March 26th. 2021
Niji no Matsubara 虹の松原
We set off for Karatsu heading towards Yobuko and the Genkai Nuclear Power station. Not that we have become fans of nuclear power generation, but we want to explore Nagoya Castle.
No, not the Nagoya castle in Aichi prefecture but the less distinguished affair in Saga near the Genkai Power station. This Nagoya Castle or its remains, and the remains of 150 plus other base camps, are the relics of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s ill- fated attempt to conquer Korea. It is also noted for its cherry blossom so now is the optimum time to pay a visit.
Following R. 202, we pass through Nijo no Matsubara, a long area of pine trees on either side of the road, before entering Karatsu. It is worth stopping here, Nijo no Matsubara that is, to walk through the belt of trees to the long sand beach. This beach is usually deserted though I have not been here in the summer season.
From Niji no Matsubara, we skirt the edge of Karatsu, heading for Yobuko. This fishing port is interesting. I have described a previous visit in another post. It is famous for squid and, in its vicinity, I noted, a Love Hotel named “Hotel Squid”. Something that doesn’t bare thinking about too deeply.
Momoyama Tenkaichi michi-no-Eki
On arriving at Momoyama Tenkaichi michi-no-eki we park to start to hike the Kyushu Olle Karatsu hiking course. We find the entrance to the hiking course almost behind our vehicle. There is a kind of wooden arch with the name of the trail tacked on it. This is an entrance to this particular trail. There are several other trails that make up the Kyushu Olle courses.
Kyushu Olle Karatsu hiking course
This one takes you on a circuitous path from the michi-no-eki car park to the Nagoya Castle remains. On the way, which is the point, it takes in a number of base camp remains. Various Daimyos set up these base camps for their contingent of soldiers before venturing across the straits to Korea and defeat.
Initially the path is steep, winding through the evergreen woods, but soon emerges into a flattish grassy area dotted with boulders. This was the camp of Maeda Toshiei and his soldiers. From this open area back into the cool of the woods and then down steeply into a small area of fields.
This is the pattern of the well sign-posted route, woodland paths opening into small fields or larger areas where military camps had been constructed.
This route introduces you to a handful of these open areas, some surrounded by woodland others cresting hills with views of the distant sea. How did the campers feel looking out across the sea to the unknown Korea? Now they are pleasant places to picnic, certainly in this season, as they are dotted with cherry trees.
Pressing on, the route covers more agricultural land and at times you find you are walking along roads, but these are mostly devoid of traffic. At one point the route takes you through an obviously ancient road, Kushimichi, where the track is well below the ground level. A mini canyon.
Hizen Nagoya Castle remains 肥前名護屋城
On reaching Nagoya Castle, the fortifications, or what remains, are on a totally different scale to the camps we have been walking through. The stonework, in the clearings in the woods, though substantial for a temporary military base, (given that the enemy was across the sea) was Lego compared to the size of the remaining walls of Nagoya.
This fortification was the second largest castle in Japan at that time. The information pamphlet states that the work was completed in 8 months. This is hard to credit but I suppose none got the weekend off. I could not understand why the army commanders thought it necessary to build such massive fortifications for a military expedition across the sea. Perhaps if all the soldiers had been less exhausted from building fortifications in Saga, they might have won battles in Korea.
On a brighter note, the cherry blossom was very pretty and relatively few people visit this site.
Looking at a map, showing the various camp remains, is an education. The hiking course visits only a few of the total. Daimyos great and small converged on Saga with their contingent of soldiers to invade Korea. Yet they spent time building castles even a Noh theatre. No wonder they lost!
Cape Hado 波戸岬
From Nagoya Castle we drive to Cape Hado. This is a bleak spit of land that features a cluster of squid, oyster and sazae restaurants clustered around the car park. It also boasts an elevator to under the sea. In the years since my last visit a white, distorted heart installation has been erected. Here people are able to take pictures of themselves.
There is a path around this spit that leads to a small automatic lighthouse and a tiny shrine. Only the roof tiles of the shrine are visible as, in this exposed spot, thick stone walls protect it from the tempest.
Across the bay the Genkai Nuclear Power Station broods.
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.