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Monday, May 27, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8 Nakatsu to Usa

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8, January 6th, 2013
Nakatsu to Usa

Yesterday's walk was the first since I began where I didn't get to visit any of the temples on the pilgrimage. Today, all being well, I should be visiting four.

I had spent a few days exploring Nakatsu a couple of months ago, so didn't feel the need to look around anymore, and as today was going to be another 30km plus day I headed off from my hotel while it was still dark to find the first temple.

It's in the temple district, a winding lane with a dozen or so Buddhist temples, some quite grand, but not Fumon-in, the one I'm looking for, in fact I pass it twice before realizing this temple is not an old house. It had no grounds to speak of, just enough space behind the walls for a few statues.

The next temple is about 5km inland and by the time I reach it the suburbs are beginning to give way to countryside. Nearby is Komo Shrine, quite a big Hachiman shrine with a big, ornate, gate, and a floating torii in the big reservoir/pond alongside it. I was here in November for the fall colors, but it was raining then I stop back by and see if there any more shots to be had.

From here my route heads directly south, and once passing under the Nakatsu Bypass it opens up to countryside proper. I stop in at a couple of country shrines and am pleased to find some big wooden demon masks on display. All the shrines in this area have a kagura den, a structure where kagura is performed. Though it is not as popular here as in my own area, its still nice to be somewhere that retains this traditional activity.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8 Nakatsu to Usa

Now the road is, unusually for Japan, dead straight as it aims for Hachimen Yama, "eight-faced mountain". I pass through an area of big construction. Paddies laid waste in preparation for the coming expressway. I'd seen more of this yesterday near Yukuhashi. Soon the Nakatsu Bypass will be bypassed.

As I reach the base of the mountain and the road begins its winding ascent I come to a big shrine. In the main hall a huge, red Tengu mask, a sign that this mountain was probably a Shugendo site.

Not too much further up the mountainside is the entrance to Jingo-ji, the third of the pilgrimage temples today, and it's quite a surprise as there is little in the way of buildings, but lots of statues and paths.

There are all kind of bodhisattvas and buddhas, the names of some I know, some I don't. There is a waterfall for shugyo, ascetic practices, surrounded by Fudo Myo statues, there are statues of Emma and other judges of Hell.

At the highest point a cordoned off area with fire pits and more Fudo Myo statues, but most interesting of all was a stone reclining Buddha about 5 meters long. The place was quite busy too with half a dozen small family groups wandering around.

A very pleasant surprise was Jingo-ji. From here I have to backtrack to the big 4-lane bypass. I don't really like backtracking nor walking major roads but in this case I have no choice. There is little along the road except where it passes near a village, and then there would be car dealerships, family restaurants, pachinko parlors etc. One car dealership had a huge Statue of Liberty, more usually found on Love Hotels or pachinko parlors.

A Walk Around Kyushu Nakatsu to Usa

The day begins to drag on, as days do after walking 20 kilometers. The road forks and I take the old route 10 west. The new route 10 heads south with most of the traffic for Beppu and Oita.

Hida, a town on the river looks like it probably has some interesting shrines and some old traditional buildings, but I neither have the time nor inclination to explore and keep pressing on west.

I reach the last temple of the day, just across the road from the major shrine of Usa Hachimangu, just as the sun is setting. The golden light and strong shadows on the statuary make for some nice pics.

Across the road the huge car park for Usa Hachimangu is totally packed and lines of cars are waiting to be ushered in by a team of retired gentleman with wands. Maybe there is an event or ceremony, or maybe as it is the first Sunday of the New Year it is just visitors for their new year rituals, but I'm too tired to go in and find out.

It's another 5km to the station which I reach after dark and head back to my hotel in Nakatsu. Tomorrow back home. I will be back in the area in February for a festival up in the mountains of the Kunisaki Peninsula, and afterwards I will walk the next leg. My rough calculation is I have walked 220 kilometers in 8 days. Only 1800km to go.....

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 7

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