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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 27 Miyakonojo to Kirishima Jingu

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 27
Miyakonojo to Kirishima Jingu
Saturday July 27th, 2013

It's another overcast and muggy day. I head off early to take advantage of the coolest temperatures of the day. The pilgrimage temple is just outside the town, surrounded by farmland, and is really unremarkable with no architectural features or statuary on display, and is quite disappointing.

I head off towards the mountains. Today I will be following the rail line as it snakes up a valley towards the Kirishima Mountains before turning south towards Kagoshima Bay.

The next pilgrimage temple is down on the coast of the bay but I have decided to take a detour to visit the Kirishima Jingu Shrine. I have come to the conclusion that there is not much point coming all the way down to southern Kyushu if I am just going to rush from temple to temple, so I am going to allow myself the time to make detours to nearby sights that hold an interest for me.

Kirishima Jingu, Kyushu

After leaving the lowlands the valley closes in quite quickly and the settlements get smaller as they cling to the sides of the narrowing valley. There is not a lot of traffic, but there no sidewalks. There is little to see, I pass no shrines.

By lunchtime I realize that the road is only going to get steeper, and I have about 18 kilometers to go to reach Kirishima Jingu. I stop in at the next station and am happy to find that in a few minutes one of the infrequent local trains will stop.

Using the justification that this is a detour and not a part of the pilgrimage proper, I decide to take the train the 8km to Kirishimajingu station. From there one of the infrequent buses that climb 10km further up the mountains to the shrine itself is about to leave so I take it.

It's now mid-afternoon so I have time to visit the shrine and look around before checking in to the nearby minshuku where I have a room booked. Across from the bus stop is a big building adorned with Tengu, the red-faced, long nosed "forest goblins" associated with yamabushi, the mountain monks of Shugendo.

On investigation I am over the moon to discover it is a mask museum!! One thing I am always on the lookout for in shrines are masks, and so far in this walk around Kyushu there have been relatively few to be found, and here in one place are literally hundreds and hundreds of them.

Mask Museum

Most are from different areas of Japan, some in a style I have never seen before. There are even some examples of the style of mask from my own area, Iwami kagura masks. There are also a few examples from other parts of the world. This has made the diversion well worth it.

After the masks, the shrine is a bit of an anticlimax.

It's impressive enough, all stately and vermillion. It was rebuilt here a few hundred years ago. It used to be much further up the mountain, but was destroyed by eruptions, for the Kirishima Mountains are active volcanoes, parts of which are still off limits to hikers after the most recent rumbling. Because of the geothermal activity this is a hot spring resort area and on my walk to the Marueda minshuku I stop and soak my feet in an ashiyu, the free foot baths found in many hot spring resorts.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 26

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