A Walk Around Kyushu
Yowara to Shibushi
Thursday July 25th, 2013
I am neither a mad dog, nor an Englishman, but the next leg of my walk around Kyushu will certainly include a lot of being out in the noonday sun.
I am in the hottest part of Japan, southern Kyushu, in the hottest part of the year, late July and August.
It's worth mentioning that I have walked thousands of miles across the deserts of Arizona, often in temperatures higher than what they get here in Japan, so I am well aware of the perils and symptoms of heatstroke and sunstroke, and it's also worth mentioning that in my home here in Japan we do not have any air-conditioning, so to a certain extent my body has been allowed to adapt to high temperatures, but there is no getting round the fact that the high humidity is going to make it tough.
The next temple on the pilgrimage is in Miyakonojo, far inland in a wide basin between mountains.
The most direct route would involve going up and over a range of mountains so I opt instead for a longer, gentler route, down and around the coast and then up a gentler slope to Miyakonojo.
On my way down to Yowara by train from Miyazaki I took a brief pause in the town of Obi to do a bit of exploring, so it's already 10am by the time I start to walk. There is a slight drizzle but that doesn't make much difference as since 8am my clothes have been soaking wet with sweat.
For the next ten days it will be as if I have just got out of a shower fully clothed. My route takes me downstream along the river to the coast at Kushima. By lunchtime I reach the outskirts and the heat forces me to adopt my mountain climbing strategy..... I set a target of when I will allow myself to stop and take a rest.... maybe time.... 20 minutes.... 30 minutes..... though that is difficult as I own neither a watch nor a cellphone. Maybe distance..... 500 paces.... 1,000 paces...., maybe by sight.... the next bend of the road.... the big tree I can see in the distance..... the convenience store whose sign I can see.
At one of my rests sitting on a bench outside a supermarket I am approached by a young man and I fear he is someone who wants to practice his English, but after realizing I speak Japanese he switches to his own tongue and tells me about his experiences hitch-hiking around Japan when he was younger.
At the coast the river is at low tide and someone is out digging shellfish from the mud. He is wearing more protection against the sun than most nuclear power workers get to wear. It's taking all my concentration just to keep plodding on and so have not done much exploring, but just before I hit the coast proper I spy what looks like stone nio at the entrance to a small temple so I do decide to investigate and find a picturesque but run-down temple with some nice statuary.
The coast road passes right by some pleasant beaches but there are few people on them. By late afternoon my breaks are getting more frequent and longer and all I can think about is taking off my pack, removing my boots, and having a nice cool shower followed by some cold beers.
I see the silos of Shibushi Port along the coast and after a couple of hours walking along the convoluted coast road I am in the center of town. My lodgings for the night are still 6km further west, but as that is technically a detour off my pilgrimage route I give them a call and have them come and pick me up. I've survived the first day and it can't get any worse.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 24
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