A Walk Around Kyushu Day 7, January 5th, 2013
Kanda to Nakatsu
I catch the first train from Kokura, where I spent the night, to Kanda, where I ended yesterday. Today my route will pretty much follow Route 10 down and around the coast towards the border with Oita.
On my way out of Kanda I spy some shrine banners flying and so follow the lines of lanterns leading in to what seems to be the main shrine of the area. The weather is perfect, warm and sunny, and the early morning light is perfect for some shrine photography: golden light, deep blue sky, black shadows, what photographers refer to as the "magic hour".
The shrine is all dressed up for its busiest time of the year, the New Year and on display are all the lucky charms and other paraphernalia on sale. A huge temporary container is filled with last year's charms awaiting ritual burning.
I'm pleased with some of my shots so stride off down the road towards Yukuhashi. On the outskirts of the town I stop in at another shrine basking in the sunlight and then head towards Yukuhashi Station, a new, modern building.
Yukuhashi has three rivers passing through it, and south of the last one a line of hills run down the coast so I choose to take a detour off the main route and hope that I can get some nice views of the sea.
Closer to the mouth of the river is the older part of town.
Modern Yukuhashi, like many towns in Japan, has grown up around the rail station. The older parts of town are often some distance away.
The road down the coast is quiet, with just the occasional delivery truck or farmers' pick-ups passing by, but unfortunately there are no views of the sea as there is farmland and a line of trees between the road and the coast.
At the end of the line of hills a set of steps lines with statues climbs the hill. According to the sign this is temple 61 of a "New" Shikoku 88 pilgrimage. The steps are overgrown with weeds, and when I reach the simple one room building that is the temple, it appears to be not quite abandoned, but inside there are signs of recent activity. The room lacks the musty smell I associate with disintegrating tatami.
The main statues are two wonderful wooden representations of Fudo Myoo, and behind the building several more stone statues of him, one of which must be fairly new as it shows no sign of weathering.
The road heads out into flat farmland towards a low hill completely covered in trees, a pretty good indicator that it is home to a shrine, and sure enough an impressively large shrine complex is hidden in the dark interior of the woods.
Yasuura Shrine was founded over a thousand years ago and considering its size this must have been an important area, though now it is too far from Yukuhashi or Nakatsu to get many visitors.
Yasuura Shrine is the biggest shrine I've been to for the past few days and yet unlike all the others it has no banners or flags up. In front of the shrine is a big signboard with maps showing details of the heavy bombing this area received in 1944 and 1945 because of the nearby air base.
The air base is still there with its runway extending out in to the sea, and to head down the coast I have to cut inland to get around it. It's quiet with no activity, and I wonder what its function is now.
There are many in Japan who would tell you that Japan has no air-force, or no military, only a small "self-defence" force, but let's call a spade a spade, Japan has a huge military with one of the biggest military budgets in the world, larger now than that of the United Kingdom.
Its navy is the third or fourth biggest in the world, bigger than the British Navy, But like this airbase it's all pretty low key with a low profile, so easy to pretend it doesn't exist.
Off in the distance down the coast a huge smokestack is the landmark I aim for. It is Unoshima power station. Closer it's possible to see the dozens and dozens of storage tanks around it, an indication that it is powered by oil.
The sun is getting low and I still have a few hours till I reach my destination, so I ignore the sign that points to a shrine a little off the route and press on. The sun is down and the western sky is golden as I reach my hotel for the night in Nakatsu.
A Walk Around Kyushu 6
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