We leave michi-no-eki Ariake around 9am after a dark and stormy night. The morning is mainly dry with occasional rain or sleet showers. The wind is bitterly cold, so we abandon any thought of walking along the nice sandy beach by the michi-no-eki.
The first stop of the day is Tomioka-jo, castle remains and a National Park visitors centre. Inside the visitor’s centre there are no English explanations and it is mostly a collection of sea-shells. The most spectacular are not local. There are some castle foundations and a view of the sea but not much that was of interest to me.
The explanation of how the sand spit, below the castle, was formed was interesting though.
The whole area is famous because the local Christian converts were severely persecuted in the Edo era. Tomioka-jo was one of the castles attacked during a local uprising against lack of food and high taxes etc. At the time, it was blamed on the Christians, many of whom made up the local population.
Sakitsu – Christian heritage and tatami floored church
Sakitsu was the next stop. This village is also part of the Christian heritage of the area and boasts a church, in the middle of a dilapidated fishing village. The church is famous because, although otherwise uninteresting, it has a tatami floor. There is also a new visitors centre with lots of information in English and Korean.
This is because the village is trying to get UNESCO heritage status. In vain*, I suspect as the village is much the same as hundreds of others. Ramshackle, wooden buildings showing signs of mid-Showa restoration. This involves tacking sheet metal over the most obvious signs of collapse.
If you really want to visit, park at the visitor’s centre and walk across the road to the village. As the village is wedged between the steep hillside and the sea, the streets are narrow and parking at a premium.
- As usual, I am wrong. This area achieved UNESCO heritage status not long after our visit.
Ushibuka – Kuranomoto Ferry 牛深ー蔵の元
From Sakitsu, we drive to the ferry at Ushibuka and cross to Kuranomoto in Kagoshima pref. – a half hour trip – good views from the ferry but the wind too cold and strong for us to be enticed out onto the deck.
＊Sanwa Ferry ; 490 yen / adult; 2780 yen / car (~5m.)
On this coast road there are splendid views of sea and rocky coast. As the day is ending the clouds helped to provide a beautiful sunset.
Michi no eki Kuronoseto Dandan-ichiba and Akune
We stopped at the michi-no-eki Kuronoseto Dandan-ichiba which is much smaller than the name suggests. We decided against staying. The toilets were ok but not great and the parking was too close to the road.
So, we pressed on to michi no eki Akune. This turned out to be a strip between the main road and the sea. It has a wonderful sea view and the toilets are excellent. Unfortunately, the toilets are at the opposite end of the long michi no eki buildings, a fair distance from the parking. In such cold weather, this is a serious consideration in the middle of the night. So, retracing our steps we head back to Kuronoseto Dandan-ichiba. The road is noisy as I write this but may calm down later tonight.
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.