Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tsurumi /  鶴見

(Better Know a City)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I was talking to a couple Japanese friends, and I commented that I was surprised that Saiki (see previous post) was a decent sized city.
"Ah, yes," one of them said. "But Saiki is the end. After Saiki there nothing is along the coast but mountains until you get down to Miyazaki.

Whether that ends up being true or not for the next two coastal towns remains to be seen. But that was certainly true of Tsurumi.

Tsurumi is just south of Saiki city, so I drove through Saiki to Tsurumi.
Almost as soon as I crossed the boarder, there was a parking lot with some pavilions. Thinking this might be some sort of park, I stopped, but not seeing anything here besides rotting fish nets I decided it must just be a stopping place for fisherman. Still, I took a few pictures.

My next stop was the town hall, where I wandered in and helped myself to some pamphlets.

I then walked across the street to the rest area (Michi no eki) to see if I could pick up any more information about Tsurumi.

A woman was emerging just as I arrived, and she struck up a conversation with me. "Where have you been?" she asked me.
"You mean where am I from? I'm from America."
"Where in America?"
"My daughter is studying in Oregon right now," she said.
"Hey, no kidding." We talked for a while about this, then I asked her what was worth seeing in Saiki.
"There's a manga (w) museum," she said. "Just follow the road that way."

I went inside the rest area and looked at the maps they had there. (Mostly the same ones I had picked up from the town hall).
There was a large map on the wall, and an old man behind me suddenly started explaining. He began his explanation with absolutely no plemeninaries whatsoever, so that it took me a few seconds before I realized he was talking to me.
"This is Tsurumi here. If you follow this road, it goes along the coast."

I nodded and pretended this was helpful. But his family was obviously embarrassed, and his son and grandchildren tried to get him to come away. "Alright dad, he understands. You don't need to keep explaining," a younger man said, while gently tugging on his arm.
For the sake of conversation, I asked the old man the same question. "What's interesting to see in Tsurumi?"
"In Tsurumi? The manga museum."

I stopped by the local supermarket for some food, and then got back in the car and headed out to explore Tsurumi.
If you look at Tsurumi on a map, the whole town is just one peninsula jutting out from Oita prefecture. Or to be more precise, it's only the north half of this peninsula. (The bottom half is Yonozu, a town I hope to get to latter this week). From this one peninsula, lots of little small peninsulas protrude like scraggly fingers.
Because the whole peninsula is covered with mountains that go right up to the coast, the main road through Tsurumi hugs the coast line as it goes around the mountains.

Thus, to drive through Tsurumi your only choice is a long and winding road that follows the coastline in all its twists and turns. It takes forever to get from one end of the peninsula to the other. But man, what a beautiful drive.

All the curves in the road made me worry slightly about wear and tear on my car (my poor car has endured a lot on this project), but cruising along with the tunes playing and view of the ocean and the mountains, I thought I understood why so many of my Japanese students tell me their hobby is "driving".

Unfortunately most of this drive I didn't get a chance to document because there were few places to stop the car.

I did get the car stopped a couple times, however, where I took some pictures of the coast lines and rock formations.

A little further down the road was a parking lot labelled "Yasuragi no Michi". There was a small waterfall trickling down the mountain (although it was covered up almost completely by the plants and foilage, so it might be difficult to see in these pictures.

A Japanese family was also parked here, and they were busy snorkeling in the ocean.

Slightly down the road I saw a sign for Tagauraenchi. I turned off the road and followed the sign, not knowing what it was.

There was a sign that said I had to pay to enter, but that the park was closed for today.
However the gate was wide open, and the place looked like it hadn't been open for some time.

I would discover during the course of the day that most of the attractions in Tsurumi were like this. There were sights indicated on the tourist maps and signs from the mainroad, but when you actually checked places out most of them were abandoned. They always had a sign that said, "closed for the day", but most of them looked like they had been closed for much longer.

I drove in, parked my car, and looked around.

Since I never obtained fluency in Japanese, I had a hard time reading some of the signs and I wasn't sure what this place was. It had paper cranes, a "peace stone" and a list of names, so it appeared to be some sort of peace park or commemoration of fallen soldiers. There were also lots of caves in the mountain which looked man made, and appeared at one time to have a military significance. (The were closed gates in front of the caves, but you could look in through the bars and get an idea of what was inside).
There was also an old rusted airplane propeller, presumably from the war.
I was reminded of the wartime airplane hangers in Usa which were hidden in caves to protect them from the bombing, and I wondered if this might be similar. Or maybe some sort of secret army barracks.

There was a path which went out behind the park and to the ocean front. I followed it and wandered over by the seaside, but the path appeared to disappear here, so after taking some pictures of the ocean I wandered back.

