Tokyo’s Seaside

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A small Japanese ferry boat.

If you look at Tokyo on a map, especially from a bit further out, you might notice that Tokyo seems to have a bit of oceanside real estate to the south and east. You wouldn’t be wrong, but most of the water found near the center of Tokyo is taken up by the harbor and is, like most harbors, not great for swimming. To get to a usable, quiet beach, you would have to go quite a ways out, which is what we did. About an hour and a half of rail got us to the village of Kurihama, and a bit more of bus and walk got us to the beach of Tomyozaki.

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What a small town looks like on the shore of Japan.

As far as contrasts go, there are few bigger than that of city and countryside. Japan follows the pattern mostly in terms of building height, density, and noise. Outside of Tokyo and other large cities, it is quiet. Very quiet. The cleanliness, safety, and convenience of the city continue while the rest fades away, leaving only a calm, clean, and modern town.

One of the more interesting things we saw along the walk was this ferry.
IMG_3967 It had gone about halfway across the bay, a few minutes worth, when it suddenly turned around. IMG_3977
It had heard this lady and went back to get her so she wouldn’t have to wait for the next trip!

IMG_3998 After the town had entirely faded away we found ourselves on a supremely quiet sandstone coast. We might have been the only visitors there at that instant, though later we did meet others. IMG_4019
The view out onto the water was as serene as could be. Though there had been a small harbor earlier along the walk, it was around the bend and back quiet a ways, fairly out of sight and sound.
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We saw a few jellyfish swimming but most of our sightings were on land, quiet dead. The beach was incredibly clean, contrasted for us even further by having just come from Indonesia.
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Tile and beach glass were to be found all over the beach. I felt there must have been a tile factory somewhere nearby, or maybe a ship had spilled a pile of it sometime ago. Either way, we gathered a good sized pile.
IMG_4068 The beach stretched on for thirty or so minutes at a slow meandering walk. We got tired of carrying the backpack so we left it near the entrance to the beach. Only in Japan. IMG_4075
As we walked we collected more beach glass.
IMG_4146 And had fun arranging it all at the end! Too near to sunset to really finish it though. And the tide was coming in to where we were working, if we’d left any sooner we would have had to wade out. The water was unfortunately too cold to swim in. IMG_4155
On the way back we saw a very cool insect, one of Natalie’s favorites. I thought it was an ant.
IMG_4177 But it was not an ant! It was our old friend the jumping spider, disguised as an ant. If you look closely you can see the differently colored legs and the tapered body. At even a pretty close distance it fooled me, and apparently it does well enough to fool ants. An amazing creature! IMG_4193
Our walk back down the side-road from the beach to the main road where we would wait for a bus.
IMG_4197 A hotel at dusk. It was one of the few large buildings in the area. IMG_4210
As we waited to go home a raven started hopping between some nearby buildings.

It’s definitely a day’s excursion from Tokyo to go to the seaside, and to get to swim you have to go even further. One of the major downsides of living in a sprawling megacity is that all the land nearby must be specially preserved or else it will be put to use serving that city and its residents. Japan solves the problem of getting people out of the city through its amazingly ontime and superfast rail system, which we explore next!

Cape Reinga

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At the not quite northernmost point of New Zealand is Cape Reinga, a peninsula on a peninsula, bordered by crashing waves and fantastic cliffs. We arrived early in the morning, not quite early enough for sunrise, but early enough to be one of only four or so people there. At Reinga there is only a little bit of hill climbing to be done, mostly to see a wider view and to get back to the parking lot. The rest can be accomplished at a slow, meditative walk from the entrance out to the lighthouse.

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The cape is a holy site for the Maori, who believe it to be where the spirits of the dead fly off the island and continue on to the underworld. New Zealand may have issues with cultural relations, but at least from our visitor’s perspective, the government seems to have done a lot right with the monument at the cape. The original gate and toilets were too close to the cape and local Maori complained. The NZ government moved the gate further out and extended the walkway to what is there today. The signs along the route are as educational as they are plentiful. Each one tells a Maori story or describes the local flora and fauna. The signs are made out of wood and rusted metal, designed to be unobtrusive to the area.

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Even the entrance plays a deep and sorrowful wind-ensemble style piece when you walk through it. Initially my impression was that it was slightly corny, but it fits the place and sets the walk to the water off on the right note. For us it changed the experience from simple sightseeing to conscious appreciation of a different culture, and we hope it does the same for others.

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When you reach the lighthouse at the literal end of the road, you can see, far off in the distance, a small outcropping with a gnarled tree growing out the side. This is an eight hundred year old pohutukawa tree which, in Maori folklore, the spirits of the dead grab in order to leap into the ocean and continue their journey.

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It’s quite a sight to see it growing out there, entirely alone and seemingly unsupported. With the surrounding crystal-blue waves it’s an experience of beauty and contrast, the seemingly eternal cliffs battered by the turbulent waves. On a clear day they say you can see even as far out as a set of small islands off the coast. We saw only hints of their shadows through the fog, and that we may have imagined.

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Taking the road back to the main Northland is a continuation in the beauty of nature. Here stand windswept trees to greet you, on hills overlooking rolling green hills stretching out to forever. One the western side of the road, past the grass lies the ocean, on our foggy day a dull gray in contrast to the turquoise to the north. The road is long and mostly lonely, but well worth the drive out and back.

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A small cluster of trees by the road. Together they hold fast against the wind.
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A view across the rolling hills, each one further obscured by fog.
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A view of an outcropping to the west, the edge of a beach visible to the left.
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Sand encroaches on grass where they meet at the ocean’s edge. The sheep seem unconcerned.