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Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69 Hiradoguchi to Imari

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 69, Hiradoguchi to Imari
Friday March 21st, 2014

Today's lengthy leg of my walk from Hirado to Imari will include just one temple and other than that I have no idea of what I will see or encounter. Sometimes there are things marked on the maps that I know I will want to check out, but there are no tourist sites of any kind in this section.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69, Hirado to Imari.

The road is a standard, rural, two lane road not choked with traffic but not quiet. I stop in at a few roadside shrines to see if there is anything to see. Before I started walking pilgrimage routes I used to walk around the countryside visiting shrines. I guess in the truest sense of the word that was pilgrimage, but now when I walk the Buddhist pilgrimages it is still the shrines I pass along the way that interest me most.

The road reached the coast and passes by numerous small coves. As I approach Matsuura I look down on a huge power station. Like many, it is fueled by coal, and even though Kyushu has reserves of coal in the ground, the domestic coal industry was closed down in the middle of the last century in favor of cheap oil imports.

Now the coal is mostly imported from Australia, and there are acres and acres of laid out here in neat piles with conveyor belts and automatic chutes. A little further towards the town I check for the local manholes. I make it a habit to checkout the manhole covers in places I am visiting. They often have designs that feature things of local importance. Here in Matsuura the design features kangaroos, koalas, and the Australian flag.

Matsuura is twinned with Mackay in Queensland, where the coal for the power station comes from. I get off the main road which bypasses the town and take the main road through the town. Like most rural towns it appears halfway to being a ghost town with half the commercial properties closed up. After Matsuura the road goes round a headland and there are great views out to a scattering of islands. On the the outskirts of the village of Imafuku I get off the main road and head towards today's only pilgrimage temple.

I pass a torii with steps leading up the hill, and as the temple is on the other side of the hill I presume that there will be a path from the shrine to the temple. There usually is as you often find a shrine and a temple right next to each because they used to be just one place. Sure enough, the path up to the shrine and then the path from the shrine to the temple are lined with red-bibbed Buddhist statues. The shrine itself is just a simple wooden building with almost no ornamentation, more of a shed really, but the view over the rooftops of the village out to sea was worth the climb.

Temple 79, Zenpukuji, is a small, village temple, and there are a constant stream of people arriving and leaving. I suddenly remember that today is the spring equinox, a national holiday in Japan. The 7 days centering on the equinox is called higan, or Ohigan, and like Obon in the summer is a time for visiting the graves of your ancestors and for other acts of memorialization.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69, Hirado to Imari.


The priest's wife is busy flitting between the visitors and tidying up around the grounds so we just exchange polite greetings. The ceiling of the main hall has been repainted in the not too distant past. Each of small wooden squares is painted with different flowers. I head off down the coast which now veers towards the south. After a half hour of walking I pass back into Saga Prefecture.

The bay gradually narrows until Imari. Imari, like Arita is famous for ceramics, specifically porcelain, and on the main street leading to the station are a couple of huge porcelain figures. The sun is setting when I reach the station but I find I have a little wait until my train to Sasebo so I wander near the station but there is little of interest other than a huge wedding chapel built in European style.

The last two days have been long but at least by basing myself in Sasebo I have been able to leave my heavy pack there and just use a day pack. I'm sure that carrying a full pack I would not have been able to cover the distance I have.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 68 Part 2

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