Showing posts with label shimabara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shimabara. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Kyushu Pilgrimage Day 63 Obama to Nagasaki

Friday February 21st 2014

The sun may or may not be up as I head out of Obama and take the road north along the coast of Tachibana Bay. Looming over the town the massive Mount Unzen blocks any view of the sun until later in the morning. Looking back, plumes of steam rise from among the buildings, a signature of an onsen town. Tachibana Bay is calm and a little darker shade of blue than the sky. A thin line of even darker blue shows the far shore dividing the two expanses of blue.

After half an hour I am able to veer off the main road and take route 201 which was once a railway line. I come to a fork just outside the first fishing village. My map says to take the right fork which starts to rise. My natural inclination is to take the lower road that will hug the coast, but I defer to my map. The road climbs gently and gives a nice overview over the village below and then passes through a narrow tunnel with the distinctive horseshoe shape of a railway tunnel

Coming out of the tunnel I come upon what I presume to be a local TV station making a travel program. An older man and a younger woman are both dressed in khaki shorts and wearing pith helmets. I resist the urge to shout out “Doctor Livingstone I presume!”. With only a cameraman and a sound man as crew, I am presuming they are a low budget local TV show something along the lines of “Lets Explore Locally”, because the next section of the road is a minor tourist attraction known as the Green Tunnel. The road, formerly the railway track, passes through a narrow cutting and the trees growing above have spread their canopy over the narrow cutting thereby creating a “green tunnel”. The road curves around the mountainside passing through several more tunnels.

At several points, there are great views down onto fishing villages below and along the approaching north shore of the bay. The road starts to descend as slowly as it ascended and I end up in Chijiwa where the main road now heads west towards Nagasaki. I find a convenience store to stock up at and sit with a coffee and check my maps. I want to avoid the main road if I can. I find a coast road that literally runs between the cliffs and the sea. Perfect. There is no traffic save for the occasional k-truck. The road comes to an end at a small onsen located right on the beach. From here there is no easy way along the coast so I head inland and join up with the main road heading to Nagasaki.

The road is fairly busy and at first there is a sidewalk, but as it leaves the village the sidewalk ends but starts again at the next village. The road is windy and goes up and down, though never steeply, and because of this the view changes often. I am surprised by the number of love hotels around. It is still about 30 kilometers to Nagasaki, but it is about halfway between Nagasaki and Isahaya, so maybe they serve both populations. Its a fairly uneventful afternoon with a couple of shrine visits, but as the traffic increases closer to Nagasaki it become less enjoyable.


By late afternoon I have covered 30 kilometers but there is still more than 10 to go and I think maybe 40k is too much. In the summer, with the longish days, 40k is doable, but at this time of the year it is just too much so I check the timetable at the next bus stop and finding a bus imminent I decide to take it. Tomorrow I head home. This leg has seen me cover 190 kilometers, making a total of 1,710 kilometers in total.

The previous diary entry was Day 62 Over the Shimabara Peninsula.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Former Obama Railway


Heading north from the hot spring resort of Obama along the coast of Tachibana Bay I followed a coastal road, route 201.

It turns out it was formerly a railway line and passed through some very narrow cuttings and tunnels.

It must be somewhat of a tourist attraction as I passed by what I presumed to be a local tv station filming a segment.

The  Unzen Railway was formed by joining together 2 smaller lines, the Obama Railway and the Onsen Postal Railway, in 1930, and was closed down 2 years later and subsequently turned into a road.

The total length was 17 kilometers, with 9 stops.

