Monday, February 25, 2008

Sumiyoshi (Tinian) Shinto Shrine - February 23, 2008

Again we were off to try to find the latte stones above the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine. This shrine is now called the Tinian Shrine. But as was pointed out for the January 5, 2008, hike, the real Tinian Shinto Shrine was near the current Catholic church in San Jose. On this hike there were six of us. This time I was sure we would find the latte stones because I had found them a week and a half ago, and marked their position on my GPS.

We started at the shrine as always. One of the first things you will notice is the large piga, Alocasia indica, going at the base of the shrine. This plant was most likely grown by the ancient Chamorros for food. To find out more about ancient Chamorro agriculture, click this link, but be warned this is a pdf file. This area located at the end of a drainage for the cliff area above, and has fairly deep rich soil. In the picture below, Erica stands next to the large piga plants.

A visit to the shrine is always called for on any hike near it. So the group headed up the path to the top of the shrine. In the picture below are Masa, Stacy, Mitch, Judy and Erica standing under the torii gate that marks the entrance to the Shinto shrine.

At the top of the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine is a small house. In the picture below Masa is leaving an offering of rice and salt, which is a traditional Japanese offering. From what I have read, salt is used for purification and rice is offered in prayer to the Shinto deities. Masa did this offerings at other places where Japanese soldiers may have died on this hike.

After visiting the shrine, we set off to find the latte site. The jungle near the shrine is some of the thickest jungle that I know about on Tinian. When I first arrived on Tinian, I visited this Shinto shrine. I wanted to see what the jungle looked like near it. So I set off to do a little exploring. Within ten minutes, I was so turned around that I didn't know where the shrine was any more. It took me another hour to find my way out. The picture below shows how dense the jungle can be in this area.

As we walked upslope toward the latte site, there is an old Japanese road that cuts across the slope. The base of the trees, in the picture below, are growing on the road bed. The slope above this road is very steep.

As you walk up hill, the jungle does open up a little bit, but is still fairly dense. The picture below was taken as we walked up the slope from the road pictured above. You can tell from this picture how steep the slope is.

A short distance above the old overgrown road is the latte site. This site is heavily overgown. Below is one of the larger pillar stones at this site, which has a nunu (banyan) tree growing on it. This stone is about seven feet tall. This is a fairly large latte stone and is part of a group of at least 14 stones, in two parallel rows of seven stones each, at this site.

The next two pictures below show another one of the pillar stones. The second picture shows me standing next to the stone.

Most of the pillar stones in this group were knocked over. Below is a picture of one of the down pillar stones.

The picture below is a capstone for the pillar stones pictured above.

Just to give you an idea of how overgrown this site is, the picture below does have a down pillar stone in it. It is right in the middle of the picture. Because of the overgrown nature of this site, it was very difficult to get a true idea of its size.

Right in front of the latte site pictured above, there is a second set of latte stones. These were shorter stones, maybe four feet high. Below is a picture of one of the pillar stones in this second site. I really did not count the number of stones, but most likely there are eight stones at this site.

The picture below shows how close these two sites are to each other. Below the whitest-gray stone, in the smaller of the two sites, is right in front of one of the downed stones from the larger latte site.

The picture below shows Stacy standing next to one of the smaller pillar stones at the second site.

After visiting the latte site, we continued south below the top of Carolinas Plateau. I can't say we really followed the bottom of the cliff, since in a lot of places there was not a cliff but a very steep slope.

As we walked south we came upon a patch of snake plants, Sansevieria trifasciata. These plants usually indicate a place where the Japanese had a settlement since they were commonly planted around buildings for ground cover. In the picture below Stacy and Erica are walking though the snake plant.
Just past the snake plants, we ended up on the top of plateau. The top of Carolinas Plateau used to be a cattle ranch for MDC (Micronesian Development Corporation). There are still fences running across it, that marked the old pastures. Most of these fences are in disrepair now. Below, in the picture, is a large corner post for one fence lines that used to run right at the edge of the plateau. This post was one of the markers I used for this hike, since I used it to tell me when to head back down the slope to the Shinto shrine on our return.

