A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 43, Hitoyoshi to Setoishi Wednesday November 27th, 2013
The forecast is for a fine day, but the river valley is filled with mist so there is no way of knowing what's above it. Today I will be heading down the river towards the coast at Yatsushiro, and whenever I finish walking I will take a train into Yatsushiro and come back out tomorrow.
For the first few kilometers I take the main road along the river but once I reach the bridge just past Watari I cross over to the west bank and follow the much quieter road that follows the rail line.
The mist gradually burns off and clings to the mountainsides and reveals the promise of another fine day. The river and its valley remind me somewhat of the valley I live in in West Japan, though there are more faster sections that roar with white noise. Certainly it would be a more exciting boat ride than I took yesterday. I pass through several small, quiet settlements and stop in at a few shrines and small Buddhist chapels.
On the far bank the main road is busy with traffic. Further down the road I spy what appears to be a huge pole with a distinctly phallic shape to its tip, once I reach it I am delighted to discover it marks a small fertility shrine, one of the things that I am always on the lookout for in my wanderings around the backwaters of Japan.
The small hut contains about 20 phalli, left as prayers for pregnancy. This more than makes up for my disappointment at not being able to visit a fertility shrine a few days ago up at the top end of the valley. Another hour and I can make out an unusual structure perched on the mountainside of the opposite bank. A cluster of cylinders with domed roofs, it looks a little like a mosque, but by my estimation it is roughly where a big cave is located.
As I get closer I pass through a "vacation village", a series of cabins available for rent along the riverside. They are all closed up now as it is out of season. 2 of the cabins are really unusual, both part of the Kumamoto Artpolis project that puts innovative architecture in communities around the prefecture.
I'm really surprised by how small the two structures are, literally small cabins, but that is because when I had seen photos of them before the photos made them appear much larger.
It is a shame I can't get inside them. From here a small suspension bridge goes over the river and a trail heads up the cliff. There is a small chairlift, but its all closed up.
On top, across the main road is the entrance to a cave, Kyusendo, and I pay my entrance fee and enter. I like caves, and this one is OK, but I would probably rate it as the least interesting of all the ones I've visited in Japan.
There is not much in the way of stalagmites or stalactites, though there is a Bat Cave, but for obvious reasons it's not accessible to the public. Back outside the cave I learn that the domed structure across the road that I had seen coming down the valley is a museum.
Like many such museums in Japan it has a curious mix of exhibits. This one focuses on the local forest and Thomas Edison. As far as I can tell there is absolutely no connection between Edison and this area and can only presume that it was the brainchild of a bureaucrat or local politician.
I choose not to visit and instead go back down and cross back over to the other bank and continue on my way. The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful, though the noise of the river was a nice accompaniment to my musings.
Gradually it clouded over. After a couple of hours I called it a day and caught a train into Yatsushiro where I had found a good deal on a room. Tomorrow I will take the train back to where I stopped walking and finish the journey into Yatsushiro.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 42
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