The previous post in the series was Obama Snapshots

Friday, November 10, 2023

Across & Over Shimabara Peninsula Day 62 Kyushu Pilgrimage

 A Walk Around Kyushu 

Day 62 Shimabara to Obama

Thursday February 20th 2014

I'm up early to another fine day with clear blue skies, though the peak of Mount Unzen is draped with a cap of clouds clinging to the snow on the peak. I will be passing over that range today so I set off early. First I head a little south to the UnzenDisaster Memorial Museum that commemorates the most recent eruption of Unzen back in 1996. I had been here before, and it is way too early for it to be open, but near the museum proper is another site that I had missed before. Many of the houses that were buried underthe mudslide are on display, some outdoors, some in a covered building. They actually look very weird because they have no damage, they are just buried with roofs and telegraph poles sticking out. Apparently, the mudflow, formed out of a mixture of ash and the extra runoff from heavy rains falling on the fresh lava, was only moving at a slow rate by the time it got here to the coast so people were able to evacuate slowly and safely, and the force of the flow was not strong enough to demolish the houses, just engulf them. All a bit surreal.

I now turn inland and head towards the mountains. For the first few hours, it is a fairly gentle slope until I reach Ryusho-ji, the 64th temple of the pilgrimage, and the reason for coming down onto the Shimabara Peninsula. Towering over the entrance to the temple is a huge statue, a brightly colored statue of Fudo Myo-O, and the main temple building is completely covered in blue tarps hiding the reconstruction. Piles of new roof tiles are stacked y the temple office. For a donation towards the rebuilding, you can have your name etched into a tile. From the temple, the road starts to become steep and then starts to wind itself into switchbacks. In the shadows piles of snow remain unmelted and the temperature drops. There is no sidewalk and a fair bit of traffic so that adds to the lack of fun in this part of the walk.

Eventually, I cross over the pass and start to drop into Unzen Hot Spring, a small resort little more than one street. Steam rises all around with the unmistakeable odor of rotten eggs. Even though it is out of season and most of the resort hotels seem closed up for the winter I find a bakery and settle in for a top up of caffeine and calories. Rejuvenated and rested I wander and find a boardwalk that meanders through the steaming andbubbling pools that have dozens of pipes snaking away from them to the hotels. The smell does not get any more pleasant. There may be more to see in the town but I need to get going as I am only a little over halfway to my destination, though it should be all downhill from now on to the shore of Tachibana Bay.

It turns out that the western slope of Unzen is much steeper than the eastern. There is no gentler slope as it gets further down, it is switchbacks all the way. I soon catch glimpses of Tachibana Bay through the trees, and there is less traffic on this side, so its a very pleasant walk. About three quarters of the way down I pass through a small settlement, the first since leaving the top. Some of the residents are out playing gateball, a Japanese variation on croquet and very popular with retirees.  

A little further and I come to something quite unexpected and not marked on my map, some sort of a miniature religious theme park with the name Inori no Sato. There are no religious buildings, just a small tea room, but scattered around the grounds is a veritable who's who of popular Japanese deities. There are large statues of the Seven Lucky Gods, an Amida Buddha, several Kannon, a dragon holding a giant golden sphere, a Fudo MyoO, a kappa, a giant red Tengu mask, a small Inari shrine, and several others.

20 minutes later I reach the coast and find my room for the night, a traditional onsen ryokan that has seen better days but is priced for my budget. I think I am the only guest as it is out of season. In the last rays of the setting sun I explore the onsen resort town of Obama.

The most notable feature is the longest foot bath in Japan. 105 meters long, one meter for each degree of water temperature. I soak my feet for a while before heading back to my room. The ryokan has recently refurbished the rotenburo, the outdoor bath, and I have the whole place to myself.

The diary from the previous day, day 61, is here.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Obama Onsen Snapshots


Obama Onsen is a small. coastal hot spring resort on the West coast of the Shimabara Peninsula in Nagasaki, Kyushu.

I stayed in a small. family-run ryokan with a recently renovated outdoor bath but the town also has plenty of larger hotel-style accomodation.

Known for its sunset views, it main claim to fame is having the hottest and most active hots springs in the country.

You can't go far on the Japanese coast without finding one of the spots where the ubiquitous tetrapods are made.

Typical of many seaside parks, Obama had a large, sculptural-type monument near the longest foot bath in Japan.

