Rural Kitakyushu: Introduction

It’s Golden Week—a series of public holidays—so we have a bit of time off. We took two vacation days (Monday and Friday this week) which gives a grand total of ten straight days off. We’re staying in Japan but we’ll be travelling a bit this week—day trips, but I’m not sure how much time or energy I’ll have to write—so I can’t guarantee daily posts. I’m going to schedule my blog software so that over the next couple of days it automatically posts the entries I’ve already written. But I won’t be sending out email alerts so either check back regularly—I’d suggest after 6am JST—or else use the RSS feed. You can find the RSS link at the bottom of each page.

With the housekeeping matters out of the way, let me tell you about what I did last Saturday. I went for a day-long bike, hike, and photo expedition through the southeast part of the city, an area that included the easternmost part of Yahata Higashi-ku (八幡東区—East Yahata Ward) and the southern part of Kokura Minami-ku (小倉南区—South Kokura Ward). I’d like to post about the entire trip at once, but there were so many interesting things that I’ll have to split it up into a number of posts. My outline shows between eight and eleven individual subjects but we’ll see how many of them blend together. And whether or not I run out of energy or lose interest.

I went about sixty kilometers round-trip on my bike and hiked a few kilometers. The rest of this paragraph is a data dump so you might want to skip it. My entire trip took about 10 hours, with 4 of those actually in motion on the the bike. That means I must have spent 6 hours resting/goofing off taking pictures and/or hiking. My maximum speed was 52kph, and though I didn’t check my average speed, I can calculate that it was 15kph. There were a lot of hills.

The area I toured through is mostly rural. There are some built-up areas along the main thoroughfares but I avoided those in favour of backroads with less traffic. As such I saw a lot of farms—yes farms in the city limits— as well as areas that had a distinctly rural village-like character.

Kitakyushu itself is a huge sprawl of interconnected urban centres and rural farming villages. Aside from the main commercial and industrial cores, it feels a lot like a small town. Our neighbourhood feels like a really crowded small town, and I think I’ve mentioned before that our specific area is known as Kannonji-machi (観音寺町—Village of Kannon’s Temple). If we venture more than a few blocks from home, people start looking at us strangely. That is, more strangely than the usual “foreigner shock.” This territoriality is evident at any community event—various festivals and field days throughout the year—where participants are sorted by neighbourhood, regardless of the number of people from each area.

This is just my way of saying that parts of this city are surprisingly rural. For the most part I managed to avoid factories and industrial infrastructure. Even though a major expressway passed over my route quite often—it’s elevated a number of storeys above ground level—I was able to see bamboo and pine forests, an assortment of creatures both living and dead, beautiful waterfalls, a dam and reservoirs, an intriguing shrine, some low-tech farming methods, and assorted oddities.

For those of you who’ll be tuning in tomorrow, the snakes are coming!

[The next post in this series is Rural Kitakyushu: It’s All About the Snakes]