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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 67 Sasebo to Yoshii

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 67, Sasebo to Yoshii
Sunday March 9th 2014

It is still dark as I head off. I have a long way to go today. The first pilgrimage temple, number 72, Korin-in is just one kilometer north of my hotel in downtown Sasebo.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 67 Sasebo to Yoshii.
Ancient Tree At Tozenji Temple
It's a small urban temple with mostly concrete buildings, but I can make out a Fudo Myo statue. From here my route heads north up a narrow valley filled with city. The sky starts to lighten and the traffic increases. The road narrows as it reaches the pass and down below I see a river valley running east and west.

The next temple is down the valley a few kilometers and the next one after that is up the valley to the right so I decide to cheat and jump on a train that will take me down the valley. I hate walking back along a road I have just walked. I get off at Motoyama and the sun has come up. I head south across the river and main road towards temple 74, Tozenji.

Towering over the entrance to the temple is a huge ancient tree illuminated in the golden light of the sunrise. There is no-one about and the temple buildings are still locked up. I am hoping to visit five of the temples today, so that is two down and three to go.

I head up the valley which is really just a suburb of Sasebo even though a mountain stands between it downtown. After passing where the main road and train line comes down the mountain from Sasebo it starts to quieten down a little and become more rural than urban.

The road climbs gently and I stop in at a few shrines. Then the valley narrows and the road climbs steeply and I am looking down the valley with the hazy city far down below. Its now completely rural. I am surprised by the entrance way to Saikoji, temple 74, as it is wide, long, and lined with lanterns and trees, suggesting that it is going to be a large temple.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 67 Sasebo to Yoshii.
Statue of Fudo Myo-o
And it is, it must have been quite a big complex in its day, though now it all seems a bit run down. There are a lot of different halls and shrines, and several gardens but they are overgrown. I decide I am going to have to do some research to find out the history of such a big temple. I leave by the side entrance and am surprised to see a huge statue of Fudo Myo-o with an altar beneath it. While not the biggest I have seen on this pilgrimage it is certainly big.

I carry on up the hill and as it gets steeper my pace slows. After a few kilometers I turn left and head towards the mountains. A long tunnel will take me through to the valley on the other side which I will then head down. As I enter the tunnel a sign tells me it is at 360 meters above sea level. Quite a climb for the day, but I delight in the knowledge that for the rest of the day I will be going downhill.

After emerging from the tunnel the road descends quickly to the river below and then turns west and heads downstream. It's completely rural now until I come into the small town of Sechibu where I find a small stone building that houses the local coal mining museum.

The entry fee is one I am comfortable with - it's free - but being from a coal mining family myself I would have paid to go in anyway. It was not a huge museum, mainly the tools of the trade, but most interesting were several old black and white photos enlarged up to wall size, one of which depicted a group of men and women, stripped to the waist, covered in coal dust, sitting and eating their lunch down a mineshaft.

I had read that in the early days of coal mining in Japan it was very much a family affair with husband and wife teams, the men doing the digging and the wives hauling it out, and this photo seems to confirm that.

I carry on downriver towards the next two temples. Temple number 76, Saifukuji, is up on the hillside on the south side of the valley, but fortunately the way to it is by a long road that gently climbs away from the river rather than by a direct route straight up. Approaching the temple there are lines of Jizo all wearing different colored bibs.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 67 Sasebo to Yoshii.
Cave at Saifukuji
The path leads to quite a large, modern house which I presume to be the priest's home, and a small temple building, but the real surprise is behind where there is a huge cave in the cliff side. Actually its not really a cave anymore as the roof has collapsed to make a natural stone bridge. In the nooks and crannies of the overhangs are a variety of small shrines and altars. Statues of Fudo Myo predominate. It was a delightful surprise.

I head back down to the river and main road and carry on downstream. I've probably walked close to 30 kilometers today and I start to get weary. My map shows a few shrines just off the main road but I can't be bothered to make the detour. By late afternoon I can see temple 75, Ohashikannonji, on the mountainside on the other side of the valley but decide I can't face the climb, so that will be where I start on my next leg in a week or so. I jump on a train from Yoshii and head back to my room in Sasebo.

This has been just a four day leg of my walk. And I reckon I have now walked at least 1,930 kilometers. Probably a lot more, Whenever I use a tracking app on my tablet it reports that I walk about 20-25% further than Google maps estimated distances, probably due to all the detours.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 66

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