A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 47, Kumamoto to Yamaga
Thursday December 19th, 2013
It was about three weeks ago that I walked into Kumamoto from the south, and now I am back to begin the next leg of my pilgrimage walk around Kyushu. My plan is to walk through Christmas and the New Year period, though I may take a couple of days off if the weather turns bad. My route will take me north then east and then west though country that is all new to me.
Today I head up route 3 to Yamaga, a hot spring resort town that was once a major rice growing and shipping town. Leaving Kumamoto it is drizzling, cold, the road is slightly uphill and the road is busy. Not a fun way to start, but the worst of all is the noise. Every time I visit a city I am truly shocked by just how noisy it is. I find it hard to believe that people can live in an environment like this, but then again I have lived in cities when I was younger.
Coming into Ueki I stop in at a small shrine to sit on its steps and have some breakfast out of the drizzle. The shimenawa has a couple of unusual straw decorations added to the shimenawa in preparation for the new year.
A little old lady comes out of the ramshackle building in the shrine grounds and checks her persimmons hanging up to dry. We chat for a while. In small local shrines I have always found people friendly and wanting to chat. Unlike in the cities and tourist spots where many people will attempt to use English to chat, out in the more rural areas the people chat with me in Japanese. Much more natural.
The rain has stopped now and a few kilometers further on I pass by an entrance to a temple with several statues along the narrow, entrance road so I decide to pop in and explore, and I'm glad I did. There were numerous small shrines scattered around the wooded hillside with many statues, some of them painted.
By lunchtime the road flattens out and curves to the left and runs straight up the wide plain of the Kikuchi River. Both sides of the river are covered with paddies filled with the stubble of this year's harvest.
Before reaching the bridge across the river on the outskirts of Yamaga I stop in at a couple more shrines. By the time I get into Yamaga the sun is out and I pass by the elegant public spa and head to the pilgrimage temple, Kongo-ji (861-0501 熊本県山鹿市山鹿1592).
It is number 100, one of the twenty "extra" temples on top of the standard 88. It has an unusual stone gate forming a perfect two thirds of a circle. My guess is it is Chinese style.
There is a ceremony going on with a lot of people in attendance so I pay my respects and head to the main tourist attraction, other than the onsens of course, which is just a few hundred meters away, the Yachiyoza Theater, a restored kabuki theater built just over a hundred years ago.
It is one of the bigger provincial kabuki theaters I've visited, and uniquely the ceiling is covered in adverts which makes it look like the ceilings you find in some temples and shrines with each ceiling panel having a small painting.
The sun is going down but I have enough time on my way to my ryokan on the riverside to make a short detour to visit the main shrine of the town, Omiya Shrine.
The low sun illuminates the hilltop shrine causing a strong contrast between the almost black shadows and the bright vermillion, so I run around quickly taking advantage and trying to get as many shots as I can. As the day has gone on it has gotten better and better.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 46
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