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w18.8 x h30 cm
32 Pages
20 Images(color)
Full color Offset
First edition
Published in 2019
ISBN 978-4-908512-43-8


NIPPON Yamaguchi

Naoki Ishikawa (Tokyo, Japan)

When I reached the peak of Mt. Kasayama, a volcano in the northern part of Yamaguchi Prefecture, I could see a panoramic view of the islands in the Sea of Japan. Among the islands in the Sea of Japan, I used to be only familiar with Sado and other islands in the Hokuriku region, but I did not know that there were so many islands in the San-in region until then.   After viewing these islands from Mt. Kasayama, I visited Oumijima, an island where whaling was continued longer than other areas in this region.
  While the northern part of Oumijima is surrounded by cliffs eroded by the wild waves of the Sea of Japan, the opposite coast around Senzaki Bay used to be prosperous as a base of old-style whaling (using harpoons) since long ago. Whaling stopped in 1910 in this area, but I visited the cove of Shizugaura in the bay to learn about its past. Whalers must have chased whales into this inlet in those days.
  I also visited Mishima, an isolated island in the Sea of Japan, in order to research whaling in Yamaguchi. The ferry from Hagi Port to Mishima rocked so much that I almost fell from the deck when taking photographs. Mishima is completely isolated, 45 km from Hagi Port and 180 km from the Korean Peninsula. Mishima is an island near the national border as well.   Once an American military's radar base was located on Mishima, which is now a base of the Japanese Defense Forces. When the American base was on the island, there was a red-light district for American soldiers. There are no signs of it remaining today.
  They say some Korean woman divers from Jeju Island worked in Mishima during the time from the mid 1950s until the mid 1960s. When I walked along the seaside, I saw many bottles with Hangul letters printed on them drifting ashore. On stormy days, Korean fishers' boats would come to take refuge by the island. I heard about a disturbing incident involving a Korean fisherman getting drunk, breaking the window of a local resident’s house and stealing tools from the boats.   I stayed at a hotel managed by a fisherman's family called Hokkokuya. As his last name Hokkoku (literally "northern country") suggests, the hotel manager told me that he assumed that his ancestors may have arrived in the island from the Noto Peninsula by Kitamaebune, or "the northern-bound ships". During my travels here and there, I became aware of the fact that Mishima is located on the crossing point of the circum-Sea of Japan transportations from and to the Korean Peninsula in the north and Tohoku and Hokuriku regions in the east.
  Visiting these islands, I understood why the folklorist Tsuneichi Miyamoto had intended to reexamine Japanese culture by "looking at Japan from the seas." Since I have been greatly influenced by him, I have visited Suo-Oshima Island, his hometown, several times. Unlike Mishima, Suo Oshima is famous for a group of immigrants who sailed across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. Because of this, there are numbers of people who have relatives in Hawaii.
  It is amazing that Yamaguchi, not so large a prefecture, has been related to both the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean even across national borders. Again, Yamaguchi made me aware of the importance to look at the Japanese archipelago from the sea.