There was another path leading up to the top of the hill. It was so hot that I didn't want to do any unnecessary hiking, and yet my curiosity got the better of me in the end and I hiked up.

Once about halfway up, the path split off into a couple sections. One of the signs advertised a scenic view out on the edge of the hill, so I followed this little path down and then up again to the top of a hillside overlooking the ocean.

Then I retraced my steps, and went up to the top of the original hill. There was a good view here, overlooking what was identified as Bungo Channel (W). But there was also a huge dome thingy. The door was open, so I just walked inside.

There was a man-made hole hollowed out in the rock cliffs, and stairs leading down. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be here or not, but curiosity was really getting the better of me, so I went down.

It was nice to get out of the blazing sun, and it certainly was very cool down here in these caves, but what was this place?
The walls were lined with lightbulbs, but none of them were on, so aside from the sunlight coming through the dome and the penlight I had on my cellphone, I had a hard time seeing anything.

The place had obviously been abandoned. You could tell by all the dirt on the floor. And yet it didn't seem like it was as old as the war times. There were neon lights along the walls (not turned on, but there nevertheless)and the floor was tiled over.
I saw some signs which and tried to make out some of the Kanji--water, pressure, power...Had this been some sort of hydroelectric powerplant.

And then I saw a sign that explained everything. A picture of a giant cannon--a big piece of artillery, that used to be in this hole. (And in fact now that I thought about it I also, somewhat belatedly it is true, was able to recognize the kanji character for "cannon", which I had studied once before and which was written all over this park.)
At one point there had been a giant artillery cannon here to shoot down incoming American planes. Then at some later point the cannon had been removed, and the whole place had been turned into a peace park. And then at some point the tourists must have stopped coming, so they stopped worrying about keeping it up, but left the parking lot gate open and the door to the dome open so people could come in and explore the on their own.
At least that's my theory.

Next, back in the car and off to do some more exploring.
I drove along until I came to another scenic view spot--dandan, I believe it was called. From there I could get a good look at Ooshima Island, one of the big Islands off of Tsurumi (unfortunately I didn't get a chance to go and visit it that day).
Between the coast of Tsurumi and Oshima Island there was an interesting current in the ocean, which caused lots of ripples of white water. There was even a name for these ripples, which were called "motonomakaikyo" (I think).

The sign also told me that from here on out I would be embarking on the eastern most point of the Kyushu Island. Which is pretty cool I guess. I can now cross that off my list of life goals--to walk on the eastern most point of Kyushu.

Slightly down the road from here was a beach, Shimokajizaki (connected to a campground), which many families were swimming at.

Close to the beach was some sort of water child (mizu no ko) museum about the ocean and the birds of the ocean. This was in the guide pamphlets and on the roadsigns, but like everything else in Tsurumi it was closed, and it looked like it had been closed for some time.

Next, I continued on to the very peak of the Tsuruzaki Peninsula--the Tsumizaki natural park.

And, like everything else in Tsurumi, they had long ago given up on this place. The gate was opened, so you could drive through, but no one was manning it.

Almost everything in the park appeared to be still open to the public. Although there were lots of signs warning that the exhibit "Tsubaki (Camellias) of the world" was now closed. But everything else appeared to be fair game.

There was a sign pointing towards a nature trail, and I started walking down that. According to the sign, the trail would lead to cliffs overlooking the ocean. However the trail has overgrown with underbush.

Another sign that it had not been hiked in some time was all the spiders who built webs across it.
In Japan, spiders love to build webs in the open air between two sides of a hiking trail. Although the spiders are big and grotesque looking, I don't think they are dangerous but it's still very irritating to walk into one of their webs and have to pull all the sticky goo from your body and then find the spider crawling somewhere on your clothes.

Now imagine this happening every few feet.
Eventually I grabbed a walking stick and just started trashing the air in front of me to clear all potential webs.

Because of all the underbrush my legs got cut up a bit by thorns and branches. They were small cuts, but as sometimes only small cuts can do they really stung, especially because of all the sweat mixed with sunscreen oils running down my leg.

I came across a trail sign advising me that I had hiked 0.4 km, and had 5.6 left to go. And I thought, "nuts to this" and headed back.
I'm sure it would have been a nice view, but I had been driving along the coast all day and was feeling a bit spoiled for scenic views of the ocean.

I got back and my car and drove down a bit further to the light house.

At the base of the light house was yet another abandoned building. The door was unlocked, so I went in and looked around at what at one time had been a reception desk and a few exhibits.

The whole building had really gone to pot. Dirt was everywhere, water was leaking in, and the paint was falling off the ceiling and covering the desk below.

