Saturday, September 29, 2012

Go West

I'm going to try something new and show the route for one of my long walks (taken from google maps).  The "A" mark shows the location for City Hall, about 15 minutes from me). The route starts near the Kotsuki River, about 5 minutes north of the Kagoshima-chuo station.

While I've stated that I've pretty much covered all of the places I can get to by foot, that's not exactly true. I've been following major roads in between the big hills, and that kind of limits where I can easily reach. But there are cross streets that I haven't gone down yet, and I figured that I could try checking out one possibility for my next walk.  This time, I went straight out from the apartment to the Kotsuki River, crossed it and kept going until I ran into a T-intersection at an elementary school. I then headed north for a few blocks until I got to the next major cross street and turned west again. A few blocks later, there was a sign for a memorial marker 150 meters away pointing to the left. I've given up on actively trying to find all of the markers, because there's just so much history in this area. But, if I do come across a sign, I will check it out.

"The Komatsu Tatewaki Residence
In 1835, Komatsu Tatewaki was born into the Kimotsuki family, a fuedal lord of the Kiire domain. At the age of twenty, Tatewaki was adopted by the Komatsu family, another lord of the Yoshitoshi domain. From childhood, Tatewaki excelled in both his studies and in the martial arts. At the age of 27, he bacame a retainer, putting many brilliant, younger, lower-class samurai, like Saigo Takamori, Okubo Toshimichi, and others into important positions. He weathered the crises of the Anglo-Satsuma War, the Teradaya Incident, tied the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance, and paved the way for the establishment of the Meiji Restoration after which he held the position of diplomatic official. Tatewaki died at the early age of 34."

The house at the top of the wall is hidden behind bushes, and it may not be the one that Tatewaki moved into.  But, it is an older neighborhood butting up against the foot of one of the hills.

Behind the house is a weird little alley running another 30 meters to some other houses, a few which look to be abandoned. I thought that this staircase was interesting enough to photograph it.

Back at the main road, I followed it between two more hills (the one here is the one backing Tatewaki's house). One thing I've noticed about Kagoshima is that neighborhoods change feel very quickly. Just walking a few blocks in some direction can take you from a very modern residential district into an older area made up of taxi companies and ramen shops.  And this road is no different. The sidewalk disappears on both sides and the shoulder is just wide enough to keep you from getting hit by the cars if you press up against a wall and don't try to squeeze around a light pole until the road is clear. There's a couple of nice-looking coffee shops and bakeries here that I'd visit more often if they were closer to the apartment, or if I had a bike.

At one point, I encountered some sealed-up tunnel entrances in the hill face, at the back side of a parking lot. I doubt they were part of the city's old water system (too far away from the original spring), so I'm curious as to whether they date back to WW II.  They could have been military in origin, or maybe fallout shelters.  I'd love to come back some night with a shovel and a flashlight, if the chances of getting caught weren't so high...

Just a little past this parking lot, I came to another T-intersection, with one leg heading to the right up the hill, and the main bar continuing straight across the valley floor. I turned right. About halfway up the hill, I noticed a wild board (inoshishi) trying to cross the road. I went to pull the camera out of my backpack as I heard approaching traffic. The inoshishi turned around and trotted back to the hillside and clambered up into the trees. I just had time for one shot before the approaching car caused it to dash away faster.  I waited for 10 minutes after this, but the traffic never stopped for longer than a few seconds. Finally, though, I can say that I've actually seen an inoshishi. Now, if I could only find a mamushi (pit viper)...

At the top of the hill was this topiary. The house in back is the offices of a stock trading company.

Sakura-jima is easily visible from the top of this hill. I'm far enough back now that the bay is hidden. The Kagoshima-chuo train station, with its ferris wheel on top, is somewhere between me and the volcano, probably towards the right edge of the photo, but not visible from this angle.

Continuing west at the top of the hill, I eventually came to the entrance of Meiwa Junior High. This is a huge school, possibly one of the largest in the city. I circled the grounds clockwise, which brought me to the edge of the hill on the south side.  It looks like I'm at the edge of the city, here. The main expressway is in the valley below, somewhere.

Continuing to the far west side of the school, there's a massive apartment building complex that takes up several blocks. I'm assuming the "36", "37", "38" on the sides of the buildings are building numbers. There's a shopping complex in the middle of the area as well, with a bank, fitness center, and various other stores. The picture above is at the far west end of the hilltop, looking west.

After completely encircling the school, I went back down the inoshishi hill and turned right at the T-intersection to go farther south along the valley floor.  After a number of blocks, the road started going uphill. There was a middle-aged woman also hugging the side of the road (no sidewalks here, either) and we got to talking along the way. Turns out that she'd gone all the way to Tenmonkan to do some shopping at Maruya Gardens and was heading back home. (Maruya Gardens is 1 kilometer past my route starting point). At the top of the hill, we parted ways, with me turning right and finding myself back at the entrance to Meiwa Junior High. So I went back down Inoshishi hill a second time.  About halfway, there's a side street that goes through a short tunnel. I decided to follow the street in the hopes that it would join a cross street that would go straight down to the Kotsuki river. Unfortunately, the street continued to hug the side of the hill, and the road that did go downhill just deadends into a construction supplies yard.  But, from here, you can see the hill I was on for the "roundabout" walk (to the left in the far distance). The round building to the right in the middle distance is the Arena event center.

A closer view of the Arena, the big round building at the lower middle right.  Since I couldn't easily get down the hill from here, I doubled back through the tunnel and backtracked the way I'd come back to the apartment. Total trip time, 3 hours.

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