Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kotsuki River Walk, 1

I keep referring to the Kotsuki river, which is the primary river running through Kagoshima City, passing a couple of blocks east of the Kagoshima-chuo train station before continuing southwest to the bay. Many of the historical markers are either right along, or within a couple of blocks of, the river between the station and Napoli Douri. Plus, the Meiji Restoration Museum is near Napoli Douri. So, that's a lot of the reason. However, a little farther northeast is where my apartment is, and it's only a three minute walk to Hiratabashi (Hirata bridge, near the aforementioned Hirata park). There are a number of places that I've been visiting farther northeast along the river, and it's time to talk about them.

(Photo of historical marker image for the original Tamebashi.)

A few blocks upstream from Hiratabashi is Tamebashi. From the marker explanation:
"Completed in 1849, Tamebashi was the last of the five Kotsuki bridges. It was the narrowest and cheapest of the bridges owning to its distance from the castle. The sides of the bridge sloped more than those of Shinkanbashi or Nishidabashi. The pilings were rebuilt after floods."

(Present-day Tamebashi.)

I think I've mentioned the 5 Kotsuki bridges before. They had been commissioned in the mid-1800's, and spanned an area of the river from about where Napoli Douri is now, to Tamebashi about 2-3 kilometers upstream. When a couple of them had gotten damaged from flooding in the 1990's, all 5 were relocated to a park specifically dedicated to them on the other side of Dolphin Port along the bay going up to Senganen. The bridge park is one of the stops for the Waterfront City View bus.

(Looking back up the river towards the train station from Napoli Douri.)

As can be seen from the photo, the river is really more of a lined culvert, with two wide walkways on opposite sides at river level. I'm not really sure just how far the walkways go towards the north, but there are certain wildlife maps along the river describing the birds and flowers that can be found at different stretches, and at least one waterfall. Mostly, the walkways seem to be cobblestone, meaning that a racing bike would be a poor choice. But, there's a chance that this might be a good 25 km ride. I'll check it out when I finally get a new bike. At the south end, the walkways get really rough and unridable at about Takenohashi, and stop about a kilometer from the bay. The best riding may start around Miami Douri, and then going north.

(Moon statue at the foot of Hiratabashi.)

Starting around May 20th, I began seeing a lot more wildlife in the area. There's always been pigeons, the big black crows and various sparrows. Now, we're also getting brown ducks, short-tailed swallows, white cranes, black cormorants, and some other birds that I don't know (not a lot, maybe only 3 or 4 of any given type of bird). I've seen some turtles, and there are these small fish - 3-5 inches long and silver - that can go jumping several feet through the air.

Most of the neighborhoods along the river here are a mix of houses, apartment buildings, small shops (clothing, bars, cafes), medical clinics, schools and pachinko parlors. Not a lot of big department stores, though. About a kilometer up you get to the Kagoshima Miraikan, on the west side, which translates to "Future Hall", but as seen in the sign is called the "Museum of Environment".

The Miraikan attempts to promote green living, and teach the dangers of pollution and deforestation. The sculpture to the left here has a small bank of solar panels, and a readout showing how much power is being generated at any given moment. The building itself has a larger bank of panels that can generate about 40kW. By being partly buried, the building can maintain more even temperatures year-round. Rainwater is collected and reused for watering plants. The museum is open from 9:30 to 5:00 (the handout says 9:30 to 9 PM, but this may be an error, or at least doesn't hold for every day), except Mondays. Admission is free.

The Miraikan is divided up into 4 zones, with zone 1 acting as a recycle shop. You bring in items like toys and dishes in good condition and receive points, which can be redeemed from the other items already in the shop. The Water zone shows the effects of water pollution, and the areas around the world currently suffering from shortages. There's an art gallery displaying works made out of recycled plastics, tires and even highway signs. The people are very friendly, but expect you to be able to understand Japanese. On the other hand, right after I came in, one woman quickly approached me and offered me xeroxed guide to the museum in English.

Almost right next door is Tecc.Land, a subsidiary of Yamada Denki. This is a weird little mash-up, with a discount convenience store in front selling sodas, snacks, cup noodles and toiletries, and in the back selling high-end TVs, computers, games and movies. A 150 yen 150 ml bottle of Coke is 98 yen here (Pepsi at 88 yen). And I found a nice little replacement laptop mouse for 600 yen.

Go another 1.5 km or so upstream, and again on the left you'll find the Kagoshima Arena sports center.

Right in the middle of the plaza leading to the building is what remains of the front gate of the Kagoshima prison. Built in 1908, the prison functions were transferred in 1985 to Yoshimatsu City, in the Airagun district of Kagoshima. Note that Yoshimatsu City itself ceased to exist after being merged with Kurino to create the new city of Yusui in 2005.

(Old prison marker sign. Japanese only.)

Finally, if you go up to where the interstate crosses the river another 2 km or so, there's this little historic spot on the west side with a sign in Japanese and English. I doubt that most Japanese people living in the area are even aware of it, and I'm not sure why foreign tourists would seek it out. But, I think it's cool that it is there to read if you are exploring around.

The sign reads:

Ta-no-Kami of Shin-Mura
Designated March 31 on 1989, Kagoshima City Tangible Folk Cultural Properties
The statues of "TA-no-KAMI (God of Rice Fields)" are important folk cultural assets which are found only in Kagoshima prefecture and a part of Miyazaki prifecture [sic]. The statues called "TA-no-Kansaa" by the local people of Kagoshima are usually found at the foot of mountains or by rice fields. Local people believe that the god will bring on bumper crops and abundant harvest. Therefore special feasts, Ta-no-Kami Ko, with Ta-no-Kansaa to celebrate the harvest thanks giving were held extensively[.] Ta-no-Kansaa in Shin-Mura is a seated statue carved into natural stone. Its typical style is wearing a koshiki (ride steamer) over its head and carring [sic] a dipper in the right hand and a bowl in the left. The engraved letters on the back of the statues tell us its histry. [sic] In the olden days, Ta-no-Kami ko used to beheld on the 17th of October every year.

And, an Honorable Mention goes to the Heart Pia athletics complex a few blocks past the Arena. No photo taken.

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