There were a couple of beat up books featuring cartoons, and I remembered the "manga museum" I had been told about earlier in the day. Was this it? A pretty poor excuse if you ask me.

Despite the fact that obviously no one was keeping up this place, there was a journal left for comments. And surprisingly, the comments were all recently dated--several from even this past week alone. So people were still coming here.

I tried to read through the book with my poor Japanese skills to see if I could find out any information, but most of these comments were unhelpful. Some of the commenters obviously shared my ambivalence about whether they were even supposed to be here. "Um, the door was open, so we came in. That's alright, isn't it?" But the majority of the people just signed their name or wrote something about themselves rather than the exhibit.

Apparently, this little museum, if it can be called that, is dedicated to Tominaga Ichiro, who grew up in this area and later became a (somewhat) famous cartoonist. I can't find a single English website on him, but the Japanese wikipedia does give him a page (J-W). This does explain all the cartoon drawings I saw on signs around Tsurumi.

(Digging around a bit further on the web, I also found that the enka song "otoko no minato" (port of men) was written about the Tsuruzaki port, which also explains a lot of references to the kanji "otoko no minato" I had seen throughout the day. However my Japanese is not good enough to decipher what the song is about. A reference to the wartime cannons that once stood here perhaps, or just to the lovely view? (Link to this song on youtube.))

Besides the manga, there was also a bizarre collection of fishing doppers, according to the signs collected by a Mr. Aoki.
As best I could discern from the newspaper article posted on the wall, Mr. Aoki collected these fishing doppers as part of a beach clean-up project. So I give him full marks for the beach clean-up, even if the dopper display struck me as a little pointless.

I took a bit of video around here, and shortly after turning off the camera I whacked my head on the low ceiling. Searing pain was followed by a string of profanity. I had been careful to watch my head on the way in, but got forgetful on the way out.

Occasionally hitting my head against low ceilings and doorways is, unfortunately, just a part of living in Japan. Sometimes I wonder if all the time I've spent in Japan has made me stupider because of the many blows to the head.

Moving around to the front of the lighthouse, I scrapped my leg against some of the concrete, drawing blood.
All this added to the dizzyness I was feeling from the heat was making me quite frustrated at Tsurumi.

Around the back from the lighthouse was a scenic viewing spot.

And down the hill a bit from the lighthouse was a path that I followed down, which led me to a little clearing and a sign saying I was now on the easternmost point of Kyushu.
I had seen several of these signs now, but I think this was the last and official one. All the other signs had just been preliminaries--this was the spot.
I looked around and took some pictures.

Also near the lighthouse was a path leading down to an old war time cannon. (Apparently there had been a cannon stationed here to in addition to the one in Tangaura). But the path had gotten so overgrown with weeds that they had closed it off with a sign saying "danger: don't go down this path". So I didn't.

There was one more place to see in this park. On the top of the hill was something called the "panaromic bridge". It was a short hike up from the parking lot, and from it you could get a nice view down at the lighthouse and the ocean.

The breeze coming in from the ocean was so cool at the top of the hill that I didn't want to leave, and found excuses to stay up here wandering around, and even sat down for a while to read some of my book.

A sign near the bridge highlighted the war time history of this area, and read, "even now you can still see reminders of the war" and then went into more detail about the cannon located near here.

I had now come to the very out edge of Tsurumi. There was nothing to do now but head back.

There was, as far as I could tell, only one road going through Tsurumi. So I took the same winding coastal road back.

There were several scenes I would have liked to stop and take a picture of such as the fisherman's boats lined up at the dock and the fisherman sitting around the boats chatting at the end of the day, and listening to the 5 O'clock broadcast announcements. But again there weren't always a lot of convenient places to stop the car, so I kept driving.

I kept my eyes open for anything that I might have missed the first time. And I did stop briefly by "Marine Park Ariake". This was also something indicated on the tourist brochures. It was set up as on a high rock overlooking the ocean, and at one time it appeared to have been a restaurant in which the circular 2nd floor windows offered a 360 degree view. But like everything else in Tsurumi, it was closed down and looked abandoned.

It was clouded over by now, and had been drizzling rain on and off all afternoon. We've certainly been having a very rainy summer, but at least I'm thankful that the rain held off until I was done touring. Once I called it a day and left Tsurumi, it started raining in earnest.

Tsurumi Links
Tsurumizaki lighthouse ,
This article here is more on Saiki (see my previous post) but includes a bit on Tsurumi on the bottom. I've also had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman who wrote this. He's a fellow West Michigander and a Hope college graduate.

Link of the Day
Interview with US political activist and philosopher Noam Chomsky

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