National Geographic : 1971 Jul
the Spaniards sent galleons to the islands each year, continuing almost without a break until 1815. The clumsy ships sailed easily westward with the trades, but found it im possible to beat back against the wind on the homeward journey. The captains learned to sail in a great arc to pick up the favoring cur rents and winds north and east of Japan. In 1609 Don Rodrigo de Vivero, governor general of His Majesty's colonies in the Philippines, sailed for home in the galleon San Francisco. The great ship rode the mainstream of the Kuroshio, the Black Cur rent. A typhoon sweeping up from the South China Sea overwhelmed the San Francisco, casting her onto the Boso Peninsula's rocky shore near Onjuku, a town that was, and still is, home to a group of ama. To that fact Don Rodrigo and 317 of his men owed their lives. When we drove to Onjuku, we found that although the wreck of the gaijin-foreigners - had happened more than 300 years ago, the event was still remembered. On a hill behind the town rose the white shaft of an obelisk. The monument was erected in 1928; cut into the marble plaque on its base was a message in Spanish: "In memory ... of the continuous and firm friendship between Japan and Mexico. The People of Mexico." On another face a letter from the last king of Spain conveyed his "expression of grati tude." It was signed "Alfonso." The ama saved the lives of the governor and his men, who had been cast up almost dead, the fisheries chief told me. They held the half-frozen mariners in their arms and EKIACHRUMEg N.t ,' . Patroness of the ama, a wooden likeness of Princess Yamato-hime holds out an aba lone as an offering to the sea near Kuzaki. Ancient manuscripts testify that here, in 3 B.C., this daughter of an emperor chanced upon diving women after establishing Ise Shrine. Finding the ama's abalone delicious, she ordered that it be presented regularly to the shrine, thus giving special honor in the Shinto religion to the sea maids of Japan.