There was a very small fishing harbour with huge concrete walls and breakwaters

Shunyokan is a classic onsen hotel from the early Show period about 100 years ago//

Looking north, my route the next day, up Tachibana Bay

The previous post was on Obama Shrine.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Obama Shrine & its Komainu


Obama Shrine is the main shrine of the small, coastal hot spring resort of Obama on Tachibana Bay in Nagasaki.

The current shrine building was constructed in 1995 on the site of the former Kengara Shrine when Obama Shrine and Kengara Shrine were combined.

It seems the original Kengara Shrine was built in 1679 at the same time the nearby Obama Shrine was rebuilt. At that time both shrines had different names.

The kami enshrined here are Okuninushi, and Sukunahikona who is often portrayed as a sidekick of Okuninushi. Sukunahikona is sometimes considered a god of hot springs due to an episode in the ancient myths set at Dogo onsen in Shikoku. The other kami enshrined is Takemikazuchi.

The main building has a ceiling painting of a dragon which was transferred from the older shrine, but, for me, the most interesting thing at the shrine was the two pairs of small komainu that I suspect came from the two older shrines.

The previous post was on the longest hot spring foot bath in Japan which is nearby.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Hot Foot 105 the Longest Footbath in Japan


There is nothing more pleasing after a long day of walking than being able to take off your hiking boots and socks and soak your feet in hot water. Ashiyu, foot baths fed by hot springs, are a common feature found on the streets of hot spring resort towns and are usually free to use.

Upon arriving in the hot spring resort town of Obama on Tachibana Bay in Nagasaki after having walked over the mountains from Shimabara on the other side of the peninsula, was pleased to find an ashiyu on the waterfront.

It turns out that this was not just an ashiyu, but the longest ashiyu in Japan and also the hottest.

Hotto Futto 105 is 105 meters long, and 105 is the temperature of the water when it comes out of the ground. For many (most?) this is way too hot, but further down the temperature drops as the water cools.

The previous post was the Inori no Sato "park" just above the town.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Inori no Sato Religious Roadside Attraction


Coming down from Unzen Hot Springs towards Obama on the coast of Tachibana Bay, the road is steep and without any settlements until just above the town.

Inori no Sato is sometimes described as a park, sometimes as a roadside rest area, but it looks like some kind of religious roadside attraction with a wide range of statues and altars, and yet is not a temple or shrine.

It is sometimes referred to as Unzen Daibutsu Inori no Sato because of the Buddha statue seen in photo 2, which was made by the same sculptor who created the Ushiku Great Buddha in Ibaraki.

That was a standing figure 120 meters tall, whereas the statue here is a seated figure only 3 meters high including the base.

There are several statues of Kannon, photos 3 & 7, and several Fudo Myo statues, photos 6 & 14.

Under a gazebo in the middle of the park is an impressive statue of a Dragon grasping a golden sphere, photo 5, with a smaller version, photo 8. This is a common symbol across East Asia. The Secven Lucky Gods, shichifukujin, also make an appearance, photo 4.

Various figures from the world of Yokai make an appearance, including a Kappa Pond, photo 9, and a giant red Tengu mask, photo 10.

No overview of Japanese popular religion would be complete without an Inari Shrine, photo 11, a small collection of monkey statues probably related to the Koshin cult, photo 13, and a statue of Shotoku Taishi, photo 12.

There seems to be an emphasis on praying for good luck, success, and other "this worldly benefits", known as genze riyaku in Japanese.

Not shown in these photos is a miniature Shikoku Pilgrimage with 88 small statues, and a pair of "sexual" statues based on Dosojin.

There is no entry fee, though offertory boxes stand in front of all of the statues, and no sect or religion is being pushed. The whole thing was funded by a local businessman, Mr Takujima.

It seems he is the chairman of a successful construction company and Inori no Sato is his attempt to contribute to the well-being and perhaps revitalization of the local area.

The previous post was on the Unzen Hells.