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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 26 Shibushi to Miyakonojo

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 26
Shibushi to Miyakonojo
Friday July 26th, 2013

The owner of the great guesthouse Suzukaze I stayed in last night was kind enough to drop me off on the main road heading north out of Shibushi towards Miyakonojo still in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Suzukaze Guesthouse Shibushi Kagoshima Kyushu

There is some high cloud so its a little cooler than yesterday, and by the end of the day I will be at a little higher altitude, so that should shave a degree or two of the temperature too. The first thing I notice is that it smells like the countryside! Not like the Japanese countryside, which doesn't really have a noticeable odor, but like the English countryside..... the smell of cow shit is prevalent, but there is no livestock to be seen. All the cows and pigs are indoors, the Japanese way of livestock raising. Seems strange to me, accustomed as I am to seeing cows and sheep out in the sun grazing.

A good percentage of the traffic rushing by is connected to the livestock, either big trucks filled to the brim with cows or pigs, or tankers filled with animal feed - the silos I saw at the port in Shibushi were for animal feed, so it must be the main distribution center for this part of Kyushu.

The road rises gently, and then dips some before rising again, but nothing too strenuous. I am glad I chose this route rather than the more direct route over the mountains. A side road has a large vermillion torii straddling it, signifying that a largish shrine must be down the road.

The road goes downhill, and there is no telling how far the shrine is, but it promises to be a fairly uneventful route today so I head down to investigate. The shrine was mildly interesting, but as I was heading back to the road I spied what looked like a small statues in the corner of the rice paddy down below. Could this be a Tanokami? The God of the Rice Paddy, tanokami, is a fundamental part of traditional Japanese religion, spending the winter on top of the mountain as yamanokami, it descends in the spring to watch over and protect the paddies, before returning to the mountain after harvest.

Tanokami - The God of the Rice Paddy

You don't hear much about the tanokami nowadays, though in the countryside it is still important. I had heard that in parts of southern Kyushu there still existed tanokami statues, and as I scrambled down the embankment I was delighted to discover that that is exactly what it was.

Feeling revved I strode off up the road, but the heat and humidity soon reduced me to a steady slog. Miyakonojo is spread out over a basin, and the room I'd booked for the night was at the far northern end of the town. There seemed little of interest except a rather dilapidated looking auditorium that looked like a big concrete tent held up by a steel frame of girders.

Obviously built in the days when Japan had so much money to spend building expensive architectural wonders that since have fallen into virtual disuse. I later learn that it was designed by the same architect that designed the Kyoto International Conference Center.

I stop in at a couple of shrines and as the sun starts to break through I stop often in spots of shade. I check in to my hotel, and after an hour in the air-conditioning I feel suitable revived to go out and do a little exploring in the golden light of the early evening, the sun having now broken through completely.

Wedding Chapel, Kyushu, Japan

Near the hotel I had seen a very large, monumental torii with its legs astride the road and so I head to the shrine and manage to get some good shots in the perfect light. Nearby I passed a huge wedding chapel. Earlier in the afternoon I had passed a small church.

Though there are relatively few Christians in Japan it is not uncommon to find a small church in most towns. Often wooden, with a small cross on the roof, they are not at all ostentatious, but these wedding chapels are often really over the top, based on renaissance or Gothic European cathedrals, they are now the preferred site for many Japanese to hold their ridiculously expensive wedding ceremonies. There is a pilgrimage temple in the town, the reason I came here, but it is on the road towards tomorrow's destination, so I will visit it then.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 25

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