A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 51, Hainuzuka to Mii
Monday December 23rd 2013
It's dark when I walk to Kurume Station and catch a train south to where I finished yesterday. The first stop is the number 10 pilgrimage temple, Fudo-ji.
It's a small temple in a neighborhood of windy roads, but when I do find it the sun pokes above the distant mountain horizon and bathes the main hall in golden light. All the statues and the surrounding land is covered in a thick, crystalline frost. If I was to follow the route of the pilgrimage guide I have I would now head north to a cluster of temples north of the Chikugo River, but the guide is written for people doing the pilgrimage by car, and though it may be the shortest route it makes less sense to me so I have chosen a different route. I head northeast to something not on the pilgrimage, but something worth seeing, a 62 meters tall statue of Kannon.
As I get closer the statue is easily visible towering over the small town, though the view is partially obscured by the tangled web of cable and wires that lay suspended over the roads. The temple, a branch of Daihonzan Naritasan up in Chiba, is a modern temple founded in 1958.
A friend of mine would disparagingly call it a Buddhist "theme park" as it has numerous "attractions" as well as the giant statue of Kannon, there is a replica of an Indian tower, an underground heaven and hell experience, a site for car blessings, and lots of opportunities to spend money to increase your luck.
However, from my understanding, this is not too different to how many temples, especially pilgrimage temples, operated in the Edo Period. After climbing the stairs inside the giant Kannon statue there were fine views over Kurume and the Chikugo River.
I carried on eastwards to a mountaintop shrine I had not heard of before, Kora Taisha. Along the way I have to detour around the barbed wire fence surrounding a large army base. The army in Japan keeps a fairly low profile, considering that technically it shouldn't exist. Of course, it may look like an army to you and I, but it's not. It's a "self defense force." And those aren't tanks behind the fence, they are "special vehicles."
Of course, when I dig in my garden I don't use a spade I use a "personal excavation device."
A little further along the road and I see a most unusual sight. Half a dozen Santas riding motorbikes. They stop by the side of the road and I see one of the riders is dressed as a Christmas tree and another as a reindeer. I can only guess that they must be on some sort of a charity run. Or maybe not.
I get to the base of the mountain and am pleased to discover that there is an old trail of stone steps that go up to the shrine. I am not pleased that I have to climb a mountain, I don't like climbing, but it pleases me that I can be off the road and follow in the footsteps of the many who have climbed these steps before me in centuries past.
The shrine itself was rather nice, with the structures now standing dating back to the 17th century. Beside the shrine was an overlook offering views along and across the wide Chikugo River valley. I will be spending a few days walking up the valley on this side, and then then back down across the country I can see laid out in front of me.
A really nice surprise was that behind the shrine I found a pair of fertility stones, one male, one female. I head back down the steps and head to the nearby station at Mii from where I take a train back into Kurume where I have enough daylight left to do some sightseeing. At one shrine there are still orange and red leaves on a maple tree.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 50
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