A peaceful night at Yayoi michi-no-eki, cold but we sleep warm. The morning is chilly and cloudy and someone is erecting a Jerry’s Popcorn stall right in front of us as we emerge. Next to that, a knife grinder and seller, white K-trucks are delivering vegetables to the shop. Busy.
We leave, a little after nine am, but it is still cold. as we head for Saganoseki. Here we are surprised to discover an observatory at the end of Saganoseki peninsula. From this point there is a splendid view of the turbulent straits (Houyo straits) between Kyushu and Shikoku. The lighthouse on the end of Sada-misaki in Shikoku clearly visible across the water, only 14 km away.
We watch ships passing, Tombi (black kite) wheeling in the wind and a hawk, I cannot identify, hovering motionless for quite long periods.
From the observatory, we wander down a steep path. At first through the observatory gardens, then through thick woods and, finally, passed the saddest shrine I have ever seen.
At length, we reach the lighthouse on this the Cape Sekizaki side. This lighthouse has elegant, wrought iron gates and narcissus. What is it about lighthouses and narcissus?
Sekizaki Kaiseikan Observatory
We walk back up to Sekizaki Kaiseikan observatory and go inside. Admission is free. There is a small exhibition of meteorites, JAXA space information and a tank of Medaka. Medaka are a type of small fish. These Medaka are descendants of those lucky fish who became the first fish in space. They accompanied a Japanese astronaut.
This place is open at night as an observatory for moon viewing, stargazing etc. It was an unexpected extra. A viewing spot plus alpha.
From Sekizaki we take a narrow, and I mean narrow, road past the Black Beach and the White Beach back towards Saganoseki Port. The Black and White beach do not seem to live up to special billing. From the port we take R.10, in the direction of Oita, stopping at Saganoseki michi-no-eki. This michi-no-eki is small and narrow squeezed between the main road and coast. It has a restaurant which seemed popular with local people but was too fishy for me. Consequently, we drove on into Oita City to have lunch and then to Beppu.
As you approach, the steam from an abundance of onsen is visible, rising over different parts of the city. We have traipsed around Beppu on innumerable occasions, so we don’t stop but press on to Usa Shrine.
Here we are shocked to get hit for 400 Yen for parking. But Usa Shrine is large and offers scope to stretch our legs. The place is more attractive than most, despite the wide gravel walkways, with large trees and photogenic buildings. There is water too and an unusual covered bridge that can be observed but not used. This bridge crosses a kind of moat that partially surrounds the shrine grounds.
Meiji Era Temple Destruction
There used to be a temple on the same site in typical Shugendo fashion. This is Kunisaki Hanto(peninsula) after all. The temple (Miroku-ji) was destroyed after the Meiji Restoration. This was because the Meiji government wanted to promote Shinto with its connection to the Emperor and diminish the influence of Buddhism. Prior to this purge, a lot of shrines and temples shared sites – especially those linked to Shugendo.
From the shrine it is only a short distance to the michi-no-eki Nakatsu. This is a large well-appointed place. The shop, selling a wide range of local produce at reasonable prices. It is so large it provides shopping trolleys something I don’t think I have seen in any other michi-no-eki.
Even after 5pm, it is busy with people buying fresh vegetables and other produce. It also boasts a restaurant and an information centre, displaying locally dug Jomon pottery. The parking is excellent for our purpose, quiet, away from the main road and conveniently close to modern, clean toilets. This michi-no-eki even provides rubbish bins something very few do and this is always a problem for travellers.
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.