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June 2009

June 28
    One fine day during the rainy season, I visited the places associated with Ryoma. The first place was Ryoma Memorial Museum at Kamimachi in the city, which is only about 100 meters from our home. Believe it or not, I hadn't entered this museum until then, in spite of its proximity from home, probably because it is so close to our home that I thought I could visit it anytime. In the museum there are displays to depict Ryoma's childhood and achievements, all of which are easy to understand. The museum is a Japanese-style building and it is said that interested persons who loved and respected Ryoma donated roof tiles with their names written on them. Ryoma's birthplace is within a stone's throw from this museum, only 2 minutes on foot. I am going to visit it before long.

Below is the photograph of Ryoma Memorial Museum.

June 25
    One sunny day during the rainy season, I visited a memorable place related to Comet Ikeya-Seki. The mountain in the distance in the photograph is Konomori seen from Yokouchi in Kochi City.
    I observed the comet immediately after it had passed perihelion on October 22, 1965, first at Bandanomori and on the following day at this Konomori. The public was invited to observe the comet with the help of the mass media and a large number of residents participated in "mass observation" of the comet.
    Seventeen hours after perihelion we succeeded in observing the comet at Bandanomori in Susaki City. Twenty-four hours later, we managed to see the unaffected appearance of the comet at konomori, too. "Look, it's there!", the cheers of the jubilant observers echoed all over the place.
    Mr. Koichi Ike, a mysterious "astronomy adventurer", was always at the head of the crowd leading the fellow observers. He continued to keep watch on the comet, more intensely than anybody else, when the comet was approaching the sun extremely closely. He even built a mysterious contraption "Ike projection box" and observed the comet near the sun in this unusual method. Although he was not blessed with any comet discovery, he made contributions to comet observation as a "silent force behind the scenes". Where is our beloved friend Koichi Ike now?

The mountain in the distance is Konomori.

June 23
    Rain has continued for two days followed by partly cloudy skies. The sky was magnificently clear this morning.
    I strolled along a walking track on the shore of Kagamigawa River. Minor Planet 4256 is named after this river. The rocky area in the lower left of the photograph was fondly called "Akaishi" (red rocks) when I was a child. Ryoma Sakamoto is said to have enjoyed swimming around there. When I was going to Daishi Elementary School(Minor Planet 21014 Daishi), there was no swimming pool at the school and we had to come to this river to swim during physical education classes. We did races in calm waters between turbulent areas. Unlike today, there were no dams built upstream in those days and the river was deep with plenty of water running. I remember the water was pure and cold, good enough for drinking. When I was a junior high school student, B-29's carried out large scale air raids over Kochi City. This was the river we fled to leaving the burning home behind. I named a minor planet after this river hoping this beautiful water is preserved forever.
    The river looked especially beautiful today with lush green leaves reflected on the water.

Kagamigawa River

June 10
    At Sannomaru (the third compound of the castle) of Otakasakajyo (Kochi Castle) there is a bell which has been long in sleep. After the cannon used to announce "noon" was retired, this bell had been used in its place and loved by the citizens as a time tone to announce 6 o'clock of the morning and evening for many years. Kochi was a small city of population 180,000 in those days and the sound of the bell reached through the tranquil air to every corner of the streets giving the residents the feeling of relief as well as hope for tomorrow. The sound of the morning bell was a spirited encouragement for people going to work and the evening bell a soothing sound on their way home after a day's work.
    I think it was in December, 1950. I was observing on the rooftop of an abandoned factory near my home. I was immersed in the sense of satisfaction having completed search of a beautiful and clear predawn sky bathed in moonlight, though without any discovery. It was the most satisfying and pleasant time for comet hunters even without a discovery. With slowly brightening light of dawn, the sky took on a pale pink hue, then the bell at the castle began to ring announcing 6 o'clock as if bidding farewell to the stars disappearing one after another. The graceful sound of the bell was carried throughout the city and spread to every corner of my serene mind giving me great peace. The bell of Kochi Castle, which rang in a brief moment between the awakening from the depth of night and the beginning of bursting morning activity is still ringing in my ears.
    I touched the bell gently. It held a history of more than 60 years. The coldness of the darkened surface of the bell brought to mind a memory of freezing cold nights when I was desperately struggling for comet discovery around 1950. The biggest problem was a battle against the cold. Fruitless ten years had passed. And, in October 1961, after 11 years of struggle, the first comet I discovered shone above the Tenshukaku (the central tower of the castle). The sound of the bell I had always heard after nightly observing was no longer there. I wish I had heard that familiar sound of the bell in the excitement and emotion of this discovery.
    When I came to Ninomaru (the second compound of the castle), I came across an elderly man. He looked up at a tree branch high above his head and murmured: "There is no sight of Konohazuku (a Japanese scops owl). " I remember that decades ago the drum-like sounds of owls were frequently heard as the night deepened. The sounds were heard at my home 2 kilometers away just like the morning and evening bell. Nowadays, the extremely high noise level of the city overwhelms faint sounds and we have long lost the fascination of listening intently to feeble calls of owls.

The Sannomaru Bell

June 9
    Yodo Yamauchi, the last governor of Tosa, is thought to have had some interest in the heavens. An astronomical telescope built by Germany's Schneider Optics's was found in the storeroom of the Yamauchi family. Also found were many armillary spheres, which are considered to have been built by Keizan Kawatani, an Edo period astronomer. In the courtyard of Honmaru (the central compound of the castle) an Edo period sundial is installed. This is more like a device to tell the noon than a sundial. They determined the timing of noon by watching the shadow of a wire stretched along the meridian fall on the north-south groove etched on the stone.
    At noon determined this way, they blasted a cannon once at Sannomaru (the third compound), which reverberated throughout the city and was endeared by the residents as the "boom" of noon. This practice continued until around 1940, but this field cannon was procured by the army at the outbreak of the battles in the Pacific in 1941. Since then, the delightful sound of a bell has replaced the cannon and is heard at 6 am and 6 pm everyday to please the ears of the residents. @

The sundial

June 8
Minor planet Otakasakajyo is born.

    The photograph below is that of Otakasakajyo Castle, the present day Kochi Castle. It was called Otakasakajyo when it was built about 400 years ago.
    Recently, the minor planet 1993 BL2 discovered at Geisei Observatory has been named (26127) Otakasakajyo.
    The first governor of the castle was Kazutoyo Yamauchi and the castle has been loved by the citizens of Tosa (Kochi) to the present day. Many tourists come to see the castle and Dr. B.G. Marsden of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams visited there in 1987. The birthplace of the famous Tosa warrior Ryoma Sakamoto is located in the castle town of Kochi not far from the castle itself.

Otakasakajyo Castle

Copyright (C) 2009 Tsutomu Seki.