Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tachibanakami Bus Ride, Part 2

As mentioned in the last post, the area intersecting the valley has a number of hot spring resort buildings. There's water runoff everywhere, leading down to the river, making it look like some of the resorts are leaking. One such resort looks quite upscale, and is connected to a building that looks like a very narrow granite-based catholic church, with stained glass windows. At the north end of the building, past a small parking lot, is a sign to an open air onsen.

(Dressing room with towels and baskets for holding your street clothes, for the open air onsen.)

Beyond the dressing room is a stairway leading down to the river. Along the river is a separate bathing area that apparently is heated enough to allow nude soaking.

(Open air nude soaking spot along the river. You can almost see the bather through the grass on the left.)

A block or two farther north is a turn off for Kumaso no Ana. This leads to a parking spot, and a trail that runs up the side of the hill.

There's lots of "up" involved. I like "up", when it comes to airplanes. When I'm in an airplane and it's moving, "up" is good. I approve of "up". But while climbing lots and lots of stairs? Not so much. "Down" is good with stairs. With these stairs, I was really sweating heavily because of the dense concentration of "up" along them. When I got to the top of the stairs, I wanted to know why I had to go "up" to find a cave.

Statue on the way to Kumaso no Ana.

Sign next to the entrance to the cave. "Kumaso" refers to two tribes of people that lived in Kyushu during the Jomon era, up to about 300 BCE. "Ana" literally means "hole", but is also used to refer to animal dens, and caves. So, "Kumaso no Ana", is a cave that's believed to have been occupied by either the the Kuma or the So tribes. No idea how anyone could have stumbled on something like this by accident.

From the outside, it just looks like a crack in the rock. But, it immediately opens upwards into the cave, which is a simple room about 40 feet square. There's a power box next to the entrance, with instructions to turn the breaker off if you're the last one back out.

Can't say if this is the work of vandals, or commissioned artists that just imitated vandals.

There's a second section of the cave that also tapers down into a tiny pool of water towards the back. I debated trying to crawl back to see if there was a similar hidden entrance to another room, but didn't want to get muddy before getting back on the bus. That, plus there was the electric wire for the lighting sitting in the water, and the possibility of being electrocuted also entered into the decision.

Offerings box. Lots and lots of one yen (0.8 cent US) coins. And a discarded rice cracker.

After leaving the cave and getting back down to the street, I still had about 1.5 hours before the return bus. With nothing better to do, I started walking north again. Fairly quickly I got to the turnoff where the bus driver had made a short detour, and where he'd said the Fuji Matsuri was. There was also a sign indicating a waterfall and a public garden in the same direction. Unfortunately, there were no indications of how far away everything was. Figuring that it didn't matter, that I'd just go 40 minutes out then just turn around and come back, I started walking up the hill.

After a while, I'd gotten up into the hills and was looking down over the onsen resorts. In fact, I was going east up along the intersecting valley that was at the base of the resorts, with all of the "leaking buildings". What's interesting about this area is that someone put in stairs along the hill faces running from the hydro-power pipelines, to allow for hiking trails leading from the road into the hills. In the U.S., these areas would be closed off from the public as "attractive nuisances". If I had my bike I'd go back up there again on my own and do some more exploring. In fact, there were a couple Japanese riders on racing bikes training in the hills during that time. I debated jumping them and taking one of their bikes for myself.

(Looking east up the valley.)

Reaching the top of the next hill, I was getting close to my turn around time when I saw a traffic cop directing cars at a scenic overlook site. I'd arrived at my destination.

First was Inukai no Taki (Inukai Waterfall).

Second was the small park that made up the overlook, the "Inukai no Taki viewing place". There's a trail running from the back of the overlook building down the side of the hill to the waterfall. Unfortunately I didn't have time to go down the trail along with going up to the Fuji matsuri.

The two figures above are supposed to be Ryoma Sakamoto and his wife, Oryo. In 1866, Ryoma, who was one of the figures that had led to the fall of the Tokugawa Shoganate and the start of the Meiji Restoration, had been wounded in an assassination attempt by government soldiers. While recovering at home in Kyushu, fellow local hero Saigo Takamori suggested that he go to Satsuma for medical treatment. Ryoma went with his newly-wed bride, Oryo, marking what is commonly called the first honeymoon trip in Japan. The road I followed up into the hills to the waterfall is apparently part of this honeymoon trip route.

Close-up of the "Ryoma Honeymoon Road" map.

(Sound stage in the open field section of the public garden.)

From the overlook, there's a set of stairs running to the top of the hill on the other side of the road. I tried running up part of the way and my legs turned to lead so fast that I almost failed to make it to the end.

Entrance to the gardens. Notice "Guri-Buu", the Japan Rail mascot promoting the "flower festival" in Kyushu. I guess that one of the events is held in this specific garden.

There's a Shinto shrine here as well.

The fuji plants making up the "fuji" part of the fuji matsuri. Just as I was about to take a close-up shot of the wisteria buds, the battery in the camera died. There were about 40 people visiting the park, and about 5 sitting at the controls of the sound system next to the stage. Another 15 people manned food stalls, selling beer, soba, dango, and udon. I was getting hungry, but didn't want anything heavy weighing me down on the way back to the bus, so I bought a roasted ear of corn for 400 yen. Very nice, juicy, sweet corn.

The walk back went pretty quick and was mostly uneventful. I reached the "retro house" spot described by the bus driver. These are the historic thatched houses that I've seen examples of in Noborito. As mentioned before, they've been turned into a hotel, with lots of modern woodwork around the entrances and in the rooms themselves (to track them down, try looking for the nearby village of Myoken).

I still had about 15 minutes left, and most of the bus stops were pretty close together at this spot, so I kept walking. I was kind of hoping to save some money on the bus fare, but I also wanted to see if there were any good gift or snack shops along the way. Back at the main road, I found a number of small farms, various older houses, and lots of shuttered shops. Nothing particularly interesting. Then, as I was following along the river again, I started getting concerned because I wasn't seeing the next bus stop and I only had about 5 minutes remaining according to the schedule. If I missed this one, I'd have to wait another 2-3 hours, and I was getting tired. Finally, after several more blocks, I got to a bend in the river and a simple unmarked signboard holding a xeroxed sheet of paper with the bus schedule. Naturally, in this spot, while there was an abandoned shop and a big apartment building, there was no vending machine or bus stop bench.

Time passed and no bus. Farther along the road the river turned again and I couldn't see what was down there. I didn't want to try my chances because I didn't have a clear view along the road to see if the bus was coming. More time passed and the bus was 10 minutes late. All I could do was watch all of the fish (a good 30-40 of them) swimming in the river, and the swallows swooping around grabbing bugs before returning to their nests at the ceiling of the apartment building parking garage. Finally, the bus did show up, 15 minutes late. Although I'd gone at least 6 stops up from Tachibanakami, I'd only saved myself 30 cents on the fare. And right around the next bend, sure enough, had been a vending machine 200 feet from where'd I been standing

Pretty quickly I was back at the airport and on my way back to the apartment. That evening, while eating dinner and watching the local news on the TV, one of the stories was about the taiko drum players at the Fuji Matsuri. Funny, there were no drum players when I was there. Stupid TV news.

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