ferry terminal - the bay was originally formed 30,000 years ago when magma was released from the volcano and created an empty bowl known as the Aira Caldera. The sea filled in the caldera to make Kinko Bay. The island was formed through a series of 17 major eruptions that can be divided into two periods. The first was when the north peak volcano was active, up until 5,000 years ago. The second period started 4,500 years ago, when the south peak became active. The biggest eruption was 13,000 years ago, which covered Kagoshima city in ash 1 meter (39 inches) deep. The most recent big eruption was in 1914, when Sakurajima island became connected to Osumi Peninsula through a land bridge. Currently, the north peak is dormant, and all the ash is coming out of the cone in the south peak. Effectively, Sakura-jima mountain is actually 2 separate volcanoes, the south one sitting on the side of the north one.

I'm getting close to the middle of the north end of the island, and there are more buildings fronting the road. There was a small shrine as well.

Next door was another abandoned house.

In a few places along the coast road, there were swampy sections with grasses growing 10-12 feet tall. The grasses as a whole made for a boring photo, but I thought the purple furry bits at the top looked rather striking.

Someone has no qualms against hanging their laundry out in public to air. Note the Snoopy blanket to the right.

Another view of the north side of the volcano.

Ruffles has ridges.
Actually, what's interesting to me is the way the rain eroded channels through the ash and lava, rather than just washing all of it away to the bay.

There were a couple heron out looking for fish, but they wouldn't let me get close enough for a good detailed photo, flying off when I was still 30 feet away.

Angry dragon fish are a relatively common decoration on the tops of more modern houses that have the clay roofing tiles.

I'm starting to curve a little around to the south at this point, where there's a collection of houses, shops and offices near the road. What I like about this neighborhood map (which just shows where people live) is that there are two sections in the woods on the side of the hill that say "here there be daikon radishes" and "here there be inoshishi" (wild boar). Initially, I thought the map was rotated, so that the two spots were islands in the bay, not places inland.

Ok, now this place is just weird. It looks like it had started out as kind of an amusement center, park or restaurant on both sides of the street, featuring Chinese happy gods of fortune and ship parts, and was then abandoned. Or, maybe, I don't know, it was someone's house.

The place probably looked rundown even when it first opened to the public. I doubt it's been used for at least 5 years.

The torii gate is reinforced with rope, which I guess is a good use of rope, if you have excess rope.

That's enough for today. I'll sleep here and continue tomorrow.

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