A Walk Around Kyushu
Hayato to Kagoshima City
Monday July 29th, 2013
It's an overcast and showery day as I make my way to temple #43, Hojo-in. Several times I open my umbrella for short showers as I stop in at a few shrines before reaching the temple. It's a fairly small urban temple with not much to see, though I do notice some glass wind bells with prayers/wishes written on paper hanging from the clapper. I don't remember ever having seen such things before.
After a short walk I reach the concrete shoreline of Kagoshima Bay. From here the main road hugs the coast all the way down to Kagoshima city. Ever since I first studied the maps of the route of the pilgrimage I have been looking forward to this section, mountain to one side, water on the other, and views of Sakurajima all the way. I follow the feeder road and am then confronted with an extremely busy road with no sidewalk!!
Of course, roads without sidewalks are commonplace, but they will often have a white line with a meter or more of shoulder that is ostensibly for pedestrians, but here the shoulder is about 15cms, and with the spray coming from the speeding trucks and cars it is really dangerous and impossible to walk. I am livid!
Pedestrians, outside of many city centers, are simply ignored by road planners. There is no way I can safely walk down this road without causing the traffic to slow right down to pass me. I check my maps and see that the only other route would be to head inland and go through the mountains which would mean doubling the distance and involve a lot of climbing. There is simply no provision for anyone to walk to Kagoshima. And why should there be? Pedestrians do not contribute to the economy and are therefore a waste of space. The only solution is to backtrack a few kilometers to the last station and take a local train down the coast and hope to find a place where the road has a sidewalk. The train line and road run right next to each other and looking out the window about half-way down the coast I see where the sidewalk begins so alight at the next station.
The sidewalk is wide... at least three meters... and I slowly start to lose my anger at the road builders. At one point the road divides and in the space between is a small shrine built around a rock outcropping. An oasis of stillness between the rushing traffic. The rain seems to have stopped but the clouds that roll overhead are dark and swift. Sakurajima pierces the clouds so I can't tell if it is spewing smoke like it does so often, and then it happens again..... the bloody sidewalk ends!!!!
The gap between the white line and the guardrail is only centimeters, but this time I am not going to walk back 4 or 5 kilometers to the station and take a train, I am going to walk and to hell with the traffic. I stride off as fast as I can. Behind me is the hiss of air brakes as trucks slow right down to pass me. I am sure the traffic is backing up and I am being cursed by drivers for whom time is money, but I am a human being and this is not an expressway off limits to humans... dammit I have as much right to travel this road as the vehicles.
About 500 meters along I come to a small lay-by with a bus stop and checking the timetable I learn that a bus should be along in ten minutes so I sit and wait. I know that on Shikoku where there are many walking pilgrims, complaints by them about the dangerous lack of sidewalks has led to the construction of new sidewalks in many places, but as far as I can tell I am only the second person to walk this Kyushu Pilgrimage, it's designed for car pilgrims, so it would do me no good to complain. The bus comes as promised, and I head into Kagoshima and my hotel, the Cent Inn. I am a few hours earlier than I expected so head out to explore. Tomorrow I will go back to the north of the city and walk across it.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 28
Inside Track Japan For Kindle