A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 70, Imari to Arita
Saturday March 22nd, 2014
The last two days have been long ones with somewhere between 30 and 40 kilometers of walking each day. Today will be much shorter, only 15 kilometers of pilgrimage, which should take me up to late morning, but then I plan to spend the rest of the day exploring Arita and the surrounding area.
I head off from Imari under clear skies but as the morning progresses scattered clouds build up. I am basically heading south along the Arita River. At times I am able to get off the main road and cross to a smaller road on the other bank. Off to the east are some steep mountains that I think I will be going into tomorrow. I find the pilgrimage temple I am looking for up a side road not far from the river. Hoko-in, temple 70, is a small rural temple with a statues of Kannon in the courtyard.
Inside the main hall was fine statue of Fudo Myo, and the priest's wife who was flitting about gave me some fruit and a can of tea to take with me as o-settai. Not long after the temple I stopped in at a small shrine and saw something that I had also seen at another small shrine earlier in the day.
While both were very clearly shrines and not temples, the object of worship at both were Buddhist statues, something that would not have been too unusual 150 years ago, but which supposedly was outlawed by the separation of Buddhas and kami in the Meiji Period. A mystery.
Soon I am in Arita and walking past the chimneys and buildings of potteries. For the rest of the day I am a tourist not a pilgrim. First stop is the Kyushu Ceramics Museum which has displays not just on the porcelain and ceramics of the Arita area but from all over Kyushu.
I do not have a particular interest in ceramics, but I'm going to have to write up a guide to Arita so it was duty. Next I head south out of town. I check the timetables at a bus stop but there is no bus due for a couple of hours so a walk it is.
What I'm heading to is the Arita Porcelain Park, a small theme park based around, no surprises, porcelain. They have chosen to go with a primarily German theme with a fake German village and a truly outrageous structure, a replica of the Zwinger Palace in Dresden. Finding a full size Rococo palace in the middle of the Japanese countryside might surprise some, but not me.
The park also has a sake brewery, working kilns, some museums, and a workshop for visitors to decorate their own plates. As I am about to head off on the long walk back into town a small bus pulls in. I check with the driver and he informs me its a special tourist bus that only runs twice a day on weekends and national holidays and he will be heading back to Arita in half an hour.
By taking the bus I am back in Arita by late afternoon and there is still time to explore the historical part of Arita which I had planned to do first thing tomorrow. The long street heads up towards Kamiarita and a surprisingly large number of buildings are Edo or Meiji Period.
Not sure why, but I have come to appreciate this architectural style. Many of them are ceramics galleries. In the back lanes behind the main road are more potteries and the alleys are lined with walls made out of old firebricks. Tozan Shrine is really interesting. It enshrines the Korean potter who discovered the clay in the area for making porcelain and founded Japan's first porcelain production.
He was one of thousands of Koreans kidnapped and brought back to Japan by Hideyoshi's retreating army. The shrine has a porcelain torii and some unusual porcelain komainu. At the top of the street is Kamiarita station so I hop on a train back to Sasebo.
Back at my hotel I get an email from Tony Gibb, an Australian who is cycling the same pilgrimage route that I am walking. He has arrived in Sasebo and we meet up for a meal in a genuine Tex Mex place that caters to the large contingent of Americans who live in Sasebo because of the U.S. Navy base.
It's taken me 70 days of walking to get here, but for Tony just 26 days. I admit to a little twinge of disappointment that he will be the first non-Japanese to complete this pilgrimage.
A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69
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