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Thursday, May 02, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 6 Kokura to Kanda

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 6, January 4th, 2013
Kokura to Kanda

So, after a few days break for the New Year I'm back on the road and hoping to get through Fukuoka Prefecture and into Oita on this leg of my walk.

There are two temples to visit today on Kyushu's 108 sacred sites pilgrimage, both of them to the southeast of Kokura.

Googlemaps tells me the shortest route is to head south and then east skirting the mountains that form the northern tip of Kyushu that reaches up to where the big bridge crosses the Kanmon Straits, but I opt to head along the straits to Moji and then cross over the mountains. A little longer, but with the promise of a break from the wall to wall concrete.

The first hour is along the busy road with residential areas crammed in to the base of the hills on one side and industrial areas on the seaside divided by the road and rail artery.

Tucked in among the power-lines, warehouses, and industrial structures is the most incongruous Amorevole San Marco, a wedding complex based very loosely on the Byzantine masterpiece St Mark's Cathedral in Venice. There are many of these kitsch monstrosities around Japan, lacking in any of the details and ornamentation of the originals, and if you look closely lacking windows.

Weddings have been turned into an industry in many countries, but in terms of rip-off Japan is light years ahead. Wouldn't surprise me if a wedding in the real St Mark's was cheaper than at this one.

In the center of Moji I turn uphill and at the top of the town, tucked in underneath an expressway, the entrance to the town's biggest shrine. Even though its early, the shrine is busy, it being only four days into the new year. There are lots of smaller shrines around the grounds including an Inari shrine with its tunnel of vermillion torii and a temporary structure holding all the discarded new years decorations, last years amulets, etc that will be ritually burned later.

Kokura to Kanda walk in Kyushu

It's a short climb up the hill to where the road tops out and I can look down to the coast on the other side with the airport built offshore. From here I can get off the main road and descend along the village road.

At the bottom I take a narrow lane that runs alongside the expressway and its surprisingly quiet and rural. I find the first temple among the paddies and farms, Fudo-in, and all around the temple and up the steps are hundreds and hundreds of plastic bottles with candles in them. Must be from New Year's Eve.

Fudo-in Temple Kyushu Japan

To get to the next temple I must follow the busy Route 25, straight and lined with apartment blocks, chain stores, family restaurants, pachinko parlors.

I find an abandoned love hotel and see if I can find a way in but it is sealed up tight. At Shimosone I follow the rail line until I turn east and head up a long valley towards another expressway I can see crossing the valley.

According to a big sign this was once an important site as there is a fairly large keyhole tomb (kofun) and a map with various sites in the valley where Yayoi and kofun period artifacts have been found. At the top of the valley I find the temple, though at first look it did not appear to be a temple at all.

A single storey older wooden house with one room holding an altar and statue. Compared to some of the bigger pilgrimages, the temples on this one are not much to write home about, but then its not the temples themselves that are important, but the space between!

I head back down the valley along a pretty path that follows the stream and find a large Hachiman shrine on top of the hill. In front of the main building a huge rock, split down the middle, with shimenawa (holy rope) around it.

There is a steady stream of families visiting the shrine, in all probability the only time of the year when they do. From here I meander across the hills along narrow lanes until I can hear the roar of the traffic along Route 10, the main road that I will be roughly following for the next few days.

At Kanda the sun is setting and I catch a local train back into Kokura where my inexpensive hotel room waits. Tomorrow I can catch the first train back here for the next leg which is going to be a long one.... 35km at least.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 5

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