Road Trip On Kyushu Railway - Part 2
Highlights this week include a Kannon statue which overlooks and protects a town, a shrine with huge camphor trees that are more than 1,000 years old and an "indestructible" stone bridge in a park.
A three-day journey of enquiry and discovery in northern Kyushu on the JR Kagoshima Main Line and the JR Nagasaki Main Line continues. The first team of Kazuyuki Aijima and Abarerukun had started from Hakata Station of the Kagoshima railway line, transferred to the Nagasaki line at Tosu Station and ended the first day at Saga Station. They start the second day by meeting up with the other team, comprising Akiko Matsumoto and Yumi Morio. The four of them visit the Saga Castle ruins.
At the Saga Castle History Museum, they get to see Sotogoshoin, where the clan’s official events were held in the past. They also check out the room of famous feudal lord Nabeshima Naomasa. He worked on the financial reform of the Saga clan, the highlight of which was the export of Arita ware, created during the Edo period. In the military field, the Saga clan built a reverberatory furnace and they successfully cast Japan's first iron cannon. They thus contributed to the modernisation of Japan.
The two teams return to Saga Station and catch the 10.35am train to Hizen-Yamaguchi in the town of Kohoku, four stops ahead. The next train is a little over an hour later at 12.15pm. At Hizen-Yamaguchi Station, the travellers split up into different teams - Mr Aijima will partner Ms Matsumoto, while Ms Morio will pair up with Abarerukun.
Mr Aijima and Ms Matsumoto speak to some high school students, who recommend a cake shop called Amaretto. Run by two sisters, it sells different kinds of cream puffs. In the meantime, Ms Morio and Abarerukun make enquiries at the Fureai Koryu Centre. Its director tells them about a Migawari Kannon statue behind a temple called Toshoji. The four-metre-tall statue overlooks the town. It was built in 1953 in hopes of bringing peace after the war and is said to protect people from disasters.
The four travellers then take the train to Isahaya Station, 15 stops away. Once it passes Hizen-Kashima Station, the train runs along the Ariake Sea and later enters Nagasaki Prefecture. A passenger on the train tells the teams Isahaya is known for its eels and suggests they should eat at a restaurant called Uosou. The train arrives at Isahaya Station at around 2pm. The four of them go to Uosou and order the eel set meal. The restaurant, established 50 years ago, serves eels grown in the natural water of the Kirishima mountains. An Edo-mae style of cooking is used. Unseasoned grilled eels are steamed to soften the flesh, after which they are dipped in a secret sauce made with honey from Miyazaki Prefecture and slowly grilled.
The team members ask the head chef about recommended spots. He mentions a bridge called Meganebashi, which was initially at the Honmyo River. It was later transferred to a park due to a major flood in Isahaya. The chef’s wife suggests they visit Isahaya Shrine. Mr Aijima and Ms Matsumoto head there, while Ms Morio and Abarerukun check out Meganebashi. The shrine, one of Isahaya's great spiritual sites, was established in the Nara period. There are several camphor trees on the shrine grounds, many of which are more than 1,000 years old. The tallest one is 25m high, with a trunk circumference of 7.8m. In 1966, it was designated as a natural monument by Nagasaki Prefecture.
The stone Meganebashi bridge was built in 1839 over the Honmyo River, which was often hit by floods. So they had to build a sturdy bridge which would not be swept away by the floods, using the latest technology at that time. It is about 50m long and was shifted to its present location in the park in 1960. Many people would make a wish when they walk across this “indestructible” stone bridge.
The four travellers return to Isahaya Station, where Ms Matsumoto and Ms Morio bid farewell to Mr Aijima and Abarerukun before continuing the journey. The ladies board the 4.10pm train and ride for about 10 minutes to Kikitsu Station, two stops away. They drop by a coffee shop nearby to ask about lodging recommendations. A customer who works at a dental clinic mentions the Ureshino hot spring, where there is the Kikitsu Station Hotel. The ladies accompany her back to the Komine Dental Clinic. They meet the director and ask about dinner places. He recommends a Korean barbeque shop called Taisho. Before heading there, Ms Matsumoto and Ms Morio first call the Kikitsu Station Hotel and manage to book two rooms.
1) A highlight of Isahaya Shrine is a camphor tree which is a designated natural monument
2) Make a wish when you walk across the Meganebashi bridge in Isahaya Park