The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Tag: japan

Wish You Were Here: The Southwest Islands of Japan. Where Ancient Reefs and Peaceful Shades of Blue are Set Against a Violent Past.

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The wanderlust gene is marked by a desire to be in an almost constant state of travel or at least, planning for travel. Another symptom is venturing to the ends of the earth, and then a little further. I recently found myself in a remote corner of the world – hopping between the Yaeyamas; the last cluster of the more than seventy Ryukyu Islands in the Okinawa Prefecture. These islands are located southwest of the mainland and mark Japan’s final frontier, a mere 80 km east of Taiwan.


Map of the Ryukyu Islands and the Yaeyamas by The New York Times

When it comes to actually making it out to the Ryukyu Islands, my husband and I learned that the islands are strangely, prohibitively expensive for most Japanese citizens to visit, but foreign tourism is strongly encouraged with highly discounted flights. We took advantage of these promotions and booked three days in the Yaeyamas. We were officially in southern Japan to collect a native seaweed, as part of a large global science study to understand how Japanese seaweeds have become invasive throughout many parts of the U.S. and Europe.

While on mainland Japan, we may have felt like outsiders looking in on a culture wildly different from our own, once we landed on Ishigaki Island in the Yaeyamas, we felt right at home. This sub-tropical archipelago has an entirely different vibe from mainland Japan. Absent is the bustle of modern life – from bullet trains to flashing billboards.

Most people have heard of Okinawa Island – the site of a horrific World War II battle where scars and a U.S. military base still remain. But beauty and peace have ruled the islands for generations before and after the war. Here, the sky blurs into sea and magic can be found throughout – even the grains of sand are otherworldly and star-shaped skeletons of diminutive sea creatures called Foraminifera.


The star-shaped sands of Taketomi Island. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

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Views of Ishigaki Island from Taketomi Island in the Yaeyamas. Photo by Carolyn Sotka. 

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Wish You Were Here: The ‘Devil’s Washboard’, Southern Japan


The ‘Devil’s Washboard’ is not the name of a surf punk band nor is it a haunted road in Kansas where 7 teenagers perished in the 50’s. It is the most geologically unique feature I have ever seen on a coast, and lies on Aoshima Island in the far southeast corner of Japan, an area thought to be the birthplace of the first Emperor Jinmu.

The region has a subtropical feel brought by the Black Current (or Kuroshio Current) that flows up from the southern Pacific. The neat rows upon rows of evenly eroded rock look like a huge washboard that a giant monster would use such as  ‘Oni‘, a Japanese demon or devil and the inspiration behind the name.


The Japanese devil ‘Oni’ is an ogre-humanoid-like creature with wild hair and horns. Painting from 17th century.

I found it difficult to get answers on how the ‘Devil’s Washboard’–or the myth behind it–was formed, in part due to the language barrier that was especially evident in this corner of the country, where very few non-native tourists visit, and very few locals speak English.

When I returned to the States, I asked Dr. Leslie Sautter, a marine geologist and associate professor at the College of Charleston how it was likely formed. Her thoughts were that the formation appears to be the result of hundreds of layers of basalt from individual lava flows. These layers have either been tilted by tectonic activity or they formed atop the slope of a former volcano.

The space between the layers is probably marine sediment, which would point to the feature having been formed either underwater. The middle space is clearly less resistant to weathering and has eroded, yet it’s bracketed by the prominent ridges of stronger basalt layers and uniformly flattened by wave action.

The ‘Devil’s Washboard’ is completely hidden at high tide but at low tide the expanse is hard to capture in a single frame (see video below). The exposed rock, tide pools and rocky shores draw day-trippers and shellfish collectors who harvest a variety of marine invertebrates from the ragged edges.

Also to note: the area is a popular surf destination and just one of over 60 (named) spots along the entirety of Japan.


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This Is the World’s Newest Island


Niijima, which lies about 600 miles south of Tokyo in the Ogasawara Islands, is the world’s newest island, and although it doesn’t consist of anything more than volcanic ash and rock, it could someday sustain life.

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Japanese Ghost Ship, Found

This 150-foot long Japanese squid fishing boat was swept away in last year’s Tsunami and was recently found 120 nautical miles off British Columbia.

Some Japanese Surfers Are Ready to Get Back in the Water

Despite the Japanese government assuring the safety of many of its beaches, surf lineups laid vacant even through the heat of summer as some of Japan’s surfers are a bit apprehensive about returning to the waves, while others appear anxiously determined.

Manobu Watanabe, a surfer from near Fukushima, told the Inertia: “My house and my family are okay, but I can’t surf at any of the old spots. They are all closed because of the radiation. Now I drive down here, over an hour, in order to surf.”

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Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project: The Sadness and Beauty of Taiji

The Sadness and Beauty of Taiji

I am happy to report another day of peace at the cove. No blood was shed in these waters today. In fact, since Sept 7, the day they slaughtered the first pod of Risso’s dolphins – there has been no killing. They did capture of a large pod of bottlenose a few days ago, but they pulled one dolphin out for captivity and set the rest of the pod free. But the lack of killing around here is not for a lack of trying, the dolphin hunters have been going out every day except one when the weather would not allow it. They have been chasing pods each day, but day after day, the pods have either escaped or they have been unable to locate a pod at all…

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Japan’s Tableside Fishing Restaurant

Zauo is a restaurant in Japan in which your table is beside an aquarium filled with fish and boats. You receive a fishing pole and some bait, and are instructed to try to pick and hook your meal.

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Swimmers and Life Saver Viewed from Above

Swimmers and Life Saver Viewed from Above

Japanese; cancelled 1907
Nakazawa Hiromitsu Miyake shoten
Overall: 8.8 x 13.8 cm (3 7/16 x 5 7/16 in.)
Color lithograph; ink on card stock
Classification: Postcards
Type: Postcard; artists; Art Nouveau
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston