Ninety-Nine Leagues

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Some photographs I took during a walk to Kujukuri-hama (Ninety-nine Leagues Beach) from my home. What you see is the beach during off-season. In summer it resembles a seriously peopled garbage dump. Until the walk I hadn’t realized just how close the ocean is. It explains why the climate around here never gets really cold or hot like Tokyo two and half hours away by train.

Naruto Rushes

Reed warblers sing their clicking songs amidst these rushes.

Motosuka Hoofs

I never saw the horses, but it was a surprise since there is so little room for horses to manuever in Japan.

Motosuka Palm Bark

In an effort to evoke the spirit of California and Hawai’i the beach is lined with windblown palm trees.

Motosuka Palm Crown BW

The wind began to blow stronger when I arrived.

Motosuka Sand Messages

The sand tells stories of all who pass…

Motosuka Oyako

…and has a way of hushing conversation.

Motosuka Waves 1

You can walk for hours thinking of nothing, and letting the waves wash in and out of your consciousness.

Motosuka Waves 2

It is hard to deny that the ocean is alive and as moody as any singer or storyteller.

Motosuka Waves 3

There are those who seek out the edge of the sea to ask its advice, so often at the beginning or end of things.

Motosuka Fish

The answers are often harsh, but they never relinquish the beauty of each encounter.

Motosuka Restaurant

When the storm came I retreated to a restaurant and listened to the wind outside buffeting the windows. The beer and pizza gilded the beginning of forgetfulness.

I just managed to escape the downpour at my apartment door. The wind blew and blew all night long.

Motosuka Flowers

18 Responses

  1. beautiful story in pictures! strange and ethereal.

  2. Great post. I’m thinking of going down to the Georgia sea islands in November for just this kind of experience.

  3. Your wonderful story left me without words: I often daydream of the same kind of trip (the sea out of season, the desert beach) which has exactly the same conclusion as yours.

  4. Beautiful, meditative – reminds me of our favourite retreat on the west coast of Vancouver Island! Except there are no palm trees, but tall cedars and hemlocks dripping with moss, and stunted wind blown pines.

  5. Beautiful photos, wonderful words… but that is what we have come to expect of you ;^)
    I didn’t realize that you were so close to the ocean… yet another reason that i have to make a trip out your way sometime…

  6. !

    Beautiful, wonderful post.

  7. Some wonderful photos.
    I’ve just read through all your posts for your European trip. I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so honestly. Though what you have to say is sometimes very sad, what you do in your blog is very uplifting.
    You have a new loyal reader.
    Glennie

  8. So comforting to have that beach there for walking. Where I live I can’t get to anywhere like that; it’s just cement and a dirty dockside and racing boats. I think walking in a place like that restores sanity, and what a wonderful place to think. Can it be reached by train and public transport? I’d love to go there, as soon as possible!

  9. Thanks everyone, for your encouraging words. Yes, the beach in that season is a wonderful place to walk, especially on a windy, grey day like that. Kujukuri-hama is the longest, largest beach in Japan and runs along the entire southeastern to northeastern coast of Chiba. It is the surfing Mecca of Japan and a great number of my students at the university I teach at come here solely due to its proximity to the surfing spots. There seems to be quite an effort to protect the beach, though, with Japan’s inevitable hordes and tendancy to build up everything the coastline is having a hard time of it. In summer the crowds and trash and cars and ugly beach huts make it hard to stomach being there, but off season (and Japan has very predictable and official seasons… there is even a national “beach-opening day”) it can really be quite wonderful.

    Vegetablej, if you live around Chiba or Tokyo Kujukuri Beach is very easy to get to. Just take the Sotobo Line to any station along the east coast of the peninsula and usually the train is either right next to the sea, or there are buses going from the train station to the beach. I live in Naruto, along the Sobu-Honsen, and you can take a bus from Naruto station to Motosuka Beach (a part of Kujukuri). The bus leaves about once an hour and the last bus is around 8:00 pm. SOmething that I haven’t done yet that I want to do soon is go to Choshi, at the northeasternmost point of the Boso Peninsula, where you can take boats out to see whales. I used to go whale-watching in Boston every month in the spring to summer half of the year and really miss that.

