A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 73, Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae
Tuesday March 25th, 2014
While in Karatsu I had one more pilgrimage temple to visit and I also wanted to visit some of the tourist sites, and as I was up and about before they opened I first visited the main shrine of the town, not surprisingly named Karatsu Jinja.
It was interesting enough, with plenty of smaller shrines and statuary around to satisfy me, and by then, just across the road, the Hikiyama Museum opened up. On display were some of the large floats that take part in the town's Kunchi Festival. Shaped like demons, dragons, samurai helmets, etc the floats are quite impressive, dramatic, and colorful. A running soundtrack of the festival music and screens showing videos of previous festivals helped to create some atmosphere.
Next stop was the Takatori Mansion near the beach. The Takatori made their money from coal, and their mansion was, like many similar mansions, a combination of traditional Japanese and Western styles. There was an entry fee into the main house that I declined to fork out and contented myself with wandering the grounds and some of the outbuildings. Nearby was a smaller mansion of purely Japanese architectural style, and it was free to enter.
My next port of call was a small, almost unknown, museum in the west of the town, built to display the archeological remains of the earliest known rice paddies in Japan. Rice was introduced into Japan through this part of Kyushu, and I am really surprised that this place is not more well known considering the primacy of rice in Japanese self identity.
Time to head on and on my way out of town I stop at Teramachi, "Temple Town", a closely packed group of temples. A few of the temples are quite appealing and one has a group of statues that appear to be non-Buddhist and that includes the undersea Dragon King.
Daisho-in, temple 81 of the pilgrimage is a modern, concrete temple, and unusually, probably to make use of the limited space, has used the roof of one of the buildings to lay out statues and an altar to Kobo Daishi, the "patron saint" of the pilgrimage and the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Time to head up the coast.
When I woke this morning I was feeling a little under the weather, and things have not improved since then. A little achey and weak, warning signs of a cold or flu. The first few kilometers out of town is along the coast road, with the sea on my left and a thick stand of pines to my right. The coast then veers north.
By early afternoon I am able to leave the main coast road and head into the foothills to find temple 106, Shinkoin. It has some recently constructed buildings and a few nice statues and a small garden behind. It is quite open and lacking in large trees which strikes me as unusual. On my way back down to the coast road I stop in at a shrine. Halfway up the flight of stone steps is a smaller shrine and I am delighted to find it contains a couple of "fertility" stones representing the male and female sexual organs. I have found a few of this type of fertility shrine on my walk around Kyushu, but not as many as I was expecting. I suspect there are more of them further inland, further from "civilization."
I stop in at a funky beachfront coffee shop and rest up for a while. I am the only customer. Whatever malady my body is undergoing.... my body is weak and aching, my head feels thick... I decide that the best cure is rest so I head to the next station, Chikuzenfukae. As I walk into the waiting room who should I see sitting there but Tony, the Australian bike pilgrim. When I met up with him a few days ago in Sasebo I was somewhat ahead of him on the pilgrimage, but he has now caught up. It's kind of disappointing as I was hoping to be the first non-Japanese pilgrim to finish this pilgrimage but I am going to be pipped at the post. I'll have to settle for being the first non-Japanese to walk it. I take the next train into Hakata where I am going to base myself for the final few days.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 72
Inside Track Japan For Kindle