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Saturday, July 06, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 11 Beppu to Oita City

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 11, Wednesday 20th February Beppu to Oita City

I wake to a clear blue sky. Behind the town a few wisps cling to the peaks that have a light dusting of snow. It promises to be a good day. I have a hotel booked in Oita tonight, a mere 12 kilometers away, and while I plan on making a detour on the way I should still have plenty of time to do some sightseeing in Oita.

Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
Beppu - click to expand
On my way out of town I make a small detour to Asami Hachimangu, the tutelary shrine of Beppu. I had been here once before many years ago but with a new camera and the perfect light of early morning I hoped to get some good shots. I was not disappointed.

I rejoin the main coast road and soon round the bend and can see Oita laid out before me, rather I can see the part of Oita that has been built out into the sea and is covered by industrial structures and smokestacks belching particulates into the atmosphere.

Up in the mountains south of where I am is Yusuhara Shrine, a big shrine that I want to visit. I could go up and over the mountains, but decide to carry on along the coast and then cut back up. The way over the mountains is via a complex set of narrow mountain roads, and the chances are that there will be little in the way of signs.

It is also quite possible that there will be new road construction to make a mockery of my map, but the clincher is that it looks steep and I have a heavy pack. When I reach Nishi Oita I am grateful to get away from the traffic and noise and concrete and head up into the mountains.

Yusuhara Shrine is in a remote location, and by its size was obviously quite important. It was founded in the ninth century. It was well worth the climb as it has a fantastic two-storied gate with exquisite carvings and reliefs. If this shrine was in Kyoto or any city it would be packed with visitors and tourists, but here up in the mountains I have the place to myself. I head back down the mountain and reach the edge of the city sprawl.

Nishi Oita, Kyushu, Japan
Nishi Oita - click to expand image
Walking across cities is no fun, but must be done. I reach downtown by lunchtime and store my pack in a locker at the station and head towards temple #26 which is located close to the ruins of Oita Castle.

The old name of this town was Funai, and it was ruled over by the Otome, considered the most powerful of all the daimyo who converted to Christianity. The castle ruins are now in the middle of the city, but would have been much closer to the coast before the modern development has extended out into the sea. Right next to the castle is Art Plaza, a community art center housed in what was until recently the Prefectural Library. Designed by an Oita native, Arata Isozaki, the third floor is given over to a permanent display of plans, drawings, and models of some of his buildings. It is still too early to check into my hotel, so I go to the tourist information office in the station and find that there is a historical walk around the hill about 1km south of the station.

At the base of the hill are a couple of examples of sekibutsu, stone Buddhas, not statues carved out of a piece of stone, but rather carved directly into the face of the cliff. Oita has more examples of sekibutsu than any other prefecture in Japan, and in a couple of days I will be visiting a major site of them in Usuki.

These examples are not so big, but quite delicately carved. The path then winds up narrow lanes and visits a couple of temples, one of which is in the process of being rebuilt, but the prize was found on top of the hill, another Hachiman Shrine with a big two-storied gate covered in relief carvings, but whereas the gate and carvings at Yusuhara where plain wood, these are painted, but not as delicately carved as at Yusuhara. After the shrine the way goes to the top of the hill with views over downtown Oita, and then back to the station and my hotel for the night.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 10

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