The map of Kinki Region in Japan shows that most of the Kii Peninsula due
south spreads out into the Pacific Ocean. Wakayama prefecture comprises
the south-west portion of the peninsula. Its upper area is surrounded by
Osaka, Nara, and Mie prefectures, and is largely occupied by deep-green
mountains, the so-called Kii Mountains.
The southern end of this peninsula — and also of Honshu Island facing the
Pacific Ocean — is Cape Shio-no-misaki. This is located right under the
town of Kushimoto, well-known for the old folk song Kushimoto-bushi. It
lies on the coordinate latitude axis inevitably mentioned on the news during
the typhoon season, together with Cape Ashizuri and Cape Muroto in the
Shikoku Region. This region is mild throughout the seasons, with an atmosphere
similar to southern climes. The grassland, Bohro-no-shiba, is peaceful
as it leads toward the sheer cliff which, on the contrary, makes you feel
weak at the knees for fear of the sharp heights.
Nearby is a signboard for "The Southernmost Point of Honshu Island.”
The marble monument addresses the sea:
|We admire previous generations from Kushimoto town and the surrounding areas, who worked for collecting pearls and pearl oysters along with the people of the islands around the Australian waters from 1878 to 1941.
Accordingly we build this monument honoring their outstanding achievement contributing to the promotion and development of the pearl industry in this area of the sea, and will hand down their contributions forever.
(the end of quote)
|On a propitious day of September 1998
of Building the Honor Monument
The country of Australia is in the southern hemisphere, which under the
name of white supremacism, strongly persecuted and removed the native inhabitants,
and also excluded non-white immigrants from Asia.
During those days, from the beginning of the Meiji Era (about 1870s) until the outbreak of the Pacific War (1941), fishermen around the Nanki-kumano district of southern Wakayama prefecture sailed far down to the Arafura Sea, the coastal waters of northern Australia.
They rarely landed on the continent, but they were often anchored at Thursday
Island, a small island nearby, and were taken care of by local residents
while staying at a simple lodge. Here they received supplies of food and
fuel. Ryotaro Shiba, a famous writer, refers to this activity in his novel
"Evening Party at Thursday Island."
- - - - - - - - -
While the sea area west of Cape Shio-no-misaki is known as "the Sea of Kareki", the east side is called "the Sea of Kumano." Both sites are ideal for watching the swelling of the Kuroshio (or “Black Current”), and the scenery along the seashore.
From Kushimoto Station, the starting point of the bus route to the Cape, one can head to the east along the Sea of Kumano by a local train. The Hashiguiiwa Rocks immediately come into your view, with the Island of Kii-oshima behind it.
Soon the nearest stations to the scenic spots are reached, such as Taiji
for whales, Yukawa for a spa, Katsuura as a tuna fishing port, Nachi of
Nachi Falls and; Nachi Grand shrine, and Seigantoji Temple. Beyond Nachi
and a further two stations, the local train stops at Miwasaki Station,
unmanned, just before Shingu Station, for a total ride of about one hour.
Miwasaki is now part of Shingu City. This is the hometown of Kyozo Wozumi, a seafarer. In the past it was Miwasaki village of the Higashi-muro District, Wakayama prefecture, and is the main scene of this story.
Is this village unknown? On the contrary, its name appears from ancient times.
In the classic poetry collection, Manyoshu, edited about 1300 years ago in the Nara Period (8th century), the following tanka poem can be found.
|It is raining very hard here around Miwasaki.
There seem no houses anywhere as far as
my eyes can see over to the Sano Pass.
Miwasaki was, then a poor village, near the southernmost part of Kii Peninsula
just between mountains and the Sea of Kumano. It was still a remote village
like in the old days, when Kyozo Wozumi was born.
Kyozo was born in the fall of Meiji 33 (1900) as the first child of a fisher
family. Though his father was sickly, seven children followed him one after
He went to an elementary school for only a short while, and began working
on a small boat in the sea under his father's direction. He was eager to
be helpful even as a child.
Kyozo went to the Arafura Sea north of Australia in Taisho 5 (1916) at
the age of sixteen, on a small steamboat of less than 100 tons. From this
young age he devoted himself to collecting pearls and pearl oysters around
this sea area in the southern hemisphere, dwelling on a steamboat as his
After 17 years of work there and luckily still alive, he could return to
his hometown Miwasaki in Showa 8 (1933), at the age of 33, on a small cargo
steamboat crossing the equator. This is the story of such a seafarer.
The year 1900, the date of Kyozo Wozumi's birth, was the opening point of the new century, when the 5th World Expo was held in Paris, France.
According to the Expo yearbook, the Japanese Government built a Japanese Hall similar to the Golden Hall of Horyuji Temple, and exhibited antiques including the belongings of the Imperial Family. Otojiro Kawakami, with his wife Sadayakko, travelled to Paris to give a play performance during their schedule overseas. Soseki Natsume also visited there on his way to London to study.
The Russo-Japanese War began 4 years later.
Now our sight is set on the local town of Miwasaki at that time.
Miwasaki, facing the Sea of Kumano, was a poor fishing village over a mountain pass from the town Shingu, which was well-off as a lumber distribution center.
Every fishing family was making a living half by farming because fishing
alone was not enough for a subsistence living.
Miwasaki, along with the neighboring villages of Sano and Kinokawa to the west, was lumped together under the name of "Miwasaki area", whose total population was about 4,000 people, with one elementary school.
As soon as the period of national isolation (17th to 19th centuries) was
over as the government system shifted from the Edo to Meiji Period, many
people from various parts of Japan began to emigrate or go abroad to work.
From Wakayama prefecture, quite a number of people emigrated to Brazil,
Los Angeles, and Hawaii. But from Nanki-Kumano, the southern part of the
prefecture, especially from the towns and villages along the Sea of Kumano
between Kushimoto and Miwasaki, many fishermen went to work around the
Arafura Sea beyond the equator.
For the purpose of covering food expenses and making money, a couple of
young men among the relatives of Wozumi were working at the Arafura Sea.
The Wozumi family would have suffered in the depths of poverty without
such a way.
Matsuzo Wozumi, the father, was sickly, so he could not manage to work
enough for the fishery. Even though Fuku, the mother, worked hard in the
poor field, it was only a little help.
When Kyozo, the son, entered elementary school, Matsuzo suffered from appendicitis, and it was accompanied by peritonitis.
The family certainly did not have enough money for Matsuzo to see a doctor,
so he opened his stomach by himself with a knife fastened to his right
The young son Kyozo feverishly wiped pus out of the internal organs with a cloth, and squeezed the affected part under the direction of his father as he clenched his teeth. Then he disinfected the wound and put the remaining cloth over it. The father did not groan, and the son instinctively followed his father's instructions in a weak hoarse voice.
Kyozo attended elementary school for less than a year, because it became
his daily routine to help his father go to the sea.
Matsuzo, the father, died just before the age of fifty, leaving six sons
and two daughters to his wife. He lived long considering his illness. Fuku,
his wife, lived another several years.