Komo-jinja and Ao no doumon 薦神社、青の洞門
Our first stop of the day is Komo-jinjya not far from the michi-no-eki Nakatsu. The shrine is not very interesting but we enjoy a walk by the large pond in pleasant morning sunshine though it is still cold in the shade. The pond is the object of worship of the shrine.
After walking by the pond, we drive to Ao no doumon to walk through the tunnel. Zenkai, an early 18th. century monk hand dug this tunnel to ease movement for local people. Little of this original remains, as a much larger excavation carried out in the Meiji period destroyed most of Zenkai’s efforts.
Again, not much to see but a good place to walk by the river and view the spectacular ravine.
Furu-Rakan (old Rakan) 古羅漢
On an earlier trip, we noticed Furu-Rakan from the main road and, making a detour down a side road, decided to take look. Climbing a steep path for 10 mins, we discovered, built into a recess in the cliff face, rickety, shrine buildings in stages of disrepair. It was an interesting and unusual spot in itself but, on that trip, we failed to realize that the main temple was a short distance further down the side road.
This trip we rectified that mistake. I think, Rakanji Temple is a real find, well worth a visit.
Rakanji Temple 羅漢寺
Rakanji is like a little Tibet. The temple building is in a recess carved into the cliff face of the mountain. There is a chair-lift to the summit at 700 yen return or you can walk up the steep trail with lots of steps for 20 mins. It is not really that arduous and provides a pleasant walk through the woods.
There are hundreds of ornamental stones and statues, scattered about along this trail, toppled and abandoned. On reaching the top, built into the recess in the cliff is a hall which contains approaching 500 stone statues. These are all rather crude but have a myriad of expressions, attitudes and features.
The hall is decorated with wooden rice spoons. You can buy one of these and after writing your wish on it hammer it into the superstructure of the hall with the hammer provided. All very shrine like.
A little further is the main temple hall which also is recessed into the mountainside. The building is not old as the place was destroyed by a forest fire and rebuilt during the Showa period.
This was one of the most satisfying temples or shrines that I have visited in Kyushu or possibly Japan.
Unfortunately, Rakanji does not allow photography.
Viking lunch at Yamakuni michi no eki
It now being well past lunchtime, so we make for the michi no eki at Yamakuni. Here they offer a Viking deal. Udon or soba and a Viking choice to add to your Udon. Tuesday is Tori-ten(chicken tempura) special but we, by chance, catch Karaage Friday. There is also pumpkin, sweet potato, onion and other things to add to your basic choice plus a chopped cabbage salad. This is a very good deal and the place is busy though well past regular lunchtime.
Hikosan and the disaster area around Haki 英彦山、杷木
After lunch we drive over Hikosan. A little snow still remains on the road in shady patches and on the hillsides. From Hikosan, driving through Asakura and Haki, the extent of the desolation was a real eye opener. Of course, we were aware of the disaster 6 months earlier but were certainly not intent on disaster sightseeing. It was a very sobering scene that we were not prepared for, passing this way by chance.
Finally, we pick up the highway and head home to Fukuoka arriving about 6. 30 pm.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.