Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/800 sec, f/6.3, ISO 250 — map & image data — nearby photos
(ninety seconds later, powerful wind and rain slammed into us)
We took a short trip over the New Year holiday to the Amami Islands of southern Japan, in the East China Sea about halfway between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland.
The map below shows our flight back, from the northern part of the main Amami island (circled in green) to Osaka (circled in blue). Mentally, Amami feels much further away than Hokkaido (circled in Red) where we visited last May, even though the latter is indeed farther away.
When we went to Hokkaido, we took an 18-hour ferry trip, but were almost always within sight of land. The flight back from Amami was just an hour and fifteen minutes (about 575 miles), but it felt further away. Perhaps it's that great expanse of water in between.
Arriving on the afternoon of December 30th set the tone for the entire trip: landing at Amami airport, already over the runway and just inches from touching down, the pilot decided that it was too windy to risk a landing and jammed the throttle to maximum power. I've probably been on about 350 flights, but it was my first go around (aborted landing).
Once we got our rental car and started driving around, we found out how stupendously windy it really was (a subject I post about here).
The map below shows the main Amami Island (Amami Ooshima – “Amami Big Island”) outlined in red, and the other island we visited on the trip, Kakeroma-jima, outlined in purple. We spent the first two days in the north-east of the main island, exploring where Fumie's grandmother was born and lived until about the start of WWII. We then spent two days on the other island.
The two islands are virtually completely covered in mountains, and due to their cragily shape seem to be nothing more than mountains and endless fractaled coastline. The main one has an area of 275 square miles, but its shape and the lack of straight roads makes it feel much larger. There are about 80,000 people living on it, the vast majority living in Naze (pronounced nah-zeh).
The theme of the trip was “if you don't like the weather, wait a minute.” It might be brilliantly sunny one moment, with driving wind and rain the next. This made for perfect rainbow conditions, and we saw more rainbows during this trip than perhaps I'd seen in my entire life up to that point.
We had a wonderful time.
The innumerable beaches that ring the islands all seem to have their own character, with wildly different water colors and sand. One in particular, Honohoshi Beach, has smooth round rocks instead of sand, which for some reason makes for a very interesting and highly relaxing sound when the water of a wave recedes...
The 20-minute ferry ride between islands was at a gloomy, windy, rainy time...
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 500 — map & image data — nearby photos
The first full day on the second island had marginally better weather, but everything seemed more sunny because of Hirozou Yasuda, a wonderful guide that Fumie had arranged for. He drove us around all day and treated us to all kinds of wonderful sites/sights we'd have never found on our own...
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/750 sec, f/7.1, ISO 640 — map & image data — nearby photos
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/250 sec, f/10, ISO 160 — map & image data — nearby photos
minutes before heavy wind and rain slammed into us
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/1250 sec, f/4, ISO 160 — map & image data — nearby photos
(and although it's hard to tell in the picture, there's a touch of rainbow left of center)
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/160 sec, f/13, ISO 160 — map & image data — nearby photos
Two minutes later – you guessed it – heavy wind and rain slammed into us.
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 22mm — 1/5000 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image data — nearby photos
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 48mm — 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image data — nearby photos
on the other side of the island
Weather was a central theme because most of our time was outdoors, but there's so much more to our trip that I want to share that I've yet to even touch on, so I hope to be able to post more in the future.
Just before leaving on this trip, we had a traditional New-Year's lunch with Fumie's brother, Fumie's mom, and her mom's mom (Fumie's Dad was in Malaysia on business). Her mom's mom – her grandma – was born in Amami and lived there until her mid teens. At that lunch before we left, we spent a pleasant afternoon looking at maps and satellite photos, coaxing as much from Grandma's memory as 65 years of absence would allow. She's had slight Alzheimer's for the past few years, but the topic of Amami seemed to bring somewhat of a spark.
Sadly, upon our return on the 3rd we found out that she suffered a stroke while we were away, and that her prognosis isn't particularly good. Fumie brought some of the photos from our trip to the hospital today to show her. It's unclear whether she recognized anything that was happening, but Fumie's mom said that she seemed a bit better than yesterday, so that's hopeful.