An extraordinarily hot day for November.
Due to the Corvid 19 pandemic, long trips seem indulgent and reckless, so we take a day trip to Nanatsugama Quasi National Park and Yobuko.
From Fukuoka, we take the coast road R.202 to Karatsu. This road used to be narrow and very busy but, due to the toll road highway (Free in this area), the coast road has become far less frequented. It has also been improved so less heart-stopping but still satisfyingly winding. There are also good views of the sea for considerable parts of the way.
This road also passes through Niji-no-matsubara an area of pine trees planted in 17th. century. They now form a long expanse on both sides of the road.
These trees are tall, and the undergrowth kept under control, so the woods are light and airy, the slender trunks weaving patterns with the light. Well, if you catch it on a good day but today is remarkably hot and sunny. These trees also skirt a long, sandy beach so it is worth pulling in at the small car park, on the left-hand side, to take a walk through the woods and down to the expanse of usually empty sand.
Niji-no-matsubara ends abruptly as you reach the outskirts of Karatsu but here you take a right and make for Yobuko. But before you reach Yobuko, the Nanatsugama Quasi National park is well worth a visit. Of course, you could also drop into Karatsu Castle if you are into that kind of thing.
Nanatsugama Quasi National Park
To reach the park, you take a right off the prefecture road. It is sign-posted. Then, drive down a narrow lane past numerous fields as you wind down to the park. When you arrive, there is a free car park, a restaurant and a serviceable toilet. From the car park there are signs only in Japanese directing you to the headland and the views. It doesn’t matter if you can’t read the Japanese as all paths culminate in the general circular route.
The attraction here is a headland of Basalt columns with views of the coastline and assorted islands. There are 7 (or more) caves inundated by the sea in this headland and although it is possible to glimpse at least 5 pretty well the whole set can only be viewed from the Ikamaru, a tourist sightseeing boat out of Yobuko port.
On a basalt headland overlooking the sea, we eat our packed lunch as we have done in the past. This time though no Tombi (Kites) swoop around us. I was hoping to take some pictures of them again, but no.
Walking around the park on the cliff edge takes about half an hour. There are the basalt outcrops and paths through the pines and low bushes and in the centre an open area of Susuki grass.
This is not a very popular spot which means it is quietly spectacular without the downside of hordes of people.
From the national park we drive on to Yobuko. This is a, I don’t want to say thriving fishing port, but it is holding its own despite dwindling squid catches. There are lots of squid boats and drying squid hanging or twirling on squid twirlers, plus stalls offering a variety of dried fish.
Yobuko also boasts various famous squid restaurants and a museum of its past as whaling centre.
There is also a tug of war festival pitting the fishing community against their farming brethren. If you miss the spectacle you can at least view the huge rope involved. It is on display in the narrow street just back from the main street by the water.
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.