Some of the most beautiful of Japanese countryside I have seen are in the remote corners of Yame City in Kyushu. That's a fact that doesn't need sugarcoating. Thus when I read about Fukushima District's row of "Machiya" (traditional town houses), I knew that's where I wanted to go first. Take me there!
White Clay Walls
There are about 130 documented buildings of varying designs from the Meiji, Taisho and Showa era; houses of merchants and craftsmen. The walls were made of white clay to protect the houses from fire.
But they have ceased to be residential houses. Very few were turned into cafes. Most have been turned into shops selling tea, paper lanterns, miso shops, altar stores, family confectioneries, seed suppliers, fish paste shops and family grocers. Without a doubt, these made the area vibrant, and the central point of Yame. On paper, the whole she-bang sounded exciting.
In 1587, Fukushima Castle was built here. A town eventually grew and flourished around the castle. But in 1620, about 33 years after the castle was put up, Kurome Domain took control of the area and the castle had to be demolished. I think there was a law that prohibited having more than one castle in a locality. Nowadays, the houses were turned into stores and workshops for handicraft and other products,
Hakata to Chikugo City
This is where I came to visit. From Fukuoka, I took a JR train from Hakata Station to Hainuzuka Station. The JR staff had to consult a thick book of JR schedules since they weren't very familiar with Yame's train schedule. Running southeast, my train took 40 minutes to get to Hainuzuka, which is located in the small city called Chikugo. I had to be vigilant and attentive because every stop wasn't announced. Even the LED prompter on my train was written in Japanese characters. I didn't want to miss my train stop.
My train had a terminal stop at Omuta, departing the platform at 8:40 AM. From Hakata, it had stops at the following: Akeshita, Sasabaru, Minami-Fukuoka, Onojo, Futsukaichi, Haruda, Kiyama, Tosu, Kurume, Araki, and then Hainuzuka for my stop, arriving at 9:20 AM.
Hainuzuka Station had few commuters. The station was opened in 1891 and is now 127 years old. Knowing that impressed me. If you don't have a car with you, the Horkawa Bus Stop is just 50 meters from the station. The bus can take you all the way to Yame and Kurogi.
Upon reaching Fukushima, it was drizzling. I wasn't sure if cars were allowed to park by the road side. I stepped outside feeling the electricity of excitement run down my spine. Stood on the road where the Machiya house are. And sighed.
The restoration, unfortunately, didn't look impressive. This was how it may have looked back in the days, but there was nothing to crow about. The place looked rundown. Maybe I was in the wrong section of Fukushima? Most shops were closed, unless it is tradition to shut their doors and have tourists knock on them. I didn't think so.
"This is it?" I thought.
|Photo of Fukushima District from a museum I visited.|
|Machiyas had fire-proof white clay walls. Miniatures of Fukushima.|
#yamecity #fukuokaprefecture #kyushu #japan #fukushima
Yes, Yame is much better place to enjoy countryside than town. Sorry you were disappointed. Hopefully you enjoyed some tasty locally produced tea there, at least.
Fukushima was disappointing, but the rest of Yame was lovely. What a naturally beautiful place. I particularly liked Reiganji Temple up the mountains. I will be posting places from my Yame visit in the next succeeding days. And I did taste the tea, and wrote about it here:
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