Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I could easily break this one up into 4 or 5 separate blog entries, but I'll group them all together as having been part of a single day trip, because I still have 3 weeks of back entries to use up.

(Posters for a pachinko machine that turns 6 of the biggest male historical figures into sexy females. Nobunaga never looked so good.)

In the middle of the day one week I decided that I wanted to go out and wander around again. The skies had cleared off and it was the first really nice day in a couple of weeks. Initially, the idea was to track down the used Book Off store near the San Eru (3L) building, and then to keep heading south to see what I'd encounter. Turns out that the Book Off was just 2 blocks from San Eru - I just hadn't known to look there before when I was in the area last time. But, they didn't have anything I wanted to buy, so I kept going.

Along the way from the Kagoshima-chuo station to San Eru, there's a small Sankyo office, advertising their Ranma 1/2 pachinko machines. The interior is a little sparse. They've got sofas and chairs set up in the middle of the floor, but the six machines lined up against one wall are all turned off and appear to be awaiting repairs.

A kilometer or two down the road, the western street car line veers east and crosses the road on its way to join up with the eastern line. I took this opportunity to turn left and head towards the bay, paralleling the tracks. A block from the eastern line, there's signs along the road pointing to a "Yayoi pit dwelling" site 100 meters south. The Yayoi people lived in Kyushu and Honshu from 300 BC to 300 AD. The site is just 50 feet square, behind a link fence, situated between an elementary school, a small Shinto shrine, and what I think is a preschool.

The pit is not very interesting, unless you're an archeologist with access to the artifacts that had been excavated. Ignoring the fact that you may be one of the people living on a site that had had occupants 2000 years earlier.

(Excavation site.)

From the marker:
"First contact with distant ancestors
Site of Yayoi dwellings
--- A Yayoi find to rank with Toro ---
In 1950, archeologists working on the site of the Ichinomiya Shrine in Kagoshima came across the first tateana dwellings to be discovered in southern Kyushu. Their ancestors had left traces of their culture 2,000 years ago just a meter under ground level.

With Japan's defeat in World War II still fresh in their memories, the Kagoshima people felt reassured by this unexpected sign of contact with their distant Yayoi ancestors.

The site comprised the remains of four dwellings and what seems to have been [a] circular meeting place six meters in diameter with a fireplace shaped like a boat at the center, and earthenware, arrowheads, stone implements and vessels scattered around in [a] remarkable state of preservation. It is thought that the Yayoi people kept warm during the winter by digging a fireplace in the center or in one corner of the floor area. Archeological finds centered on this site extend as far as Kagoshima University Attached Primary and Junior High Schools."

(The Ichinomiya Shrine.)

To me, this shrine building is unusual because of the shape. Most such buildings I've seen don't have the open room space in the middle that this one has with the taiko drum and tatami mat. Most other shrines are just small buildings about 20-30 feet square.

Illustrated instructions for how to purify your hands and mouth before praying at the shrine.

The two street car lines merge 3 blocks to the east of the Yayoi pit dwelling site, and the Korimoto stop is another block south along the line. The main Kagoshima train line also veers east in this area, so that the Minami Kagoshima stops for both the street car and the JR train are right next to each other. The above sticker on the side of an ash tray admonishing smokers to not throw their butts into the gutters is located on the JR platform.

My tourist map shows a number of destinations around the Goino station, and because I was right next to the Minami Kagoshima station (1 km south of Korimoto) I decided to hop the train next. Goino is 5 stops farther south, about 15 minutes, and 270 yen ($3.30 USD). Even though it's so close to central Kagoshima, and still within the city limits, things get rural really fast. The trains run every 20 to 30 minutes. Most stations don't have automatic ticket gates, and Goino isn't even manned. It's on the honor system - you drop your ticket into a box on the way out, and there's nothing preventing you from just buying the cheapest ticket and then not putting it in the box. Outside, the platform drops you right on to the street, and there's a small shelter for bike parking. On the west side of the tracks, there's a sign pointing to the Hirakawa Zoo 1 km away. If you don't have your own car, you're going to end up walking the distance, since there's no taxi circle. On the other hand, there may be a bus along this route. Also in the area is the Kinko Bay Park. The rocket is due to the fact that Tanegashima island (115 miles south and reachable by ferry) has a JAXA development lab and launch site.

What strikes me odd about Goino station is that while it's only 1 km from the main highway running along the coastline to the east, there's no road leading to it. To get to the coast, you have to take back alleys through the houses and farms covering the hills. It's a bit of a hike and there's no signs telling you you're going the right way. Eventually, one of the alleys angles down the hill and passes right in front of a couple of "resort inns", which seem to be just "by the hour" love hotels.

"Blue Santa" doesn't have the same meaning in Japan as it has in the U.S.

Almost immediately across the expressway from Coconuts Inn is the Karukan Factory and souvenir shop. Karukan are rice cakes with red bean paste fillings. I arrived right around 5 PM, and the factory on the 2nd floor was already shutdown for the night. The first floor is mostly just gifts and snack foods. 3 blocks north along the main road is the Satsuma Age factory. Age is fried fish paste, and the factory was also closed for the afternoon.

Another 2 blocks farther north is the Kura Musou shochu factory. The gift shop was still open, and as soon as I stepped inside one of the clerks asked if I wanted an "English explanation". I was thinking that this meant an English brochure, and said "please". A couple of minutes later, a young woman walked up and gave me a short tour in English. The neighboring wooden building in the above photo is a small shochu distillery and you walk along the outside wall, looking through glass windows at the mash fermenting in containers inside. The explanation took about 10 minutes, then we went back into the shop and I was able to sample about 6 different kinds of shochu. Most were very mild, created by blending the creations of several of the smaller distilleries in the area to develop unique flavors that are then distributed directly by Kura Mushou. The guide's English was very good and easy to understand. The shop closes at 6 PM, so try to get there before 5 PM. I was the only visitor that that time, and the staff kept the shop open for me past closing time. They had close to 40 different brands of shochu on the shelves, with prices ranging from 1100 yen to 3000 yen per 900 ml bottle. Because the Japanese government excises stringent taxes based on alcohol level, most of the shochu is diluted to 25% alcohol per volume to keep the costs down. One particular label is 44%, and is 2000 yen for 300 ml. It is served directly from the freezer, as a very mild, strong syrup. I got a 900 ml bottle of good general drinking shochu for 1160 yen; with a 10% discount as thanks because I'd kind of given my tour guide a free English lesson.

(The main shochu building across the parking lot.)

The bay is very close at this point, and you can see it from the express way 2 blocks north of the shochu factory. Sakura-jima is again visible in the background.

This kind of artwork on the fence is very common in Japan. You have to look at it from an angle at a distance to get it to work out right.

After leaving the factory, I had to figure out which alleys ran back up the hill, and which ones would take me to the little road running along the train line. At one point I heard my train pulling in and immediately leaving again. Meaning that I had to wait another 30 minutes after getting to the station for the next train. Then it was 20 minutes and 280 yen for the direct trip back to Kagoshima-chuo station.

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