  10. Miguel, your photos capture so well the beach as a place of transition; they speak to me of stepping out – from terra firma to change and flow, from security to uncertainty, from home soil to new horizons. Perhaps I read such things into them as I know they’re on your mind, and mine too – but shorelines always bring such thoughts to mind for me. (And btw, the post-processing suits them perfectly!)

  11. Miguel, this was both beautiful and alienating. I can’t explain why.

  12. Andy- Thanks for the compliments about the photos. I often wonder if I am doing them justice by doing post-processing on them, but lately the more I take photos the more I want to capture what I am feeling rather than just what the camera attempts to record. To a person much more goes on in an interaction with a place than the eyes simply taking in light from a scene; there is a whole backdrop of emotions and reactions and decisions and memory that give texture to what is being looked at. I think that is what most people want to find in “beautiful” photography, and why so often perhaps paintings evoke stronger emotional responses. I used to believe that photos should only reflect exactly what you see, but so often these photos are not interesting. The evolution of maturing creativity follows unexpected paths.

    Anne-Mieke, what a pleasant surprise to see you back! I visited your site after your comment the other day and was delighted to see that you were blogging again. For a while you had stopped and then for another while you were blogging only in Dutch. I always enjoyed our dialogues so I hope we can share our thoughts again. Thanks for dropping by.

    I wonder what it is about the photos that you found alienating? Maybe my words? This whole place, where I am living, is the most alienating place I’ve ever lived in. Stiflingly so. Even Tokyo had people and places to go do things all around. Here there is not even healthy natural habitat to get lost in for a while. The rivers are concrete slices of brown water through the rice fields, the hills are pock-marked with hundreds of gulf courses (unreasonablly so… if you look at a Google Earth map of Chiba you can see the woodworm like patterns eating up the entire landscape… it’s shameful!), the towns are caricatures of American automile car dealerships and fast food restaurants. It is very hard to understand why any people would allow their land and homes to degrade to this point. It is as if no one cares or they have given up. What happened to the Japanese?

  13. I’ve often wondered that lately too. In my adults’ classes, for about a year or two now, I’ve been introducing environmental issues to try to get people thinking and talking about what’s going on. The main thing I think I’ve figured out is that the average person is concentrated so much on their individual situation that they are ignoring the big picture. They are wearing blinders about Japan, taking refuge in the traditional elements of beauty such as flower arranging and tea ceremony and visits to “beauty spots” and spas, but just don’t see the modern urban ugliness that Japan has become. And even if they momentarily do see it, they don’t feel the will to do anything about it. I can only get a few to take a bicycle or walk about a block to the convenience store, for heaven’s sake, when the streets are clogged with cars and exhaust fumes.

    It may be not that much different elsewhere; I don’t want to be picking on the Japanese, because I love many of them. But I feel like a frustrated visiting aunt who wants to say, “Wake up before you are _totally_ buried in a mound of your own ugly concrete and garbage!”

    And I love the expressive editing you are bringing to your photographs; grey is the MOST appropriate colour for contemporary Japan.

  14. This is probably one of the coolest things i have seen. Most of the pictures make you want to visit the place. The weather seems a little out of control but that’s a minior infraction. This was pretty much amazing. Spectacular writing!

  15. As always wonderful pictures to tell the story…

  16. Sorry, I forgot to say thank you for the directions to the beach. I’m not near Tokyo but perhaps might be able to make a trip there on a holiday. The whale watching sounds wonderful.

    I wonder if you might have the time to participate in Blog action Day on October 15th? This year the topic is the environment, and I’m sure you have something to say on that subject. In case you or your readers want to take a look, there’s more information here:

    http://blogactionday.org/promote

    :)

  17. vegetablej: I’m in thanks for the notice. I also passed the word.

  18. *appreciative sigh*

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