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Monday, July 06, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 68 Yoshii to Hirado

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 68, Yoshii to Hirado Part 1
Thursday March 20th, 2014

So I am back in Sasebo to begin the final leg of my walk around Kyushu following an 88 temple pilgrimage around the island. On this leg I will finish with Nagasaki Prefecture, then dip back into Saga Prefecture, before heading into Fukuoka and to the final destination at Munakata.

Ohashikannon-ji Great Bridge.
Ohashikannon-ji Great Bridge
I started on Christmas Day about 15 months ago and have walked during each of the seasons. As I have began each leg of the walk I have been excited, but starting this final leg the excitement is mixed with other feelings including relief but also regret that it will soon be finished. Not to worry I have my next pilgrimage already lined up.

I take an early train out of Sasebo up to Yoshii where I finished a few weeks ago. I can see the temple on the hillside but with fresh legs am not bothered by the climb. On the hillside in front of the temple is a large children's playground. The main building of Ohashikannon-ji is made of concrete but its proportions, low and wide with a flared roof, make it quite elegant.

Draped across the front of the building is a wide curtain in the five colors of Buddhism, purple, white, red, yellow, & green, and with two lanterns either side of the steps it also contributes to its simple elegance. Inside the hall, which is comparatively light compared to most temples, an older lady is busy setting out offerings and arranging things.

The colored banner hung on the building suggests to me that a festival is to take place later so I do not pester here with questions. On the main altar is a fine statue of Fudo Myo, and off to one side a "shinto" altar flanked by two fox statues. In the middle is a small statue of a coiled snake of a type I often see connected to Benzaiten.

Behind the main hall is a smaller, wooden hall and the priest's house and from here a stone path lined with statues leads up the mountain to where the namesake of the temple lies. Ohashi means "Great Bridge," and a short way behind the temple is a huge natural bridge spanning an opening in the cliff. Soaring about 60 meters above, the sandstone bridge is split into two for most of its span. I would guess it to be close to 100 meters wide. Down below numerous statues and altars are set into the cliff face.

Fudo Myo of course makes an appearance. I have a long distance I want to cover today and its overcast and cool so I should be able to make a good pace so I head back down the hill and start to head up the main road towards Hirado to the north.

Tabira Church stained glass windows.
Tabira Church
It's a two lane road, sometimes with sidewalk, sometimes not. It goes up and down in places but more down as it heads to the sea at Emukae. After Emukae the road starts to climb away from the coast. There is nothing of interest, or rather nothing to cause me to detour and explore, and I am glad when I can get off the main road and head towards Tabira Church.

I am much more comfortable walking these back roads. They wind around small hills and cross small valleys, offering different views with almost every turn. There is also almost no traffic. Getting closer to the church I pass by the Tabira Insect Museum which does not look as if it ever gets busy. Tabira Church is a large red brick structure designed by Tetsukawa Yosuke, like many of the churches in this area, and was completed in 1917. On an overcast day like today it does not look special, but inside it is bright and airy with lots of stained glass.

Bridge to Hirado.
Bridge to Hirado
The island of Hirado, visible across the straits, is home to many churches as it was historically one of the places the Japanese Christians hid out during the period of Christianity's suppression from the 17th to 19th centuries. From the church it's just a half hour walk to the big red bridge that crosses over to Hirado where the next two temples of the pilgrimage are located.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 67

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