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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 4 Nogata

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 4, December 28th, 2012

Well, the good weather had to end at some point.... two days of glorious sunshine but today is grey and dark and drizzly.

The first temple is about ten kilometers away to the north on the outskirts of Nogata, so with head down I head along the main road, …. maybe there are interesting things to see, but I just focus on making distance and get there in about two hours.

There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the temple, but across the road is a larger temple complex with some trees and space so I take a short break in the bell tower.

The next temple is across the river on a hill overlooking the main part of Nogata. Again it is not particularly interesting but the drizzle eases up a bit. At the bottom of the hill I find a small shrine that is the first interesting thing of the day. Guarding the entrance are not the usual komainu, or in the case of Inari shrines, foxes, but rather a pair of monkeys.

Phallic monkey statue, Kyushu, Japan

It's a shrine to Sarutahiko, an earthly kami with strong phallic associations, and with his long nose considered to be the forerunner for the tengu. Long associated with monkeys, behind the shrine are hundreds of votive monkeys: toy monkeys, demon-quelling monkeys, hear no evil-see no evil-speak no evil monkeys, but surprisingly only one phallic monkey.

Across the road, up a lane lined with lanterns, is the main shrine of the town. Far more imposing than the folk shrine down below, its also more austere, all dark wood and white gravel with little of the playfulness of the local shrine. In a room I see a dozen or so miko taking a class with a priest. All the big shrines will have miko permanently on staff, but for shrines such as these miko will be hired as temporary workers for 3 or 4 days over the New Year period when the shrine will receive thousands of visitors.

Miko Shrine Maidens, Kyushu, Japan

On my way across the valley I noticed a steam engine on the hill and as it is located close to the shrine I head over to have a look. There are actually two locomotives on display, complete with sound effects. This is the Nogata Memorial Hall of Coal, a small museum dedicated to the history of coal mining in the area. All around the outside of the buildings are equipment from the mining, now rusting. The last mine here closed down in 1976.

On the outskirts of Nogata to the north along the river is the last temple for today. From here the fastest route to Yahata is along the main road, but it has started to rain again and I really don't fancy the noise of the main road so I choose to follow the river.

The embankment offers a much quieter and prettier route. At Nakama I leave the river and start to head north east. It's now urban sprawl as far as the eye can see. Its been dull all day, but now it's getting dark. There is still 8km until my hotel near Space World, but the rain gets heavier. I'm wet. Its dark. To hell with it, I jump on a train at Imaike and head for a shower and some dry clothes.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 3

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