Saturday, October 17, 2009

Imori Mountain

On Saturday mornings I teach English at a law firm downtown. After yesterday's lesson I decided to take a bike ride to the southwest of the city, which I had never been to.

Without any particular destination in mind I rode for about an hour until I noticed a rather pleasantly shaped mountain with a large shrine gate visible about 1/3 of the way up:
Out of curiosity I cycled over and found the entrance to a hiking course leading to the peak of the mountain (Imori mountain).

I set off kind of expecting it to be like most hiking trails I've come across - relatively gently sloping and without any need for extreme exertion. This trail started that way, but the final 1/3 of the ascent was up an extremely steep, rugged trail that required scaling some near vertical parts using ropes:
Bearing in mind that I had just come from work and wasn't wearing any climbing gear, I nonetheless pressed on. Though after a while I got quite tired of the tough slogging and took a self-portrait:
After about an hour I reached the top, 382 metres up:
The view from the peak was quite nice:
I met an old man at the peak who lived in the area and climbed the mountain everyday. I talked to him for a while, he was a volunteer who cleaned up the trail. He told me that every year people had accidents on the steep part and sometimes had to be airlifted by helicopter to hospital, which didn't surprise me.

After that I headed back down, which was even more difficult as I had to basically rappel down the vertical bits. After getting past that steep part I took a different route down than I had going up and was rewarded with some nice scenery:
On the way down I crossed paths with the old man I had met on the peak and we walked down together. He told me about this natural spring on the mountain that he got his water from every day to make his coffee. Near the bottom he pointed me down a path leading off into the woods to the left where the spring was and I headed down to take a look, parting ways with him. At the end of the path was a small temple and, sure enough, a bubbling spring. Despite being in the middle of nowhere there was actually a sizeable crowd of people waiting in line with plastic bottles to fill at the spring - apparently it was quite famous. I finished off the last of the water in my 2l bottle I had brought with me and got in line. I was able to fill my bottle up with some fine pure spring water right from the source:
To be honest it basically tasted just like any other water, but I was quite proud of my find nonetheless and forced Ena to try some when I got home!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dazaifu by Bike

I went to Dazaifu yesterday by bicycle. I have been twice before but both times by train so I hadn't previously been able to see some of the sights in the areas far from the station.

The First stop was the Mizuki water fortress. I had seen an exhibit about this at the Kyushu National Museum when I visited with my parents in March and had been kind of interested in going to take a look. It was built during the 7th century at a time when the Japanese were worried that the Tang dynasty in China was planning to invade. In order to protect Dazaifu (the capital of Kyushu at the time) they basically built a huge moat stretching across the likely invasion route. With the excavated earth they built a wall behind the moat.

Today the moat has long since been filled in but the wall still exists. You wouldn't know what it was without the signs explaining because it just looks like a forested area:
The heavily treed area is where the earth wall is.

This is another picture of it, its quite pretty:
One weakness which the Tang Chinese were never able to exploit is that the Kyushu Kokudo expressway runs straight through the fortress wall, creating a weak point that could have been disastrously exploited had Japan ever actually been invaded:
After the water fortress I went to the ruins of the ancient seat of government at Dazaifu. Nothing remains of the buildings except for the foundations, which were unearthed by archeologists after the war. Still its a nice site on an open plane in front of the mountains:
Unlike the water fortress, the government building ruins have a small water feature:
After that I visited two neighboring temples which were quite pretty and almost deserted at the time I visited:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A bike ride north

Its been almost a month since the last time I put anything up on this blog. Partly that is because not much interesting has happened since all my classmates left but also its because my beloved camera that took all the pictures on the blog had its career tragically cut short in a soccer game mishap a couple of weeks ago.

But Ena was nice enough to buy me a new camera as an early birthday present and it was a nice day so I took a really long bike ride to the coast north-east of Fukuoka. I logged about 75km on my bike today, which is a record for me and boy are my legs and back feeling it as I write this!

First I headed up to Fukuma, which Ena and I had visited together in May and had previously been the farthest I had travelled by bike. Instead of stopping there though I kept on cycling in the general direction of Kitakyushu.

My journey from Fukuma took me first to some Kofun burial mounds dating from the 5th century. These were earthen mounds where the ancient Japanese would bury important leaders prior to the arrival of Buddhism. There are a lot of them in Nara which Ena and I visited years ago but this was my first time to see them in Kyushu (which it should be noted is where Japanese civilization has its roots). This is one of the mounds in the foreground of this picture, it really just looks like a small hill but the countryside was quite beautiful around there:
There was a shrine on one of the burial mounds that I visited with some Jizo (these little statues that I like to take pictures of whenever I see them):
After that I pedalled away from the mountains and towards the sea, eventually arriving at this little fishing village:
There was a nice view from the pier of this cape:
There was also a good view of the fishing boats going in and out in front of this island:
I climbed up the mountain next to the fishing port and took a self portrait with the same island in the background:
There were quite a few hawks swarming overhead on this mountain, I think they must nest there. I had intended to climb the bit behind me in the above picture but was dissuaded halfway up when I saw how many their were circling directly over my head! The snakes and spiders also played a role - it was an extremely seldom-used hiking path.

After that I kind of doubled back along the coast to begin my long trip back to Fukuoka. I happened upon another fishing village - Katsuura:
I found one of the best coastal view-points I've seen in Katsuura:
The island in the centre of the above photo is Katsu-shima - an extreme rarity in Japan in that it is a sizeable island in a busy area that is nonetheless completely uninhabited and in a perfect natural state. The island in the distance behind it is the significantly larger (and populated) Ooshima. If you look closely you can see the ferry on its way to Ooshima just to the right of Katsu-Shima.

I rather liked this stretch of coast and ended up taking quite a few shots of these islands:
I also caught a nice sunset on the way back in Fukuma: