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Ebino Kohen
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The first part of a road trip

Prev: Kumamoto

Walking On Castle Ruins
Today was our first day of the road trip proper - we packed up the car in the morning and got on the highway.  We weren't on the highway long before we were hungry for lunch - welcome to Hitoyoshi.  The town has castle ruins next to the river and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom - instant Hanami!  We had lunch and met a bunch of very friendly locals who shared their lunch with us.

Cherry Tree Over Moat

Folk Craft Center

Emperor And Empress
Apparently in 1185 the Heike fugitives were defeated in the battle of Dannoura and they came here to hide.  They started making toys similar to what they had in Kyoto and started a long line of type makers.  We visited a Folk Craft center showing traditional toys and traditional arts.  The center also has "you make it" areas - pottery, paper making, ring making and demonstrations were available on different days. 

Face KiteFertility Monkeys

The museum section showed toys and crafts from different time periods.  In general, the boys toys (kits, models) were much more fun than the girls toys - dolls.  Many of the toys seemed impossibly delicate - pretty much only for display.

Royalty From Girls ToysDolls And Giant FishMasks Hanging

One of my favorite parts were the water nymphs - apparently these are traditional figures that said to be tricksters.  They will take things from you unless you bow to them - when they return the bow, the water runs off their heads and they have to return to the river immediately.

Water Nymph Well EndowedWater NymphsWater Nymphs Drinking Tea

Kirishima National Park

Welcome To The Forest
Our goal for the evening was a camp site at Ebino Kogen - a small area near the top of the volcano in that national park.  Eric had booked us in a cabin.  The camp provided blankets and a Kotetsu - a table with a heater under it. 

Our CabinDeer In Forest

The cabin was solidly build with tatami mats over the wood floors.  There was a deep area for taking your shoes/boots off and three levels - a bottom floor where we ate and played cards, a mezzanine that could have sleep 2, but was where we kept out bags, and the top floor where we slept.  For the 10,000 yen we spent for the two nights, it was the by far the cheapest accommodations we paid for on the trip.

Sleeping Area Pano

Trees In FogSCurve Path Up Hill
The next morning we woke up in light rain and fog. We had hoped to go for a few hikes, but anything particularly adventuresome was going to buried in fog.  While our camp site did have a bath, we decided to try one of the local mountain onsens.  Unforuntatly we were greeted with a "No Camera's" sign so I can't show you the amazing view or the milky white river, but needless to say it was a good soak.

We weren't going to stay in one of Japan's few national parks without going for at least a little walk.  The weather didn't look good (rain came and gone), but we put on a brave face and walked around three volcanic lakes. 

Crater Lake

If the weather had cooperated enough that we could have seen he volcano peaks, this would have been a splendid walk.  We met up at the tourist center (mmm, pickles) and then got in the car to get lunch.  After lunch we decided to try something a bit more cultural.


Broad Temple Shot
I've been to a lot of temples in my life so while this is a big complex for the area, it was tiny compared to my memories of Nikko.  That said, this temple is very well maintained and set in beautiful surroundings.

Sakura With ToriiRoof Tiles

This temple is known for it's red highlights (and a really big gate).  While the gate wasn't particularly photogenic, the red seemed to permeate the place.  I don't know who does the painting, but they do a good job.

Temple TopPrayers Tied In Front Of Modern LanternWooden Lantern Lit Up

It was nearing the end of the day so we started to head back toward our camp site, hopefully with dinner in there somewhere.  We had seen a waterfall on our route to Kirishima-jingu, so we decided to stop in in the last light of the day.

Maruonotaki Waterfall

Wide Shot Of Falls
I have seen a lot of waterfalls in my life, but this one would definitely be in my top 5.  The water going over the falls is hot spring fed so it takes on a creamy blue colour.  The water is falling over columnar basalt - a fairly rare rock formation - and each surface is covered with moss or algae that grows under the pressure of falling water.  This waterfall was just a few minutes from a combini, but for me was a great highlight of Japanese scenery.

Columnar Basalt TightMore Columnar BasaltWashing Over Rock Joint

It's been a busy day - what better time for another soak!  Driving up and down to our camp site we passed the Kirishima Hotel and noticed the huge green house like building connected to the back.  We decided to try it out.  Gabi braved the front desk and sure enough, they would admit 4 grubby westerners for a bath for just a 1000 yen each.  Inside, we found the largest hot spring bath I've ever seen - there were many specialty pools around the central pool and the water was both hot and fresh.  In theory, the main pool is mixed bathing, but Gabi was discouraged from entering the pool by an elderly male local.  Of course no cameras are allowed, but I will remember that soak for a long time.

