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Friday, April 24, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 60 Nagasaki Part 2

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 60, Nagasaki Part 2
Tuesday February 18th 2014

After leaving the old Chinese settlement I head to the long line of temples spread along the base of the hills to the south of the valley. Known as Teramachi, it starts with Sofukuji, one of the main tourist spots of Nagasaki, a Chinese temple containing several National Treasures.

I had been there before, so this time I didn't pay the entry fee but contented myself with some photos of the unusual Chinese-style gate. The heavy rainfall predicted yesterday had still not arrived though it remained dark and overcast. Heading northeast along Teramachi short distance was the entrance to the next temple, Daikoji.

Daikoji Temple, Nagasaki.

The entryway leading to an impressive gate was flanked by well-pruned and sculpted trees, but poking my head inside the gate I saw nothing that made me want to explore further. Next was Daionji, up a long flight of stairs. There was not much to see except the bell tower which seems to have been encased in walls of ochre.

Kotaiji, the next temple, was huge and really nice. Several plum trees, some sort of weeping plum I believe, were blooming which added to the scene. There were a fine pair of fierce Nio in there own gate and some more rather ornate statues of what I believe were some of the Shintenno, the four heavenly kings, also guardians.

With lots of ancillary buildings this is obviously a very active temple. Next along the road was Chosoji which did not look interesting so I passed by. Then it was Kofukuji. The oldest of the Chinese temples. There was a small entrance fee, and I had been here once before, but JapanVisitor wanted a write up of it so I went in and had a good look around.

Not as busy as Shofukuji, but intriguing nonetheless. There are a few more temples along the road but instead I head north across the river and the busy main thoroughfare towards the new Museum of History& Culture.

Just before reaching the museum my eye is attracted to a sign pointing down a narrow alley where I find the Museum of Santa Domingo. Comprising mostly of the excavations which reveals the foundation of an early Portuguese church and settlement.

Nagasaki was for a short while a Portuguese colony, and this is all that remains. Surprising and interesting, and best of all, free. I had heard good things about the new history museum in Nagasaki. It looks like the stonework of a castle, but unfortunately today was a closed day. I now headed back towards Nagasaki Station to complete my circular walk. A couple of hundred meters from the museum there was an impressive looking temple gate and I went in to explore and was completely surprised. It is a big, old temple complex, though it is in a state of decay. There was a few nice statues inside the structures, and behind the main hall a wonderful wall built out of recycled roof tiles and demon tiles and such.

The place was very atmospheric, as abandoned places often are, though it is not quite abandoned. There were no other visitors, which helped the atmosphere for me. Excited by having "discovered" something I head off to the place I had found when studying Google maps before I made the trip here. Fukusaiji used to be the biggest of the Chinese temples in Nagasaki. But it was completely destroyed by the fires that followed the atomic explosion in 1945. The new, concrete replacement is totally unique. The building is in the shape of a giant turtle!!!

Sticking out above the main entrance is a huge turtle head made out of aluminum and standing on the top of the shell/roof is a giant aluminum statue of Kannon. Though the building is made out of concrete there is still a Chinese feel to it. The biggest surprise though is that the temple is home to one of the biggest Foucault Pendulum in the world. Suspended from a cable that begins in the Kannon statues head and passing through the building to the basement below the pendulum shows the rotation of the earth.

A most unusual and unique building that is almost unknown to visitors to Nagasaki, but certainly worth seeking out. I have almost completed my loop walk by now and the threatened rain never did appear. On my way down the hill towards my hotel I stop in at Nakamachi Catholic Church. Built at the end of the 19th century, all that was left after the A bomb were the walls and spire and it was rebuilt in 1951.

Nakamachi Catholic Church, Nagasaki.

On the outside it seems to have been modeled on the nearby Oura Cathedral. Inside is light and spacious with plenty of stained glass. After having visited so many temples and shrines in Japan over the years I know find churches quite atmospheric. Like Shofukuji and Fukusaiji, there is no entrance fee and little visited. Tomorrow I head back to the coast and head down the Shimabara Peninsula and I should be back in Nagasaki in 3 days.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 60 Part 1

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