#IAVCEI2013 – The land of the rising sun

Japan is bloody hot and humid. Stepping off the plane was more like walking into a well-prepped sauna.

Just thought I’d get that out of the way.

After three flights, no sleep, and 3 hours in a park twiddling my thumbs before being able to check in to the hotel I’ve finally managed to have a shower, put on some clean clothes and get over here to internet land.  I just thought I would share with you some cool things and observations from the last day or so of travel.

Firstly, Charles De gaulle is a sprawling mess of an airport. I know this is hardly a controversial opinion, but I’ve flown through that place probably 2 dozen times in the last year and I just wanted to take this opportunity to express my loathing.

Secondly, the Paris-Tokyo flight route is fascinating for a number of reasons:

  • You get some great views over Holland and Scandinavia (pics to follow).
  • Your sense of scale also gets a life-changing smack around the face when you spend the best part of 9 hours flying over the completely unpopulated expanse of Northern Russia. I’ve flown over Canada before, but there’s always a few roads or settlements or whatever. There is a wild untamed beauty to the forests and tundra of Northern Russia that is really quite breathtaking.
  • During the summer, if you leave at about mid-day, you experience an interesting phenomenon; the sun never sets, which seems to somewhat steal Japan’s thunder, given what the name literally translates to (see title of post if you’re not sure). I had the sun coming in through my window for 10 of the 12 hours – the only reason I didn’t for the first two hours was that we were pointing in the wrong direction. It was my first experience of an arctic circle night, and it was quite bizarre – particularly as at both the departure and destination locations the sun was high in the sky and blazing a fierce heat.

Japan’s topography is amazing. As well as a great view over Mt Fuji (again, photos to follow once I have access to an appropriate USB cable), the terrain is utterly ‘ruffled’. Everywhere you look the land is carved up into inhabited and farmed floodplains along narrow river valleys (itself broken up into impossibly regular and bizarrely small field systems), fingering between wooded ridges and hills which Slartibartfast himself might have said were going a bit overboard with the detail work. Take this perfectly standard example:

The trip from Kagoshima Airport to the city centre was made vastly more enjoyable by the conversation with the young lady completely astounded that so many Westerners would want to all go to Kagoshima. Her parents run a hotel on nearby Yakoshima (a world heritage site), and she was going back for the weekend. On asking what she would recommend to do on any free days the best she could manage was ‘there’s probably some old buildings? Personally I would go shopping’. Then she recommended that I had to try the local speciality of ‘Black Pork’. She had no idea why it’s black but apparently it’s delicious.

Right, off to rest my weary head and make a vague attempt at avoiding jet lag. Last time I flew out in this direction for a conference was IUGG in Melbourne a couple of years ago. I went straight over to see a friend in Tasmania before the conference, had a lovely first day, then sabotaged the second by somehow falling asleep for 18 hours. For someone who normally lives on 6-7 hours a night it came as a bit of a surprise. Fingers crossed I can make it up in time to get a sunrise shot of Sakurajima out in the bay.

About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in General, Geology, Travel, Volcanism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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