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Hachimenzan: Iconic Mountain of Nakatsu

This is Hachimenzan (Mt. Hachimen) the representative mountain of Nakatsu. My first bike trip in the area was up to the top back in the late fall, but just a couple weeks ago the wife and I took a drive back to the mountain.

Hachimenzan

“Hachimen” means “eight-faces” in Japanese (八面山). It is called this because apparently the mountain looks the same from eight directions, which often means every direction in Japan.

To the people of Nakatsu it is often called the Mother Mountain. It is one of those places that until you see after a long trip you can’t really say you’re home. Before apartment buildings were put up 10 meters in front of mine 2 weeks after I moved in (holy mother f%&$#r god d”#$&t!) I had a beautiful view of the mountain which felt to be the center of eveyrthing here.

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We went around late February and while the temperatures were pretty low, there was definitely no sign of snow at sea level. Looking at the mountain from afar you could see small patches of white, but we were certainly surprised at the amount of snow about two thirds of the way up.

The mountain really isn’t so tall at 659 meters, but the roads are super steep and the layering of snow was too much for our little car. We got out and headed up on foot through slush on the shady side of Hachimen.

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From the top you can get good views of Nakatsu City. How can you really know a place until you’ve seen it from above?

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There’s also a cool rock!

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Kyushu in particular seems to have a lot of these. This one in particular reminded me of my trip to the far southern island of Yakushima in Kagoshima Prefecture. There at the tops of all the mountains are situated strange rocks like these.

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It didn’t take long until we got to the top of the steep windy road. At that point we were on the far right side of the mountain (check the first picture) and from there it gradually inclines to the summit to the left.

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A hill of snow! This is not the image of Kyushu I had, but it gives me solace. A winter without snow just ain’t right.

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Snowboards anybody?

Nakatsu Mountains

This is a view from the other side viewing inland. You can’t see much from the picture, but it’s mountains for as far as the eye can see. This was a huge consolation to me when I first climbed it back in fall.

I primarily chose Nakatsu to live in because I wanted to be in a small town, next to the ocean, and below lots of fun mountains to explore. This is what it looked like from Toyama when I was researching, but when I came I couldn’t help but feel like the mountains looked a little … small. Coming from Toyama where the peaks rise to 3000 meters, most mountains are going to look small, especially in Kyushu where most are about half that at best. I think the smaller mountains here make up for it by being right next to the coast giving a dramatic feel, or having strange conic shapes. But Nakatsu lies in a long wide plain. You can see the mountains, but they just felt far away and more sparse then I imagined.

I felt uneasy about this until I finally climbed Hachimen and looked out the other side. I imagined it to eventually lead to other cities in Fukuoka Prefecure, but it’s just mountains as far as you can see. Again they’re not as big as those in the alps on Honshu, but actually for me this might be better. It’s a wonderland I can easily access on the bike.

Perhaps I chose the perfect place.

Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be …

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Anyway, here’s another view of Nakatsu City from the top. On the left side you can see the Yamaguni River which separates Oita Prefecture from Fukuoka Prefecture. The kyudo dojo lies at the farthest left-bending curve. Due to snow and lack of proper shoes and time left, we headed back down. This is a place we’ll surely come back again and again.

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About half way down the moutain there is a temple called, Jingoji (神護寺). We went in and found hundreds of really interesting statues following a stream up the side of the mountain.

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I’m convinced that If there was a color for this part of the country it would be yellow. It’s not just because of these flowers, but everything here has a slight taste of yellow.

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Up the stream the statues grow in magnificence.

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And they have cool hats. These are not dead stones, but live spirits! These shaved heads in winter need beanies just like the rest of us.

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Here’s a cool one of one of my good buddies Fudou Myou (不動明王) , a deity who protects us leading to enlightenment. He carries a sword in one hand to cut through illusion and a net in the other to ensare desire. With flames he engulfs enemies and scares others with his scowl.

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Here’s a cool dragon.

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So cool he deserves a closer look.

Nakatsu

 And here is one of the largest statues of Buddha in western Japan!

After coming down Satomi seemed happy with our trip and said maybe she’ll want to explore some more mountains in the future.

I think I’ve found a fellow explorer …

Stay tuned for more adventures!

 

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