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Friday, April 26, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 5 Kitakyushu

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 5, December 29th, 2012

The bad weather of yesterday has gone as quickly as it appeared, and today is back to being warm and sunny.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 5, Japan

The first hour or so is not fun. From my hotel near Yahata Station I follow Route 3, the main road and it's very, very noisy and its rush hour. Kitakyushu is a massive conurbation, bigger in area than Fukuoka, and about a million people live here and they all seem to be on this road right now.

After passing under the expressway I turn off the main road and head up a slight rise. Looking back over and beyond the distinctive outline of Space World a line of smokestacks are spewing smoke and god knows what other substances into the air. Kitakyushu is one of Japan's Eco Model Cities, and compared to fifty years ago when it was one of the most polluted places in Japan it is certainly much much cleaner. Now you can see the blue sky and fish swim in the bay.

I drop down into a small valley and leave the main road and walk through the residential streets. This is an upmarket area, with big houses, tall walls surrounding them, and plenty of visible security.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 5, Japan

I find the first temple, Amida-In, high on the hillside, now hemmed in on all sides by houses, it must have been more impressive before the urban encroachment. I chat with an old gentlemen who once lived in Ohio, he in English, and I in Japanese. He asks the question that many ask, why am I, a non-Japanese, walking a Japanese pilgrimage?

I am frustrated by the assumption that things Japanese and non-Japanese exist in separate realities. The question why was I walking a pilgrimage is the natural one that could be answered, but always in Japan the rigid distinction between Japanese /non-Japanese and the implied impenetrable gulf between them makes it impossible to give an honest answer so I simply say because I enjoy walking.

I walk a little past the temple and reach the rise. Down below is the last stretch of Kyushu before the straits separating it from Honshu. Its a dense grid of mostly houses with no distinguishing features or landmarks, and like most streets in Japan they are not named or numbered, so finding the last temple proved to be difficult.

After several tries I found someone who knew the temple and directed me to it. Small and compact occupying no more space than a house, at least there were several nice Fudo Myo-o statues. And that’s it for this first leg of my pilgrimage.

From here I walk to the coast and head east towards Kokura Station and my hotel for the night, passing the Jerde-designed Riverwalk Complex. I want to check in there and take some photos but first dump my bag and take a shower.

Time to head home for a few days to spend New Year with my wife. I'm using the Seishun18 rail ticket that gives 5 days travel on local trains for only 11,000 yen, so I came down to Kyushu, will go home, then come back down in the New Year and get back home again all for less than the regular one-way fare.

In 5 days I've walked from Fukuoka to Kokura and at a conservative estimate have walked 120 kilometers, not a great pace, but considering the shortness of the midwinter days, not bad.

Though I will be passing through other big cities later in the walk I think this section has been the most urban so I'm glad to get it behind me. Time for a beer and to check out the illuminations over along the river near the Riverwalk Complex.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 4

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