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Oita Drive: Kunisaki Penninsula and Kitsuki

 

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It seems we couldn’t get enough of exploring Oita during our sleepy Golden Week, and this day we headed towards the Kunisaki Penninsula and the town of Kitsuki located on it’s other side from Nakatsu.

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Above is a picture of the Kunisaki Penninsula. We drove from Nakatsu on the northwest coast to the center of the penninsula, then straight up to the coast, around the eastern side to the base to Kitsuki.

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First we stopped at “Green Park” which unexectedly caught our attention on the drive. We thought we’d make a quick stop to see what it was about.

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The park had a big lake which fed into a dam, and had great views of the strange mountains that rise from inside the penninsula.

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The area is famous for Shugendo Buddhism training, and seeing these mountains and caves it’s no surprise. If otherwordly spirits exist among us, they would definitely flock to this place.

 

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There was a path that wound around the lake and advertised art exhibits, so we decided to go along.

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We found the first installment, and continued on to make for what we thought might be a ten minute stroll which really turned into a thirty minute hike around hidden corners of the lake.

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Looking into the forest it was a maze of criss crossing bamboo. We could hear them creaking in the winds and I thought how painful it might be to have one fall and crack on my head … but I guess that’s not really what bamboo does.

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We were eager to get on with the drive and the wife didn’t have good footwear, so the long walk bore down on us as we wound around more hidden curves of the lake. There were signs saying that more art was ahead, but we found very little. It felt like a joke where at the end someone shows up to say that we were looking at art the whole time.

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The lake was lined with great maple trees. The place must explode in the fall. With better footwear we might be back.

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We finished our walk, ate some homemade soba at the nearby cafe, and continued on to the first sight on our list, Futago Temple (両子時).

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Futago is one of the most famous temples in the penninsula located in it’s center.

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The temple grounds lay halfway up a large mountain with different halls lining the way up.

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Large maple trees covered the temples and small statues and made for an amazing scene.

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It was beautiful indeed, but what of this mood? We walked around for a bit, but neither of us could concentrate well. I can’t help but wonder what kind of meaning hid behind all of the treasures on this sacred ground, and all I could think about was getting on.

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Maybe we don’t need to see it all in one glance.

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Maybe this unsettled mood is just what I need.

 

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Maybe I don’t need anything.

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Here is the scene the temple is best known for with the two guardian statues at the bottom of the stairs of a gate.

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Even more impressive than the statues alone was the two giant cedars before them, I thought.

There are hiking paths to the top of the mountain, but they would not be climbed by us today. Another time, with more patience and better footwear.

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From that mountainous center of the penninsula we headed north to the beach, and what wonderful beaches we found.

I’m constantly searching for good places to swim with the coming summer, and these here on the Kunisaki Penninsula seem to provide some prime locations.

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Campgrounds line the coast with the beaches, and often have cool little cafes like this one above.

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Casual lawns, and seaside views, it was here rather than the ancient temple that I found rest …

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With coffee.

OK, back on the road and along the coast. It’s beautiful, but as for big sights, I suppose there’s not much to bring crowds from afar. That’s perfectly fine for me though. I guess it would be nice to pull some people of for bbq’s and camping though … we shall see.

We headed east and down into Kunisaki town. Isolated from the rest, it had a great sleepy atmosphere with lots of its own hidden treasures. We were just passing through, but I fantasized about how fun it might be to live in a town like this away from the bigger highways. Jobs … money … convenience, it seems these are the barriers we must break if we want to find our own sleepy town.

We continued past Oita Airport and down down to the base of the penninsula on the other side near Oita City. It was there we made our final stop in Kitsuki, a small town famous for a castle and Edo Period atmosphere.

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We parked the car, climbed the stairs to the castle, and then found this strange samurai. How did he get into that armor!

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We didn’t worry much though, he’s only carrying a flag, and it looks like anyone can just walk in and put on the armor.

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The castle itself wasn’t huge, but the inside had great exhibits of Sengoku Period armor, art, and weapons. It felt like the opposite of Nakatsu Castle, which is really impressive on the outside, but a bit dissappointing on the inside.

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Kitsuki Castle!

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We headed down to the lower castle village and found the old samurai district. It was very cool, but unfortunately we showed up too late to see what lay beyond the walls. The picture above is of a famous part of the the town with super steep roads on each side. It was impressive, but for some reason the professional pictures in the magazine looked a bit better. Maybe just the lighting?

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We walked through the Edo Period street to find most of the shops closed. I thought how fun this place would be during a summer festival with fireworks, yukata, and cold beer.

There again with the fading sun, we saddled the highway back northwest to our own castle town of Nakatsu.

More great places, but still infinitely more unrevealed. It’s exciting to imagine all that lies ahead, isn’t it?

Onward and upward … after beer and sleep.

Thank you, Oita.

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