A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 57, Saga to Takeo Onsen
Saturday February 15th 2014
Back in Saga to begin the next leg of my pilgrimage walk around Kyushu I am happy to find it warmer and sunnier than the Sanin Coast where I live.
As I head west out of Saga I follow the rail line rather than the main road. To the north I see the mountains with a dusting of snow on the higher elevations. I soon leave the city behind and am among the paddies and fields.
Many have the stubble of last years rice crop but there is also plenty of fresh, green winter wheat. I pass the temporary station of Saga Balloon, only operating, I guess, when one of the Hot Air Balloon festivals is taking place.
I head towards a shrine marked on my map but when I get there find a crowd of people outside with banners and megaphone. Some sort of local election going on. By now I reach the main road, a busy strip of asphalt lined with commercial properties.
There are a lot of car dealerships, one sporting a Statue of Liberty. Lots of national chain electronics stores. More than a few pachinko parlors.
One named "Zero" with the slogan "it's so cool to enjoy life frankly." Frankly, I have no idea what that means.
There are national chain family restaurants, karaoke bars, a smattering of love hotels, and of course the ubiquitous konbini. I avoid convenience stores if I have a choice, but increasingly the choice is not there. 100 yen fresh coffee and public toilets are what they excel at providing. I stop in at shrines along the road. Many of them have the local style of torii.
Made of stone, the pillars are much wider than in the normal style and they taper quite dramatically. The cross piece is also much thinner than usual. The overall effect seems to be to create the illusion of them being taller than they are.
A smile comes and my eyes widen as I spot an old Morris Minor rusting in a piece of waste land. Don't see many of those here, though you do see lots of the old Minis. A small detour off the main road takes me to the first pilgrimage temple of the day, Koya-ji.
Koya-ji is quite a big temple, on a hillside, but after entering the main gate I am face to dace with a construction site. The buildings are scattered around the edge so I explore. There is a nice two storey pagoda and a fine statue of Fudo Myo, and many Mizuko Jizo.
The tine statues left for dead children and foetuses. Many of them are dressed in hats and scarves and coats. Back at the main road a car stops and I have a conversation with the driver, he speaking English and I Japanese.
He is offering me a lift, though I am going in the opposite direction to him. I explain that I am on a pilgrimage and I like walking, but it doesn't seem to make any sense to him. Once he finds out where I'm from he wants to talk about Led Zeppelin. All the time he seems unaware that this is just a two lane road and traffic is having to slow down to pass him.
As I get into Takeo Onsen the sun is going down so I just have time to visit the next temple, number 102, Komyo-ji. It is unremarkable, though there is a small Inari shrine next to it.
The cheapest room I could find was at the ryokan in the grounds of the big public onsen in the town, and to get to it I have to walk past many of the higher-priced onsen ryokan and resort-style hotels.
The public onsen is quite distinctive behind an Edo Period gate that has now become the symbol for the town. The ryokan is huge and very busy. I am staying sudomari, without meals, so while most of the residents are eating I take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor bath while it is almost empty.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 56
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