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Monday, December 08, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 48 Yamaga to Tamana

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 48, Yamaga to Tamana
Friday December 20th, 2013

It promises to be a fine day as I head out just after dawn, though a bitterly cold wind is blowing the clouds across the sky at speed. On my way out of town I pass through a small collection of streets with a big soy sauce brewery and a collection of old Edo Period storehouse now converted to shops. I'm surprised to see some of them already open at this early hour. It's actually quite a nice little district, similar to hundreds of others scattered across Japan.

A few kilometers outside town I turn off at the sign pointing to my first stop, the Kumamoto Prefectural Ancient Tomb Museum. At a small car park I notice dozens of small tunnels dug into the cliff faces, apparently they were used for burials, though I have not seen anything like them anywhere else in Japan.

A path leads up through the forest and in a few minutes I am by the largest keyhole tomb in Kyushu. The road from the car park to here is more than 2km so this path was a great shortcut. The museum next to the tomb mounds is by Tadao Ando, and is yet another in the Artpolis project.

Kumamoto Prefectural Ancient Tomb Museum.

I run around taking shots of the museum's exterior and then go huddle in the corner out of the wind by the entrance. It is still 30 minutes before opening time but the lady on the desk comes over and lets me in out of the wind. The displays are good. Lots of reconstructions of the inner chambers of burial mounds from around the region, interestingly all brightly decorated.

I head back to the main road down the path and continue on my way. It is mostly slightly downhill but once the road gets back to the Kikuchi River it goes up and over to avoid the big horseshoe curve that the river takes. I stop in at a few shrines. As shrines go they are fairly interesting with some nice wooden komainu and old paintings.

In some areas of Japan the shrines are fairly plain, but some areas, like here, the shrines exhibit more decoration. As I am coming in to Kikusui I can hear a saxophone playing, as I get closer to the source of the sound, most distinctly jazz, it stops, and then a minute later I see a man walk out of a bus shelter carrying a saxophone case. Obviously his neighbors do not like him practicing at home.

I notice that the local manhole covers feature a haniwa, the ceramic figures that were places around burial mounds in ancient times, and then I pass a huge sculpture of the same design. Just off the road are the Etafunayama Burial Mounds, but I decide not to visit, preferring to press on. The main road joins back up with the river and now the coastal plain opens up. I am able to get off the main road and walk along the river embankment.

I get to the bridges that cross over the river into Tamana but carry on down the left bank towards my destination for the night, a big sports park on a hilltop overlooking the town. It is a massive complex with facilities for many kinds of sports and at the highest point in the park I find what I am looking for, the Tamana Observatory, an observation tower overlooking the town.

Tamana Observatory Artpolis Project.

Actually tower is a misnomer, its another of the Artpolis projects and looks more like a massive sculpture with shapes interlocked and protruding out all over.

There are stairs and decks at different levels and the whole mish-mash of shapes seem to be collected around a large egg shaped form at the center. There are locked steel doors on the egg, but seem kind of pointless as there are wide gaps in the walls on either side big enough to easily slip inside where I find a perfectly ovoid chamber with smooth concrete walls.

A perfect place to spend the night, very womb-like (but there is a fine line between womb and cell?). Here I will be safe from the elements, sabre-toothed tigers, or even crowds of angry villagers with flaming torches and pitchforks.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 47

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