A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 49, Tamana to Arao
Saturday December 21st, 2013
The sun is not yet up, today being the winter solstice and therefore the shortest day of the year, but I encounter several joggers out and about. By the time I cross the river into the town the sun peeks out from the clouds. In the middle of the town is a big Hachimangu shrine with a very impressive gate with a tower. Within the gate a pair of stone Nio, the Buddhist temple guardians removed from most shrines when the government separated Buddhism and Shinto in the Meiji Period.
In 1877 Saigo Takamori's youngest brother was killed here in a battle of the Satsuma Rebellion. Not far out of town and I come to the first pilgrimage temple of the day, number 57, Rengein Tanjoji and what a surprise it is.
Across a bridge is a massive new gate gleaming golden with fresh wood. Instead of the usual two Nio guardians there are instead 4 statues of the Shitenno, the "Heavenly Kings." They are very ornate and also look new. The temple covers a lot of area, and there is a vermillion pagoda, also seemingly new.
There is obviously money here, but it all seems a little sterile in the way imperial shrines do, lacking in the signs of passing of time and lacking any element of human use. I carry on along the main road, passing through a cluster of love hotels and then an abandoned pachinko parlor.
On closer inspection I see a door is open so I go inside to explore, but there is absolutely nothing of interest inside, just the shell of a standard, cheap, light-industrial/commercial structure. When I first came to Japan I noticed that pachinko parlors disappear at a phenomenal rate, being torn down and often immediately replaced with a new one, and I couldn't figure out why.
Apparently it is to do with taxes, with it being cheaper to tear down a 5 year old structure and replace it. Obviously good for that strange god worshiped in modern Japan, "The Economy."
At Nobara I leave the main road and start to head north, first stopping in at a nice Hachimangu shrine that has a fine pair of old, wooden komainu. I chat with the priest for a while who is busy setting up lanterns and generally getting the shrine ready for the busiest time of the year, the coming New Year.
The road rises and dips, with a bit more rising than dipping, and on the horizon I can see what looks like a multicolored tower or chimney. An hour or so later as my angle changes I see that it is a Ferris Wheel.
Looking at it end-on made it appear as a tower. As I get closer the traffic increases and it becomes apparent it is a big amusement park called Greenland, one I had not heard of before.
To get to the next pilgrimage temple, Taisho-ji, number 101, I have to walk around the boundary of the amusement park listening to screams emanating from the roller coasters. Kongoji turned out to be unusual. It's very large, but there are no tall buildings. Everything is low and constructed out of concrete, quite Chinese or possibly Burmese in appearance.
As I arrive a car-blessing is going on in front of the temple. Its quite busy and there is plenty of statuary and it seems the temple is fairly wealthy. From here I head downhill towards the coast, stopping in at a couple of shrines. In Arao I find the third pilgrimage temple of the day, number 58, Kongo-ji. It's a small, urban temple and my final stop of the day as my hotel is nearby.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 48
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