I guess it’s finally time to report about my awesome winter vacation in Kyushu!
Let’s start with the first day of my winter vacation that I spent in Nakatsu City, Oita Prefecture.
I stayed in Kyushu during the entire time. From Kita-Kyushu and Hakata (Fukuoka) it’s not so far to Oita Prefecture and so that was my starting point.
The reason why I chose Nakatsu City?
As for Oita Prefecture I’ve already been to Beppu (*highly recommended, blog entry will follow) in 2009, so this time I wanted to visit Yufuin and Nakatsu.
Nakatsu City might not be the typical tourist spot (and as I’ve been to so many places already, I like to keep off the “main tourist tracks” from time to time), but the city has a VERY nice castle.
If you still don’t know by now, let me tell you again: I’m a (Japanese) Castle Hunter!!! [insert crazy laughter here]
So that was reason enough for me to visit, but Nakatsu City has much more to offer and I’m going to show you some of it in this post!
Sonic Limited Express from Kokura to Nakatsu, very comfortable! There’s also a local line, but it takes twice as long. I really fell in love with the Limited Express trains in Kyushu! They’re much more comfortable than the Shinkansen!
Welcome to castle town Nakatsu!
I have to admit that I became a manhole cover addict and take photos of all the beautiful covers in every city I visit.
One day I should make a post just about that, I guess.
Japan – the country of contraries.
Old and new / traditional and modern / dark and gloomy weather and blue sky. I guess the weather couldn’t make up its mind that day.
On my way from the station to the castle (yes, you can easily walk to all the attractions!) I came across this small shrine right next to the main road.
The reason why I even mention such a small shrine can be seen in the photo above. *lol*
I visited a famous “penis festival” in 2012.
Wow, there were still ‘momiji’ (autumn colors) in Kyushu!
And I can’t get enough of the cute signs in Japan!
On your way to the castle you’ll enter “Tera-machi” (a name for a part of a city or town where a lot of temples are pretty close to each other, you’ll find that in various cities).
And so I strolled through the narrow and quiet roads, sight .. ahr, temple-seeing!
Among all the small temples, there was one remarkable temple, Goganji Temple (合元寺)!
It’s also known as “Red Wall Temple“. The vassals of samurai warrior, Utsunomiya Shigefusa, died in battle here, leaving bloodstains on the wall. Even after the wall was re-plastered repeatedly, the bloodstains would not recede, thus leaving a wall of red.
Hello Kitty is “in”, even among stone statues, I guess!
Just kept exploring “Tera-machi” a little bit more. Who said that small temples are boring?
There’s so many beautiful, interesting and funny things to discover!
All kinds of creatures are waiting just for you!!
Some might not be so … cute …
… others definitely are! There were SO MANY cats in Nakatsu! I love cats and I love to take photos of cats (esp. when there’s a temple or castle in the background). I rarely get that setting, though.
This cat was quite shy, trying to run away and hide, but in the end I got it, kekeke~
Next stop was at Fukuzawa Yukichi‘s Old Residence Memorial Museum.
Fuku.. who? Well, even if you’ve never heard of him, if you’ve ever been to Japan I’m sure you know his face as it’s printed on the 10.000yen banknote!!
He is considered as one of the founders of modern Japan. He was a Japanese author, writer, teacher, translator, entrepreneur and political theorist who founded Keio University.
Photos were not allowed in the 2-floor museum, so I just took some outside instead.
Part of his old residence.
There was also a small shrine on the ground featuring plates with his face on them.
I also ran into a small Inari shrine on my way to the castle.
As every Inari Shrine this one also had fox stone statues.
The area around the castle, especially the river, is really beautiful!
And here it is: Nakatsu Castle!
The castle dates back to 1588, but was reconstructed in 1964, so it’s not an original castle anymore.
It’s a rather big castle with a shrine on the castle grounds. Definitely among my “top castles”!!
Here’s a pamphlet (in Japanese), also with details about the reconstruction.
First, I had a closer look at the shrine.
Okay, THIS is scary!!!
Then, I finally approached the castle!
Photos inside were allowed. Mainly samurai armors, swords and other things. No English descriptions which is quite normal in most not so famous castles anyway.
This scary looking dude is Torii Suneemon (鳥居 強右衛門). He was a low-class footman (ashigaru) who served the Okudaira family, retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He became famous for his bravery and incredible exploit at the siege of Nagashino.
The top floor offered a very nice view of Nakatsu City.
As you can see the weather couldn’t make up its mind. Blue sky on one side, gray on the other.
And here you can see the castle and shrine grounds.
Back out of the castles, I was strolling around on the castle / park grounds a bit when I saw this really funky looking stone statue with a Hawaiian shirt?! *lol*
And then I spotted some more cats!!!
Most hilarious stone statue ever!
And then it was time to leave Nakatsu Castle.
On my way back to the station, I spotted this … kitschy looking church.
Back at the station I took a bus that would take me to “Komo Hachiman Shrine” (薦神社).
The shrine grounds are spacious with a huge lake and a red gate in the lake.
There were still autumn leaves (momiji) there!
A very interesting, but weird-looking elephant sculpture.
Strolling around the shrine grounds while waiting for the next bus back.
There aren’t many busses per day going to Komo Shrine, so if you don’t have a car make sure you time it well!
On the bus back to the station I was the only passenger.
The bus driver started talking to me. At first I didn’t understand him until I figured he wasn’t speaking Japanese but trying to speak English to me, so I told him in Japanese, that it’s okay to talk with me in Japanese.
Then, he asked many questions and once he heard that I CAN speak English despite being German, he wanted me to check his English.
So, he said all the “bus driver phrases” like “hassha shimasu (発射します)” and added what he thought was the correct English.
I was quite annoyed, but what can you do?
I was happy to get off the bus in the end! ^-^; ….
Back at Nakatsu Station where they have Japan’s longest wooden eel bench!
I took the Sonic Limited Express again. In order to get to Yufuin from Nakatsu you have to pass via the capital of Oita Prefecture which is, surprise surprise, Oita City!
And that was my first day of winter vacation.
I hope you enjoyed it. This time I started with the more boring and quiet places and did the highlights later on.
Coming up next: Yufuin
Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any questions, complaints or whatever by commenting.