Maple Yaba Cycling Road
This cycle path runs along a former railway line so the slopes are quite gentle. It is suitable for beginners. The total length of the course is actually about 35 km or 22 miles. As part of our trip, participants will cycle for about 10km or 6 miles, following the course of the River Yamakuni and taking in the breathtaking scenery of the Yabakei Gorge. This portion of the path is for cyclists only.
22km of the total 35km Maple Yaba Cycle Road is reserved for cyclists only. Some other sections of the course are shared with other vehicles.
Ao-no-Domon Tunnel with 400 Years of History
A remarkable feat of engineering and perseverance, Ao-no-Domon was dug without any machinery centuries ago. This project was undertaken by a Buddhist monk named Zenkai. It took decades of work using just hammers and chisels.
Before the tunnel existed, the road was very treacherous. Many people and the horses carrying them were said to have perished while trying to get through this terrain. So, in 1735, the monk Zenkai started work on the tunnel.
Zenaki funded the work and was able to pay the laborers through takuhatsu – a kind of begging for alms which Buddhist monks undertake. So, in a sense, this was actually Japan’s very first toll road!
Nakatsu Castle Area
An English speaking guide will show you around Nakatsu Joka-machi, the area which built up around the castle centuries ago. Many other castle towns in Japan have districts called Joka-machi which have a kind of old fashioned charm.
In Nakatsu’s Joka-machi, there is a cluster of temples and the former residence of Fukuzawa Yukichi. Mr. Fukuzawa is considered a leading figure in the modernization of Japan and even appears on the 10,000 yen bill.
Nakatsu Castle itself was built by the Kuroda clan. The keep is a striking structure and a point of pride for the local people.
Showa Town in Bungo Takada – The Good Old Days
The Showa Era of Japanese history lasted from 1926-1989.
About 60 years ago, Bungo Takada was a booming town in the Kunisaki peninsula region. But as time went on, the town’s importance in local trade diminished.
The Showa Town project was started in 2001 to revive the shopping street districts of Bungo Takada. The retro feel of the town is very popular with visitors. In fact, about 40,000 visitors come to see this old fashioned district every year. The vibe of the area makes some Japanese people think of the Showa Years.
It is a pleasant area to walk and get a sense of the good old days.
Rokugo Manzan – Remarkable Spiritual Culture of the Kunisaki Peninsula
The Kunisaki Peninsula is home to a unique religious movement called Rokugo-Mazan. This is a kind of mixture of Buddhism and Shinto mountain ascetics and is known for its many stone statues and famous temples.
This trip brings visitors to famous sites associated with Rokugo Manzan Culture.
・ Usa Shrine – The headquarters of a network of over 40,000 shrines dedicated to the Shinto kami called Hachiman. This deity from Japanese Shintosim is associated with warriors.
・ Fuki-ji Temple – The oldest wooden structure in Kyushu is located here and protects a sacred statue of Amitabha – the principal buddha in Pure Land Buddhism.
・ Maki Odo – A treasure trove of incredible statue art. Japan’s largest statue of Acala the Wisdom King is located here. It was made more than 1,000 years ago. This figure known as Fudo Myo-o in Japanese is a kind of protective figure. Another remarkable Buddhist statue is the Yamantaka standing at around 2.5 meters or over 8 feet tall. This figure with six faces, six legs, and six arms venerated in Japanese and Tibetan Buddhism is sometimes called the Conqueror of Death.
Kumano Magaibutsu – Magaibutsu are buddha figures carved into rock faces. The oldest and largest known in Japan are found here in the Rokugo Manzan heartland of the Kunisaki Peninsula. The figures were carved directly into the surface of the rock about 1,000 years ago.
Futago-ji Temple – Rokugo Manzan culture centered around this temple starting from the 17th Century onwards. It was known as a center for mountain ascetics - those on the path to enlightenment would enter deep into the mountains away from the world.
Rokugo Manzan’s name tells its own story. Roku means six. Go refers to a kind of small village or hamlet. The zan in Manzan can mean mountain and is also used in temple names too.
When the words Rokugo and Manzan are combined – it refers to the fact that all six “go” villages in the valleys of Mt. Futago on the Kunisaki Peninsula have had temples opened up in them.