Saigoukeiichirou Garden
As nice as the mountains are, it's time for us to go south and to the coast.  On the way south we stopped in Chiran - a small town with a few big attractions.  The first attraction is a Samurai village - a collection of 7 homes with attached gardens dating from about 200 years ago.  The gardens were derived from Kyoto and Tokyo styles by lords who visited the capitals and wanted to bring the sophistication (and maybe a gardener) back with them.  The gardens are in a classical geometric forms where ponds represent oceans, rocks represent mountains and shrubs can represent the hillsides.  Many of the gardens have specific viewing locations where the garden blends in with the local hills to form a more complete scene.

Mori Shigemitu GardenGardenCleaning Trough For SwordsPart Of Well Worn Door

Chiran's other popular attraction is the Peace Musuem for Kamikazi Pilots.  During world war 2, 1036 one way missions were flown from the local airbase to American ships off the coast of Japan.  This museum has a number of recovered Japanese aircraft (most from harbour bottoms), artifacts and photos from the time period and stories from families.  I was quite impressed when we came in - they provided prerecorded translation headsets free to us foreigners - someone was thinkings.  The museum was quite somber and gave you a sense of the loyalty and desperation of the time.

Row Of SakuraZero In Front Of Museum

We had dinner plans in Ibusuki so we had to get moving.

Next: Ibusuki

Temple Top
Tags: architectural decoration, roof
Washing Over Rock Joint
Tags: waterfall
SCurve Path Up Hill
Tags: hiking, Japan
Sleeping Area Pano
Tags: Japan, place to stay
Dolls And Giant Fish
Tags: fish, Japan, toy
Masks Hanging
Tags: mask
Face Kite
Tags: Japan, toy
Emperor And Empress
Person: Eric, Gabi
Royalty From Girls Toys
Tags: Japan, Museum, toy
More Columnar Basalt
Tags: columnar basalt, Japan, waterfall
Columnar Basalt Tight
Tags: columnar basalt, Japan, waterfall
Part Of Well Worn Door
Tags: corrosion, gate
Mori Shigemitu Garden
Tags: garden, Japan
Saigoukeiichirou Garden
Location: Go To...
Tags: garden, Japan
Welcome To The Forest
Tags: forest, Japan
Prayers Tied In Front Of Modern Lantern
Tags: Japan, lantern, place of worship
Wooden Lantern Lit Up
Tags: Japan, lantern
Sakura With Torii
Tags: cherry blossoms, shallow depth of field, torii
Wide Shot Of Falls
Tags: Japan, waterfall
Water Nymphs
Tags: art, Japan, shopping
Roof Tiles
Tags: Japan, roof, twin
Water Nymph Well Endowed
Tags: art, Japan, shopping
Our Cabin
Tags: cabin, forest, Japan
Cherry Tree Over Moat
Tags: cherry blossoms, Japan
Crater Lake
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, lake
Broad Temple Shot
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, temple
Water Nymphs Drinking Tea
Tags: art, Japan, shopping
Zero In Front Of Museum
Location: Go To...
Tags: plane
Trees In Fog
Species: Pinus densiflora (Japanese red pine )
Location: Go To...
Tags: fog, forest, Japan
Row Of Sakura
Tags: cherry blossoms, Japan, lantern
Fertility Monkeys
Tags: Japan, Museum, toy
Deer In Forest
Species: Cervus nippon (Sika deer, spotted deer)
Tags: deer, forest, Japan
Tags: garden, Japan
Cleaning Trough For Swords
Tags: Japan
Walking On Castle Ruins
Tags: castle, derelict, Japan
Tags: Japan(28), waterfall(4), forest(4), toy(4), cherry blossoms(3), lantern(3)
People: Eric(1), Gabi(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > A Third Trip to Japan > Ebino Kohen

Beautiful photo essay. I was in Kumamoto, Ibusuki and Chiran quite a while ago and loved it. Your pictures brought back good memories. Thank you for posting them! Bernhard from Munich, Germany
Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 20:07:39

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Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 00:56:27 Edit
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