A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 72, Hizennagano to Karatsu
Monday March 24th, 2014
Today I revert back to carrying a full pack as I leave Sasebo in the dark on the first train. When I get off at Hizen Nagano its starting to get light but everything is blanketed by thick mist. The mist thins by the time the sun rises and makes everything much more brilliant as if the droplets of water are acting like magnifying glasses..... which may well be the case.
For a good 30 minutes I walk through a wonderfully bright and ethereal landscape. Being at the right place at the right time cannot be beat. The first couple of hours are uneventful and then I reach the Matsuura River at Ouchi and head upstream to the first temple. Kongoji, number 105, looks like a large house and so I walked past it but then had to backtrack. Around the rear is the room that comprises the temple and a small garden with an interesting and ornate stone pagoda and a nice Fudo Myo statue.
Now I head downstream along the busy main road. In Ouchi I am able to get off the main road that bypasses the old town center and I stop in at the railway station which contains a tourist information office staffed by a very friendly older lady. I've stopped in at quite a few of these types of places, usually off the beaten track and probably rarely getting tourists stopping by.
She tells me of the town's most important site, some Buddhist Sekibutsu (cliff carvings) located a couple of miles away and offers me the free use of a bicycle to get there, so I leave my heavy backpack with her and take a little cycle detour.
The carvings themselves are not very big, but a few of them are quite exquisite with some fine detail and a little pigment remaining. According to the legend, Kukai carved some here but they have long since disappeared. I explore past a sign that "suggests" the trail is unsafe and find several more carvings and small altars set up in small caves and overhangs. A lovely and surprising detour, but it's time to hit the road so I head back and drop off the bicycle and pick up my bag and carry on down river.
For much of the way I have to walk along the main, busy road, but at times I can leave it and walk through the older road that passes through the numerous small towns. Its a fairly uneventful walk and I have a room booked in Karatsu tonight and need to maintain a fast pace.
The river widens and the road spends most of the time running along the top of the embankment. As the river comes to the outskirts of Karatsu is takes a sharp left turn and now I cut in through some side streets and find temple 80, Kakurinji. It is on a rise above the rooftops and the road circles around the hillside, but in front is the old footpath up through the bamboo.
I much prefer to approach shrines or temples along the original pathway rather than the roads that have been built in modern times to allow convenient access to motorized vehicles. The temple itself is quite disappointing, looking more like a run-down fairly standard older house, but behind it I find quite a collection of statues, many of which of Fudo Myo, my favorite.
I head back to the river, which at this point is more like a lagoon. At the narrow entrance to the sea stands Karatsu Castle, like most in Japan a concrete reconstruction.
My hotel is near so that is where I head. I pass by the castle and forgo paying the entry fee to enter. I did visit it briefly some years ago. After about 30 minutes of back and forthing, I finally manage to locate my hotel and check in.
There is still some time left before the sun sets but rather than visit the pilgrimage temple in the town I head to the nearby beach for some relaxation. The beach is nice and golden, and to the east the castle basks in the golden light. To the west the view is not so nice, with the twin stacks of a refinery or power plant. There are quite a few tourist sites I want to visit tomorrow as well as the pilgrimage temple so I head back to my room for the night.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 71
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