Showing posts with label coal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coal. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Hiradoguchi to Imari. Day 69 walking around Kyushu


Friday March 21st, 2014. A walk from  Hiradoguchi Station to Imari Station

Today’s lengthy leg of my walk will include just one temple and other than that I have no idea of what I will see or encounter. Sometimes there are things marked on the maps that I know I will want to check out, but there are no tourist sites of any note in this section. The road is a standard, rural, 2 lane road not choked with traffic but not quiet.

I stop in at a few roadside shrines to see if there is anything to see. Before I started walking pilgrimage routes I used to walk around the countryside visiting shrines. In the truest sense of the word that was pilgrimage, but now when I walk the Buddhist pilgrimages it is still the shrines I pass along the way that interest me most. The road reaches the coast and passes by numerous small coves.

As I approach Matsuura I look down on a huge power station. Like many, it is fueled by coal, and even though Kyushu has reserves of coal in the ground, the domestic coal industry was closed down in the middle of the last century in favor of cheap oil imports. Now the coal is mostly imported from Australia, and there are acres and acres of coal laid out here in neat piles with conveyor belts and automatic chutes.

A little further towards the town I check for the local manholes. I make it a habit to check out the manhole covers in places I am visiting. They often have designs that feature things of local importance. Here in Matsuura the design features kangaroos, koalas, and the Australian flag. Matsuura is twinned with Mackay in Queensland, where the coal for the power station comes from. I get off the main road which bypasses the town and take the main road through the town. Like most rural towns it appears halfway to being a ghost town with half the commercial properties closed up. After Matsuura the road goes around a headland and there are great views out to a scattering of islands

 On the outskirts of the village of Imafuku I get off the main road and head towards today’s only pilgrimage temple. I pass a torii with steps leading up the hill, and as the temple is on the other side of the hill I presume that there will be a path from the shrine to the temple. There usually is as you often find a shrine and a temple right next to each other because they used to be just one place. Sure enough, the path up to the shrine and then the path from the shrine to the temple are lined with red-bibbed Buddhist statues. The shrine itself is just a simple wooden building with almost no ornamentation, more of a shed really, but the view over the rooftops of the village out to sea was worth the climb.

Temple 79, Zenpukuji, is a small, village temple, and there are a constant stream of people arriving and leaving. I suddenly remember that today is the spring equinox, a national holiday in Japan. The 7 days centering on the equinox is called higan, or Ohigan, and like Obon in the summer is a time for visiting the graves of your ancestors and for other acts of memorialization. The priests wife is busy flitting between the visitors and tidying up around the grounds so we just exchange polite greetings. The ceiling of the main hall has been repainted in the not-too-distant past. Each of the small wooden squares is painted with different flowers.

I head off down the coast which now veers towards the south. After a half hour of walking, I pass back into Saga Prefecture. The bay gradually narrows until Imari. Imari, like Arita is famous for ceramics, specifically porcelain, and on the main street leading to the station are a couple of huge porcelain figures.

The sun is setting when I reach the station but I find I have a little wait until my train to Sasebo so I wander near the station but there is little of interest other than a huge wedding chapel built in European style. The last two days have been long but at least by basing myself in Sasebo I have been able to leave my heavy pack there and just use a day pack. I'm sure that carrying a full pack I would not have been able to cover the distance I have.

Most of Day 68 was sent on Hirado Island, which I cover in this brief guide.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Sechibaru Coal Mine Museum


In the high country north of Sasebo, near the border with the  Arita district is the small local history museum dedicated to the former coal industry in the area of Sechibaru. Built as the offices of the local coal mine, the building is registered as an important cultural property as it is the only example of a Western-style building of stone in the northern part of Nagasaki prefecture. In Nagasaki City itself, there are numerous examples.

I am intrigued by the history of coal mining in Japan for two main reasons. One is that my grandfather and my father were coalminers and I grew up in the shadow of a coalmine. The second is that it is a little known part of modern Japanese history that kind of contradicts some of its cherished "myths".

I didn't know there were mines in this part of Nagasaki. I knew most Japanese coal was mined in northern Kyushu, with Battleship Island off the coast of Nagasaki being one of the famous sites, but northern Fukuoka and the Kumamoto-Fukuoka border area being some of the major coalfields. Early in this pilgrimage, I visited a coal mine museum in Nogata. A much longer article I wrote delving into the subject is here

There was not actually much on display, though the old photos were cool. I did learn that Kansai Coal Company, the owner of the mines, built a railway line in 1896 from Sechibaru down the valley to take the coal out. The previous post in this series on day 67 of my pilgrimage was on the nearby Oyamazumi Shrine and its ancient forest.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Nogata Memorial Hall of Coal

On the other side of the railway tracks to Taga Shrine in Nogata, Fukuoka,  is a small museum on the local coal industry called the Nogata Memorial Hall of Coal.

My father was a coalminer, as was his father, and I grew up near a big coal mine, so I have a particular interest. As a young lad I was a trainspotter so also have a soft spot for old steam engines of which there were a couple on display complete with puffing and whistling soundtrack

Most of the interesting stuff is lying around outside, but there are some displays inside.

I wrote a lengthy article on the place and the history of coal in Japan which you can read here.

The coal industry was closed down by the government with great hardship to many communities in Kyushu. Not because the coal ran out..... it is still there,.... but because middle eastern oil and nuclear were much cheaper.....