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Monday, October 06, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 42 Around Hitoyoshi

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 42, Around Hitoyoshi Tuesday November 26th, 2013

I am up at first light. Busy day ahead, not the usual getting from A to B, but crisscrossing the area by foot, boat, and bus.

Hitoyoshi maple leaves and lantern, Kyushu

My first stop is Ganjoji Temple, number 50 on the pilgrimage, which is located just a little to the east of my hotel. There are a few temples clustered together, and plenty of autumn colors on display, so cliché photos are possible.

More interesting than the temple itself is the graveyard on the hillside behind.

Here are buried all the generations of the local lords and their families, so line after line of stone monuments. The ground is a carpet of yellow. Fallen gingko leaves, though they have lost their deep, rich, gold color and are now faded to a pale yellow, but against the reflected blue of the sky in the shadows it is quite vibrant. All quiet sombre.

From here I cross over the river to explore the ruins of the castle. Once again the autumn foliage is out and full so cliched photography has full reign. Down below the castle I am delighted to discover the remnants of what must have been quite a grand garden, and though not as tended as in former times it is still delightful due to the palette of colors.

By now its approaching 9.30am and time to head back over to the other bank of the river and take a boat trip. The Kumagawa is classed as one of the three fastest rivers in Japan.

Relatively speaking, all Japanese rivers are short and fast. Geologically the country is new and so time and erosion have not formed long, slow, wide rivers like the Mississippi or the Nile, nor even like the Thames.

Boat ride, Hitoyoshi, Kyushu, Japan

On the Kumagawa around Hitoyoshi there are two boat ride options, the gentle course, and the wild course.

The gentle course begins in the town and goes downstream to Watari. The wild course begins at Watari but does not operate in the winter months. The boats are traditional cedar river boats with two boatmen, one at the bow and one at the stern.

We passengers sat cross legged. It was a windy day but the 2 hour boat trip was pleasant enough. At times the water was a little deeper and slow and so the boat was poled, and at other times it was fast and noisy as it rushed over the rocks, but not enough to call it whitewater.

There was plenty of bird life, ducks, probably wintering here from Siberia, herons, egrets, cormorants, overhead kites. After getting off the boat we were brought back into Hitoyoshi by shuttle bus and I headed north out of town to the next pilgrimage temple, #52 Takatera-in.

It didn't take long to get out of the town into the countryside, and away from the river the wind was negligible. It was a pleasant, warm, sunny afternoon as I arrived at the temple.

The temple itself is unremarkable, though it has several statues of Bishamonten that are registered as cultural assets, but they are "hidden" from public view.

I climb the old, worn path to the top of the hill to the Okuin, the "inner hall" where the statues would have been before now being stored in the treasure house.

Leaving the temple I stop by the village shrine which is surrounded by scaffolding as it has a brand spanking new roof of thick thatch.

It's nice to see thatch still being used. I head back into town the way I came and then head out west of town to some hills on top of which is the next temple, #53 Kanrenji.

It was the most impressive of all the temples I visited that day, more buildings and statuary, made better by the late afternoon light, horizontal golden shafts articulating everything with deep shadows.

My route back to my room passed right by the Aoi Aso Shrine again so I stopped in for some more quick photos before the light disappeared completely.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 41

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