Yusuhara michi no eki
Yusuhara michi no eki , against expectations, transpires to be a good shachuhaku spot. The upper part of the onsen car park, just below the hotel, is quiet and dark and not really so far from the toilet. A good night, with a very beautiful, starry sky. The stars are one of the pluses of getting up in the night. No, there aren’t any others.
In the morning, we drop down the hill into Yusuhara town to look around. Yusuhara is an interesting place due to the number of unusual buildings designed by Kuma Kengo, of Tokyo Olympic Stadium fame. In addition to the hotel and the gallery by the michi no eki, there is the city hall, the library, a market and a couple of others standing out in an otherwise fairly typical small, country town.
A country town squeezed into a steep, river valley with an old shrine, a couple of attractive bridges and traces of Sakamoto Ryoma.
On entering the library, we find the setting of books, the decor, as well as building itself quite fantastic for a small country town or a major city for that matter. We also look around the market, which is more of souvenir shop, and, here again, the interior design would not be out of place in Odaiba.
The other impressive buildings scattered about and the river combine to make this an interesting and pleasant place to wander.
A fine, little town well worth taking the effort to visit.
From Yusuhara we drive out to visit Yasui Gorge. This, at first, along wide, sweeping, empty roads but culminates in a very narrow, single lane track. This follows the river along the gorge, very narrow and windy, the driving all done by mirrors.
Yasui Gorge – Niyodo Blue
The gorge itself, when we arrive at the designated spot, is wonderfully wild and clad in Momiji trees, still, for the most part, stubbornly green. There is no real path along the river, so we have to walk along the road until we can drop down and follow a smaller stream up to the Hiryu Falls. This is a splendid walk of only about 500 metres, but the stream is dashing over and around the boulders and the woods tower above to spectacular heights. This, plus the waterfall, easily repays the energy expended to get there.
Overall, Yasui it is not as impressive as the Nakatsu Gorge, (which is just amazing), but a good spot to visit.
In a busy season and at weekends, the single-track road must be a nightmare of congestion. At peak season, it seems, a one-way system operates.
Nankoku furari, Birafu and Yasu michi no eki
From the gorge, we press on to Koichi City to get supplies and then check Nankoku furari michi no eki. This is doable as a shachuhaku spot but basically an unattractive, truck stop on a busy junction. Deciding against it, we continue to Birafu michi no eki. This one – just forget it – parking spaces at the side of the road and a public toilet a good walk away. Moving on again, this time to Yasu michi no eki. I am tired and it is a long drive in the evening rush hour and in the dark, but we arrive eventually. At first impression it seemed unpleasant but now the piped music has stopped and the rumble of trains less frequent it is peaceful. Much better than the first two options.
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.