Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On the road to Senganen

The week of Aug. 13 is Obon, the big national holiday when many Japanese visit their family homes and pay their respects at their family grave sites.  It's also at the height of the summer, and the heat and humidity drive people farther north or overseas on vacations.  Since the school I teach at was closed for the week, I wanted to make sure that I got in at least two long walks while I had the chance.  I headed north, for Senganen, to see just how far I could go along the coast road before the sidewalk ended.  I'd made the walk last year when my foot was still good, but I'd gone to Dolphin Port to look at the remains of the cannon battery there and had done a lot of meandering through Ishibashi Koen (Stone Bridge Park) before continuing north to Senganen.  At the beach, I turned around for home.  This time, I followed the road that goes from my apartment past the International Exchange Center up to the mouth of the Inari River.  It's a much more direct route, and I reached Ishibashi Koen in about 40 minutes. 

There had been 5 stone bridges commissioned over the Kotsuki river in the later 1800's, and two of them had been washed away during flooding in the 1980's.  The city decided to move the remaining three to Ishibashi Koen to act as centerpieces of the park.  When I was there last year, I saw the sign for Tofukugi park a quarter mile to the west, but I was too tired to bother making the sidetrip.  This time, I figured that I might as well check it out, and if I still had time, keep going to Senganen.  I took enough pictures that I'll break this section up into 2 entries and post the second part tomorrow.

About a mile north of the park, the road hugs the coast line and runs past some love hotels and hot spring spas.  I encountered this little guy on the sidewalk next to a wall.  He remained mostly motionless as I inched up to take the photo.  I wanted to startle him enough to get him to go part of the way up the wall for a different shot, but he wouldn't budge.

Another half mile farther north, the road swings inland a couple blocks and runs past a number of restaurants and gift shops.  There's the entrance to the beach, with a big beach house in front.  I'm assuming the bay is saltwater, and that I'd need a shower before making the trek back home.  Maybe some day, I'll take the city view bus out here and back (160 yen each way).  If the beach house has lockers and a shower, it'd be worth trying once. Today, the beach was pretty crowded, with well over 100 people out swimming and jumping from the dock.  Across the street, there's a shrine that I decided to visit.

Beach Shrine

What's interesting to me about this shrine is that it has something of a cow motif, which I haven't seen anywhere else (I've seen kitsune (fox), dogs and dragons, but not cows before).

Carefully study the big rock behind the little shrine, halfway up the hill.

It's another cow carving.  Then, there's the little lantern housing at the top of the rock.

Guardian posted at the entrance to the shrine grounds.

Looking from the entrance of the shrine across the street to the swimming beach and the bay farther out.

A couple blocks farther north, and right across from the beach, is this marker.

"Flagship of the Rising Sun
Shipyard Site
... Japan's first battleship built in Satsuma ...
In response to the British and French ships which had been appearing off Ryukyu, the perspicacious Lord Shimazu Nariakira sought to strengthen Satsuma's military position by modelling his fleet on the British navy. In 1851 he had a shipyard constructed on this site, 100m long (north-south), 20m wide and 3m deep, and by 1854 the three-mast Iroha-maru was completed. Satsuma's first gunboat, the Shohei-maru, was built in another new shipyard at Setomura on Sakurajima. The latter, flying the new "rising sun" flag, sailed to Edo and was presented to the duly impressed Shogun, Iesada. Three years later, Lord Tadayoshi carried out Nariakira's dying wishes and ordered large numbers of foreign ships. Satsuma now boasted the largest fleet [of] western style ships in Japan."

From here, it's just 2-3 blocks to the entrance of Senganen, once the home of the Shimadzu clan, and now a museum/flower garden/park.  1000 yen entrance fee.  I kept going along the Senganen keep wall for 1 block, but the sidewalk disappears on both sides of the street and the traffic is really heavy.  So, yeah, there's no safe way to keep walking up the coast to Kirishima.  The only option, barring driving, is to take the train from Chuo Station, or possibly the old Kagoshima station halfway between the International Exchange Center and Ishibashi Koen.

I turned around and headed back, this time cutting through the tunnel that runs under Tofukuji park.  It's about 400 yards long and heavy with car exhaust. I'd hate to have to walk through it more often, but it really is a major shortcut, dropping me off at the Inari river right next to the Inari shrine and the ruins of the old Shimadzu Castle.

On the way past the Niodo Water memorial marker, I encountered this sign.

"The site of Takeji Fujishima's residence
Takeji Fujishima, along with Kiyoteru Kuroda and Eisaku Wada was one of the excellent Western style painter[s] Kagoshima produced in the Meiji era. He lost his father [and] two elder brother[s] when young. Living in poverty and taking care of his old mother and a younger brother and sister, he continued studying Western as Japanese style painting. In 1896, at 29, he was appointed assistant professor of the department of Western style painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Tokyo University of Arts). Starting at 38, he studied in France for 5 years and produced prominent works during the period. On returning home, he was named professor of the school and helped many painters develop further, thus exerting a great influence on the world of art at the time. In 1937, he was awarded the first Cultural medal. "Kokusen" black fan a national cultural treasure, is known as representative of his works."

I'm pretty sure that Takeji's house was torn down long ago, leaving just the marker on the corner of the block in this residential area.  From here, it's about half a mile to the back of the International Exchange Center, and another 20 minutes to the apartment.  Total trip time - 4 hours.  During this walk, there was a brief thundershower that poured down for 20 minutes, before blowing off.  Later, the skies were mostly clear.  Fortunately, I was carrying a plastic raincoat in my backpack.  If the storm had hit a couple hours later, I could have justified going swimming.

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