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  • 執筆者の写真te to ba <手と場>

宝石サンゴの夢とロマン 〈旅と富江〉②



富江サンゴと一攫千金の夢



富江で宝石サンゴが発見され たのは明治 19 年のことだった。



福江島の南西約 70km に位置する男女群島近海で漁師 の釣り針に偶然、サンゴが引っ かかったのが発端だ。その知ら せは一気に日本全国、そして世界に広まり漁場に近い富江は一 躍、サンゴ採取の最前線になっ た。



宝石サンゴは仏教では「七 宝」にも数えられ、昔からアク セサリーや魔除けとして珍重さ れてきた。ヨーロッパでは十字軍の兵士が護身符として身につ けていた話は有名だ。







富江でサ ンゴが発見された当時、国内最初のサンゴ漁場として土佐が名を馳せていたがサン ゴ採取量 は年々、減少。枯渇へと向かっていた。いっぽう富江沖の男女群島では最も価値が高いとされるモモイロサンゴやアカイロサンゴが次々に採れたことから人々は期待に胸を膨らませて富江に殺到した。



当時は一回の漁で運に恵まれれば一生、遊んで暮らせるお金を得られる可能性があった。

最盛期には、港に数百隻の船と漁師 2000人余 り、数千人の加工業者が集結した。


サンゴの入札場も作られ、イタリアやインドなど海外からも仲買人が拠点を構えた。


まさ にサンゴは富江の一大産業と なった。通りには遊郭や旅館が 立ち並び富江は繁栄を極めた 。





ハイリスク・ ハイリターンのサンゴ漁



もともと小さな漁港であった富江 はサンゴ船の基地となり一攫千金の 夢の町として有名になった。いっぽうで実際のサンゴ漁は命知らずの賭 けのようでもあった。


サンゴブーム に沸いた明治時代、サンゴ船は5人 乗りの小さな手漕ぎ船だった。

漁法も石を結びつけた網を海底に沈め、潮の流れにまかせて引きずることでサ ンゴを網に引っ掛けるとても原始的な方法だった。



無限に広がる海の底に眠るサンゴを見つけるのは漁師の勘だけが頼り。



アワや芋といった質素 な食料を詰め込んだ小さな船での漁 は一ヶ月に及ぶこともあった。突然、 海が荒れれば避難するのも一苦労。 遭難事故は相次いだ。






特に明治38 年と明治39年には続けざまに台風による大遭難が起こり、300隻以 上の遭難事故と1000人を超える 死者を出す惨事になった。



それでも人々の一攫千金にかける夢は消えることがなかった。大正時代に入ると町にはサンゴ加工業者が急増した。



富 江サンゴはやがて土佐のように取り尽くされることは明白だったので、 町はサンゴの生産地からサンゴ加工の町として発展していく道を選ぶこ とになる。




Tomie Coral The dream of overnight fortunes! Coral was discovered near Tomie in 1886. A piece of coral was unexpectedly caught in a fisherman's hook in the waters around the archipelago, located about 70 km southwest of Fukue Island. The news quickly spread throughout Japan and around the world. Tomie was soon at the forefront of the coral fishing industry. Precious coral (red coral) was considered a “cloisonne” (decorative work) in Buddhism and had been prized as an accessory and amulet for a long time. In Europe, such items were well known and often worn by soldiers of the Crusades for personal safety. At the time that coral was discovered in Tomie, Tosa was already well established as the first coral fishing area of Japan. However, the amount of coral being collected had been decreasing year after year. Coral supplies were heading towards depletion. On the other hand, the peach and red coral, which were considered to have the highest value, were being collected near the Danjo Islands off the coast of Tomie. People soon came rushing to Tomie. At that time, if you had one lucky coral fishing expedition, you could earn enough money to retire and enjoy the rest of your life. At its peak, the port attracted hundreds of ships, more than 2,000 fishermen, and thousands of coral processors. A coral auction site was also created, and brokers from overseas, such as from Italy and India, also set up bases. Without a doubt, coral became the major industry of Tomie. The streets were lined with all forms of entertainment and inns. Tomie was flourishing.


High-risk & high-return coral fishing Although Tomie was originally a small fishing port, it soon became a hub for coral fishing and a famous “dream town” for those seeking the possibility of substantial wealth. However, the reality of coral fishing was that it was often a reckless bet. At the height of the coral boom during the Meiji era (1868-1912), people embarked in 5-person boats and used a primitive method for collecting coral, which consisted of using the tide to drag weighted nets along the seabed. The discovery of rare coral resting in fixed locations in the infinite sea depended solely on the intuition of the fishermen. The fishermen ventured out for up to a month on these small boats packed with simple food such as millet and potatoes. If the sea suddenly became rough, it was difficult to seek refuge. Accidents were common and occurred one after another. Meiji 38 (1905) and Meiji 39 (1906) were especially dangerous years for coral fishermen. Successive typhoons led to a major disaster, resulting in more than 300 shipwrecks and over 1,000 dead. Even so, dreams of fortune never receded. During the Taisho era (1912-1926), the number of coral processors increased rapidly in the town. It was clear that Tomie coral would eventually be depleted like Tosa. The town developed into a coral processing area rather than just a coral fishing town.

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