Monday, April 18, 2011

Kareigawa Walk, Part 1

I've been out to the Lawson's convenience store a few times since making the long trek out to the Kenmin no Mori park, and that sign pointing to the right for the Kareigawa train station had been preying on me since. From the airport to the train station would be 5 kilometers. About a 60 to 90 minute hike, which isn't that bad. The problem is that I got a decent sunburn on the back of my neck last time, and the sky's been clear and blue since then. Did I really want to risk making it worse this soon? The answer was, what else better do I have to do right now?

First, I wanted to make up for a little oversight from the last trip, which was to grab a shot of the 3-story wooden building next to Lawson's, and to show the end of the airport landing strip.

Because the Lawson's is at the end of the strip, that's where the road runs down to Kareigawa. Now, one thing to keep in mind is that the expressway is also right there, and most people in Kyushu have cars because everything is so spread out. The shinkansen line doesn't connect with the airport, and the only real way to get to Kagoshima train station 20 miles away is by taking an express bus. So, what's the point of having a station 2 miles from the domestic airport building? Especially when it's on the wrong side of the landing strip from the building's entrance? To answer this question, I first went to google maps and scrolled north and south along the train line so see what was located around each of the stations and where the line ran. It looked a bit disappointing. Most of the stations along that specific line had at most 10 or 20 buildings, and the line itself wandered through the hills from a point northeast of Kagoshima to a point southeast of Izumi. Still, I wanted the exercise, and I was curious.

From the Lawson's, route 56 meanders east past the end of the airport runway, and through heavily wooded hills. There are some small farms (tea, daikon, green onions, flowers), a veterinarian and a dog kennel. Otherwise, it's just a nice walk along a narrow shoulder (no sidewalks). After about 40 minutes, I started expecting to see a sign pointing to the left for Kareigawa. But all I noticed were the occasional signs for what I thought were ads for farm produce. Soon after I was crossing a bridge that had just one set of tracks running under it. Thinking that the valley was too narrow for both sets of tracks, I kept going. A couple of blocks later, and past a collection of farm buildings, I encountered a tunnel running through the hills and a big hairpin turn in the road on the other side. Remembering the google map, and the fact that weren't any other train lines out here, I turned around and backtracked. Just the other side of the one set of tracks was a small sign with an arrow pointing to the right to the Kareigawa station.

(The station is down the hill at the back, with the tracks running below to the right.)

One thing that's interesting about Kareigawa is that it has a big, free, parking lot for cars, and the station itself is down a flight of stairs along a hill (normally, there's no parking, or if there is, it's for bicycles and is right next to the station).

There are about 20 buildings in the area, including a rundown fire department, a grocery shop, a sake shop, a 2-person post office, some houses and a small tea processor. The train station was first built in 1903, and the land around it has been restored and turned into a picnic spot.

The station building is unattended. One half is bench seating, and the other is a combined museum and photo gallery. There's no ticket machine and no gates. And only one set of tracks, meaning that the trains going both ways share the same tracks.

This room connected to the photo gallery is used by the current station staff as an office.

Below are some views of the area around the station.

(Lots of pet dogs out here.)

(Across from the station is a community building, with little souvenir t-shirts for infants.)

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