Tuesday, August 08, 2006

日本へそ公園 / The Navel of Japan Park

Last Thursday I took the train the long way to the Navel of Japan Park or Nihonhesokoen (日本へそ公園) in Nishiwaki city (西脇). The day was hot hot hot and super humid, but clear-ish at times leaving the sky prettier than usual on these humid summer days.

I had purchased the super fun Seshun 18 Kippu (背春18切符) that lets you ride on any normal service JR train for any five days during a given period. Using one of these days I took the longer more scenic route from Sanda (三田), where I am living now, up and around to Sannan (山南) where I changed trains to Nishiwaki, then down to the coast at Akashi (明石), and up again finally to Sanda. Most of the trains were single car conductorless models, and one was a two car model with a conductor but with out automatic doors! Very cool.

The first big group of my photos shows the rail line from Sanda to Tanikawa station (谷川) in the city of Sannan where I had a 2 1/2 hour wait. This was a lovely little city up in the hills filled with old houses and on a wide river. I asked the lady working the Kiosk shop in the station where the post office was and she directed me to it, hearing as I walked away a question from a bystander, “What did the foreigner want?” and the Kiosk lady’s reply “Postoffice.”

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The second set of my photos shows Nihonhesokoen itself, the reason for my trip. It is here that the geographic center of Japan lies at the intersection of E135 and N35, as the first visitor to this place from the Degree Confluence Project states:
“The 135 east longitudes have been the standard of the Japanese time. There is the northernmost Japan tip in North latitude 46 degrees, and the southernmost tip in North latitude 24 degrees.”
So this is not like a center of Japan in the way we might try to find the center of the 48 states by dividing all the maxim distances in half, but a created one kind of like the 4 corners monument in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico. Lacking in fry bread but equipped with a super cool playground (see below).

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There are also two confluence points, one for each datum used commonly in Japan. The Tokyo datum site is older and much less visited it appeared to me. The WGS84 datum is perched on the side of a hill but commands better upkeep, perhaps due to its closeness to the museum and playground. Interestingly enough, the WGS84 site is also on the side of a kofun, yet I was not truly able to make out its shape. I got photos of both sites, and the reading on my GPS for fun.

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The museum (only 300yen--thank you ISIC card) was pretty interesting, if I had a child I would definitely take him or her here. I got a daytime telescope session and played with the various exhibits on the stratification of the Earth, gravity and other basic principles of Earth science. But, the best part of the place was the super cool playground, that had with super slider slides that had corkscrews and super fast long drops. The slides have conveyer belt like rollers so make sure you remember to use one of the many butt pads they have to slide on or you’ll have a burning hot bottom like I did the first time I did it. The playground’s theme was the Solar System and I have to say really cute, a little bit of cleaning work would have made it perfect. Although for me this typically Japanese state of mild detritus only made it more appealing.

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I had a late lunch in the restaurant at the end of the parking lot. A super good ham sandwich plate with iced coffee. Pretty cute waitress too. I should have stayed around there but I was wet with sweat and probably very stinky so I made my way to the train station, skipping the little, yet appealing, modern art museum for another day.

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I road the train out to the beach side station of Asagiri (朝霧) near the world longest suspension bridge where I took a bath in the beach-front super sento. I’ve forgot the name already, and found it too crowded with beachgoers to be enjoyable for me. Still it seemed nice and I want to return to the station again to go swimming at least.

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I hope to write more about the park, hopefully I can try to read some of the Japanese in the pictures I took to find out when the Tokyo datum site was built.

Clicking on any of the photos will take you that photos page or you can see all the photos in the 日本へそ公園の旅行 set on my Flickr page.

Another site in Japanese about the park, and where I got the map at the top from.


EVO said...

This is really a great report on へそ公園!! I have to admit that I was thinking that you took the name of the park wrong. Because it at first sounded so strange for me... へそ!

but with 135°, proved with your cool gadget, I understand why it's called like that.


sleepytako said...

Thanks! Nope, that's really the name. In the museum there's a cut out of a boy and Nishiawki-city is in behind the see through belly button. In the US we say "The center of..." for locations such as this.


Hannah is GofeetGo said...

this post and your trip makes me so excited!!!Wow fun learning times you are having. I like it when you have the narratives along with the pictures. Plus the pictures are Xtra special and beautiful here. I adore the playground, I spotted it last week on your flickr, when there was no story yet and got anxious with anticipation to see what it was. Good Good job!