2005/07/28

Tall Stories

Typhoon Banyan dumped a lot of rain the night before it was to arrive on our doorstep, then missed us entirely. It also took a lot of the moisture out the air and the following day was hot and clear. We took advantage of the beautiful weather to check out some sights.

First stop was just a mile or so from home. The area where we live is a strip of land only 3 miles wide that runs the lenght of Lake Kitaura on our West and the Pacific Ocean to our East. "Ohno Shiosai Hamanasu" Park is less than half a mile from the ocean and is surrounded by small farms. It features a 225 observation tower, next to a nice wooded area with a stream and trail, a 450 foot long slide for kids, and baseball field. We entered at the base of the tower, paid the 300 yen entrance fee (only about $2.75) and discovered that there is nice museum of local history with a lot of artifacts on display. Surprisingly, they also house a large number of reproductions of famous paintings ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso and some of the reanisance, romantic, and impressionist painters in between. There is also a planetarium, but we didn't have time to take in the show.

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View South to Kamisu City, Kashima Soccer Stadium on Right


We were delighted with the view from the tower. The visibility was excellent and the view encompasses the industral area of Kamisu with its 600 foot high smokestacks in the South, Mt. Tsukuba 32 miles to the Northwest, and the Pacific coast North as far as one can see. Closer by were a lighthouse built a mile inland, the Kashima Soccer Stadium and the tree tops of the old cedars at Kashima Jingu shrine. We could not see our house or lake Kitaura because of trees.

After lunch at home we headed out the find the lighthouse we had seen from the tower. Its location so far inland seemed odd, but it does give it added height for better visibility. Called Kashima Lighthouse it went into service in 1971.

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Kashima Lighthouse


Having gotten into a lighthouse mood, we topped off the gas tank and drove South to Choshi City which occupies a cape where Chiba and Ibaraki Prefectures meet and where the Tone river enters the Pacific. Choshi has been settled by humans since ancient times and is famous for making shoyu (soysauce), as well as sardine fishing.

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Choshi


On a high rocky point sits the Inubosaki (barking dog) lighthouse. It is a popular tourist destination and many people visit on New Years morning to watch the first rays of sunlight reach the island of Honshu. Standing 102 feet tall, It was designed by English engineer Richard Henry Brunton and lit in 1874. Next to the light is a tall GPS locator antenna, the signals from which help ships and aircraft within about 200 kilometers to pinpoint their location with a high degree of accuracy. A glance at a map of Japan and the importance of this location for navigation becomes obvious.

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Brunton, was hired by the Meiji government to bring Western technology to Japan and he lived in Japan for eight years. Building lighthouses to insure the safety of ships coming to Japanese ports was a requirement of an international treaty which Japan had signed in 1867. After Inobusaki lighthouse was completed, Brunton went on to work on Japan's telegraph system and also designed Yokohama Park. He later wrote a memoir of his years in Japan titled "Schoolmaster to an Empire".

Unfortunately for us we arrived a few minutes too late to go into the lighthouse, which is open to the public and has 99 steps leading to the observation deck. There are nice paths around it from which one can view the waves crashing onto to the rocky shore and we enjoyed the ocean air and vistas. Denifitely another site we will add to our list of places to visit again.

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