Ozenuma is our destination for today. We leave michi-no-eki Kirara 289 around 9am. It is a place I can recommend, with an adequate onsen, modern toilets plus, steps down to a picnic area, by a small river, that no one seems to notice and is sadly becoming overgrown.
On our way to Oze National Park, or perhaps in it we stop, by chance, at Byobuiwa. Here is a splendid rushing ,rocky stream set against a sheer rock face precariously supporting quite large pines. A place well worth stopping to see.
A hour or so later we reach Miike, where it is necessary to park and take a shuttle bus. The parking is free for 2 hours but as the return walk to Ozenuma takes much longer than 2 hours you are going to end up paying 1000 yen anyway. The bus fare is 1040 yen return and the ride takes about 20 minutes.
From the bus terminal, the trail takes you up steps through woodland with not much to see. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the track starts to descend, for quite a long way, until the trees begin to thin and give way to the grass and water plants of the wetland. The usual wooden walkway takes you across this swamp to the lake edge. This is 3.4 kilometres from the bus terminal.
Peak flower season was over but still a very enjoyable walk featuring expansive views of the wetlands, lake, surrounding mountains and wide sky. On reaching the lake we continued on around it for a kilo or so before returning to the bus terminal. A walk of around 9 kilometres.
We get back to Hinoemata village and its JA, less than, supermarket. This lone shop in a climbing and hiking area does not stock onigiri but, to be fair, you could buy a fresh pineapple. Behind this store is an onsen where we take a quick bath before dinner at a soba restaurant. The only game in town.
＊onsen ‘Koma no yu’ ; 500 yen
Hinoemata Mura Kabuki
After dinner, it is time to see the Mura (village) Kabuki. This is our reason for coming to this village. The Kabuki is a tradition that has continued for a hundred years. Very few villages in Japan have such a custom so, it is an opportunity not to be missed.
Down a narrow passage between two dwellings, we find a small thatched stage and a kind of amphitheatre rising steeply up the hillside amidst the cypress.
There is an audience of over a thousand and various food and drink stalls. The play itself is an excellent local effort, not that I’m a kabuki buff but it was clear a great deal of serious time and effort had gone into the production. To ease the chill of sitting on the stone, the village, thoughtfully, provides cushions for everyone but it was cold and two hours was my limit. I lasted longer than a lot of people but it was some kind of award ceremony with lots of speeches from local dignitaries that drove me away. It was, nevertheless, an experience I feel privileged to have witnessed.
We drive the kilometre or so back to michi-no-eki Oze Hinoemata. We know it is a source of useful information and hope it will proved a peaceful night as we am tired after a long, eventful and energetic day.
＊’Oze Hinoemata’ elevation ; 907m.
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.