There are some small cliff areas near the latte site. They are not very high, maybe 10 feet or so, and do not run very far before just becoming a steep slope. In two of these cliff areas, we found Japanese shelters from World War II. Below is a picture of the first shelter with a stone wall that we found. It might have been large enough to hold two or three soldiers.

The picture shows one of the steep slope we had to cross between the cliffs. In the steep slope areas are a series of fox holes. The picture below does not show any fox holes but it does show how difficult it was to walk on these slopes because of the steepness and thick undergrowth.

Pictured below is the second shelter we found. It was much larger than the first one. Judy is just starting to come around the stone wall that helped to protect the entrance to the shelter in the picture. This shelter may have held between 5 to 8 men during World War II.

We continued south for a short distance past the shelter pictured above. The vines started to get thicker, because fewer trees were blocking the sunlight from reaching the ground. It was getting more and more difficult to travel through the jungle. But, at one point we did get a great view of San Jose Village, as is shown in the picture below. The dock area can clearly be seen in the picture below.

Because the undergrowth was getting thick, I decided it was time to head back to the shrine. I really did not want to follow our trail back, so I headed up the slope to the top of Carolinas Plateau, where I hoped the walking would be easier.

As we climbed to the top of the Carolinas, I almost walked in to the boonie bee nest pictured below. I felt a bee hit me in the chest and backed up real fast. Luckily that bee did not sting me. We carefully walked around this nest and no one got stung.

Below is a close up the the bee nest pictured above, after the bees had settled down once they got over me disturbing them.

Once we got to the top, the walking was a lot easier. We sort of followed an old fence line that ran north-south. I tried to avoid open fields, like the one picture below, because lantana, Lantana camara, grows in these open areas. This plant is poisonous and has small spines that are really irritating. They get under the skin and are hard to get out. Also scratches from this plant can take a long time to heal, and be irritating for three or so days afterwards.

After awhile, we found the fence post, which I mentioned above, and walked back through the snake plants to the latte site. We happened to come out a little below the latte pillar stones, but there were many capstones in this area. Most likely they rolled down the slope from the latte site, which is about 50 feet above the capstones.

It was back down the steep slope to the shrine. The picture below was taken just above the old road that was discussed above. It was really steep as you can see from how how Stacy and Judy are going down it.

Right now, it is the dry season, and for animals water becomes crucial. During the dry season, we may not get rain for 3 or 4 days in a row. If there is no rain for two weeks, it is considered a drought. The reason for this is that Tinian is a raised limestone island. Any water that falls on it drains very quickly through the soil and into the aquifer. Water puddles after a heavy rain (2 or 3 inches) rarely last more then a day.

Because of the dryness, animals have to find ways to get water. In the picture below a hermit crab is getting some moisture from an injury in a coconut tree. I really don't know if coconut crabs caused the injury or are they just taking advantage of it. It would be an interesting research project for some tropical biologist to learn how different animals get water during the dry season.

Finally we made it out of the jungle and back to the shrine. The picture below shows Mitch and Judy as they leave the jungle.

So we finally found the latte site above the Sumiyoshi (Tinian) Shinto Shrine. The problem is that it is not the one that I remember finding last spring. The latte stones had found with Dan, Aruika and John, last spring, were much shorter (may 2 or 3 feet high), with a larger set of stones very close to the top edge of the plateau. I will have to do some more hiking in the next month to see if I can find the other site I think is in this area to see if I can find the other site I remember. Well, at least we finally made it to some latte stones!

As always, I would like to thank Mitch and Judy for the additional pictures in this posting.

The boonie bee count for this hike was zero, none, zip. No one got stung. There were a few close calls, but we got lucky this time.

The next hike will be to the Lake Hagoi area at North Field. I want to look for the old Okinawan village that used to be on its west side. It has been over 10 years and many typhoons since I have been to this site. Once we find the village, we will walk all the way around the lake, most likely not seeing it at all because of the pago and tall reed that grows on its edge. Be prepared for bees since a lot of this hike will be through tangangan forest. Meet at 8 A.M., on Saturday, March 1, at Grace Christian School.

Everyone Is Welcome On These Hikes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...