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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 53 Chikugoyoshii to Hita

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 53, Chikugoyoshii to Hita
Wednesday December 25th 2013

Christmas Day is not celebrated in Japan, so as I made my way to Kurume Station in the first light the streets were busy with people heading to work. The sun comes up while I am on the train heading up the Chikugo River valley to reveal a crystal clear sky.

I get off at Yoshii and before I carry on east I make a brief detour to explore the Historical Preservation District. Street after street of white storehouses and shops from the Edo Period, almost none of them converted into trendy tourist shops. It's quite nice.

I head out along the main road. After a while I notice I haven't passed any Ebisu statues. I stop in at shrines, a newly painted one in vermillion makes some great photos with the strong sideways sunlight and black shadows. The valley starts to narrow and the sidewalk ceases. It's not a lot of fun walking along the side of the road with only a painted white line to separate me from the big trucks rushing by.

A Walk Around Kyushu Chikugoyoshii to Hita.

I check my map. I have a new toy, a tablet with GPS, and it says I can cross the river up ahead and give the road on the north side of the river a try. When I get down to the riverbank I see there isn't a bridge, rather a series of concrete blocks with a small space between them. It's nice to get down to the level of the water which is shallow and gurgling over the rocky bed. The road on the other side turns out to be no better, plenty of traffic and no sidewalk.

After a few kilometers of getting more and more irritated by what I am experiencing as a complete lack of regard for pedestrians in Japan I come to a small, new cafe and stop in to take a break. The owners are very friendly and want to chat and take photos of me. When I pay my bill they give me some candy as a gift. I pass a dam and now the valley is very narrow and the river is a long, still reservoir.

This road is busy but on the opposite bank the road is busier so maybe I did make the right decision. A couple of hours later I get into Hita. At some point, though I didn't notice a sign, I have crossed into Oita, but historically Hita has had closer ties and a stronger identity with Fukuoka.

During the Edo Period, Hita was a "tenryo" - a town ruled directly by the Tokugawa government rather than by a local lord, and this obviously caused it to prosper. I head first to Myo-Oji, temple number 95 on the pilgrimage and the reason for coming to Hita. It's a small temple with some nice statuary but nothing remarkable. From here to my hotel on the banks of the river I have to pass through the old part of town, yet another place known by the moniker "Little Kyoto." It's quite pleasant, but I learn that today most of the museums are closed.

Tenryo Hita Whisky Museum, Kyushu.

That's unusual, most places in Japan, if they have a closed day, it's on a Monday, not a Wednesday. I'm not too fussed that the Whiskey Museum is closed as I suspect they had little in the way of free "hands on" exhibits, but the one place I particularly wanted to see was the Gion Matsuri Float Museum.

As I approach the entrance an elderly couple come out the door and tell me its closed. We chat for a few minutes and when the gentleman finds out I walked here he convinces the lady, who I presume is the boss, that they could let me in briefly, so not only did I get to see the museum privately, I didn't have to pay the entrance fee. So, that was it for this leg of my walk. Tomorrow morning I have a few hours to look around Hita some more before heading home to spend New Year with my wife. I will be back for the next leg next week.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 52

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