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Mizunoko Island’s Lighthouse

Photography/TAKEUCHI Yasunori

the Guardian God of the Departing Vessels

 The island is just as its name suggests – “Mizunoko (a child of water).” It is a child of the Bungo Channel that the Great Power of Creation took up from the bottom of the sea. 28 kilometers from Saiki Port, 15 kilometers from Oitsukami Island of Shikoku. Floating right in the middle of the Channel.

 Going further northeast of Tsurumisaki, which is considered the east end of Kyushu Island, with an East longitude of 132° 10’ 47”. It goes almost 6 minutes further east off Tsurumisaki. The circumference of the island is only about 320 meters, and only 20 meters high. On this little island of Mizunoko, stands a lighthouse of about 40 meters, twice the height of the island. It is decorated with two black bands on white. For the height of the lighthouse made of stones, it is the second tallest in Japan next to Izumo Hinomisaki Lighthouse (Shimane Prefecture).

 The island was a mark of voyage as it is located in the middle of the Channel, however it was also a difficult spot to sail, making many vessels run aground. Then the lighthouse was built, which turned the place into a guardian of the ship going offshore. The construction started in 1900. The construction work was difficult since it is an isolated island to start with, topped with raging waves. The cost of construction exceeded 170,000 yen, which is equivalent of approximately 5 billion yen today. It took four years to complete, and celebrated its first lighting on March 20, 1904.

 It boasted the highest luminosity in Asia then, however the lens was destroyed by the attack of a U.S. aircraft towards the end of the Pacific War. Repair work was conducted after the War, which replaced the lens with the current large Fresnel lens. The maximum effective intensity boasts 1.2 million candela. The light reaches 20 nautical miles, about 37 kilometers. Going into Heisei era, they adopted the hybrid power supply system based on the power of waves and sunlight in 2002.

 As seen in the movie “Yorokobi mo Kanashimi mo Ikutoshitsuki“ (“The Lighthouse” in the U.K. or “Time of Joy and Sorry” in the U.S.), the lighthouse keeper (lightkeeper) was stationed on duty, but it was automated in 1986 and is now unmanned. The former housing and resting area for the lighthouse keepers is now made into a Maritime Museum (registered as a Nationally Designated Tangible Cultural Property) on the shore of Tsurumisaki, attracting many visitors with the exhibition on migratory birds. Selected as one of the “50 Lighthouses of Japan.”

Mizunoko Island floating right in the middle of the Bungo Channel. The light reaches as far as about 37 kilometers from the lighthouse, from the height of approximately 60 meters above the ocean.