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Monday, August 11, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 39 Kyomachi Onsen to Urushidamachi Part 2

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 39
Kyomachi Onsen to Urushidamachi part 2
Saturday November 23rd, 2013

So, I arrive at a decision. I will head back down the valley and go over the mountains where they are lower. I'm not entirely convinced it's the right thing to do. I don't like backtracking as a rule, and there is a good chance I can get over where I originally planned, but maybe I am accumulating a little caution in my old age.

When I was younger I would not have changed my plan. I would have gone ahead and encountered problems but they would have been experienced as adventures. The bottom line, I think, is the worry that I have a room booked tomorrow night and if I don't make it I will still have to pay. That's the thing that nags at me. So.... I stride off east down the valley.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 39 Kyomachi Onsen to Urushidamachi Part 2

My first option is to take the main road, Route 221. It's a new road that roughly parallels the expressway heading north for those willing to pay the exorbitant tolls. Route 221 goes up a "corkscrew" section before passing through a long tunnel and then with another corkscrew descending on the other side. Being a new road it is not likely to have anything interesting to see.

The old Route 221 still winds its way over the mountain, almost certainly no traffic, and probably narrow and overgrown with weeds. It would be a nice walk, but I decide against it because there is the possibility of it being closed at some point by landslide, and because it's a very windy road that would be a much longer walk. In the end, as it's getting into the afternoon, I decide to head a bit further east and go up into the mountains to where a rail line goes over.

As I leave the valley floor the road quickly becomes steep. The station at Masaki is a nice, old, wooden country station, and I'm surprised to find a whole bunch of stalls and local people selling souvenirs. Apparently the train that stops here is a tourist train that stops here for 10 minutes while the driver moves to the opposite end of the train to take it up a switchback.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 39 Kyomachi Onsen to Urushidamachi Part 2

There are apparently three rail switchbacks in Japan, and two of them are on this line. The next train arrives and tourists bundle off the train and there is a hive of activity around the stalls. Lots of photos are taken. The train itself is rather nice, with wooden interiors and some floor to ceiling windows. The conductor calls us on and we head off, first 200 meters, then stop while the driver changes ends again, and then on up. A few minutes later we are looking down on the station we just left and all the locals are waving.

The views down to the valley and across to the Kirishima Mountains become quite stunning and the train stops several times to allow photos to be taken. The next station is Yatake, about 550 meters in elevation, another small wooden building. We stop here for 5 minutes for photo ops with an old steam engine in a shed next to the station. And then we start to descend, stopping one more time for views over Hitoyoshi and the Kuma River Valley.

On the final descent into Okuba Station the train line does an almost complete 360 degree loop before stopping while the driver once again changes ends for the switchback. Another old wooden station, though the interior of the waiting room is completely covered in meishi, business/name cards. Not sure when the "tradition" started but many of the passengers are busy affixing their own cards or reading the ones on walls. I head off.

The sky is still light but this side of the mountain is in shadow and sunset is not far away. I want to get down as far as I can before looking for a place to sleep. The road is steep and windy. I pass under the expressway that crosses the narrow valley on tall concrete stilts.

It's starting to get dark when I reach the main road, but there is a nice wide sidewalk so I keep pushing on though my eyes are constantly scanning for a possible place to sleep - an abandoned farm building, substantial bus shelter etc.

Just as its getting completely dark I pass a big construction company site. At the edge of the property, far from the main buildings and warehouses are a cluster of railway wagons being used for storage. It's not perfect, but at least I will be hidden from view, and it's now so dark that it will be difficult to find anywhere better.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 39 Part 1

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1 comment:

  1. You found a densha otoko line! I hear train otaku are pretty harmless so it sounds like not only an interesting place to visit but also they are helping the economy a bit there. Nice to read your take on it during your journey.


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