The End of the Line 終点
2022 年 12 月 30 日
I have to see the sea.
This is the cry of a land-locked ex-pat living in the middle of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland. I say to myself "....Look at Kumamoto 熊本市 on the map - it's near the coast!..."
So I take the train to Misumi. Why? Because it is the last stop しゅうてん 終点 on the, yes, Misumi line. And last stops can be interesting. The train 🚋 itself turns out to be an old, diesel thing from the 1960s. The windows are so grimy I can hardly see the scenic coast floating by. Off-peak rolling stock obviously.
How ironic. So I wrench up the window pane as far as it will go - which means only about 30cms, and squint out of the gap. Much to the curiosity of a old pair (おじいさんとおばあさん) sitting opposite me.........This is the scene...Shimabara in the distance, east of Nagasaki.....The azure blue of Japan 日本の紺碧. (こんぺき) Now don't start getting all poetic Nigel, this is basically the edge of the East China Sea.....
After an hour in this rattling conveyance we come to a shuddering halt in the port of Misumi.
The mascot of Kumamoto - the bear - ".....Youkoso Misumi....Welcome to Misumi...".. Oh dear. What sort of place is this? Is that rice growing on the railway tracks? (no).The passengers (somewhat few) shuffle out through the station, blinking in the bright sunlight. 明るい日差しの中でまばたきしています。
But my Suica (if you are a Londoner read Oyster here) card is not valid....why???
The polite lady in the mahogony-framed ticket office window explains. Do I understand her? I think the essence of what she is saying is this - "it's no problem, just present this at Kumamoto station when you go back".....oh come on Nigel, you mean you don't get this? I mean, she was smiling, and, there was an official red stamp on the slip of paper, so everything must be ok.
(Of course everything was ok when I returned to Kumamoto - my Suica card was updated).
The sun is hot, and over the shimmering expanse of the harbour a solitary ship is moored.......1隻の船が係留されています....(舫っています)...with a socking great anchor hanging off the stern...
まる.....丸...."maru"...it's a suffix which comes after ships` names.....
Very little is happening........何も起こっていません
But where is the old historic harbour built by the Dutch in the 19thc? ( I have done my homework (宿題をやりました🙄 ). Had I got off at the wrong station? I discover that this interesting bit is 2km down the road, and the've long since pulled up the railway tracks (bad idea)........Buses? Nowhere to be seen. Now I am a Meetup walker 🥾! I am accustomed to 20 km hikes through the Rhine valley. Don't worry. The road is very busy, (everybody seems to be driving through this town en route to the Amakusa islands) but let's do it.
When you walk you discover all sorts of odd nooks and crannies....like this shed filled with ropes.....つな綱 (as in つなひき- tug-of-war I presume!)
Or this glimpse of the sea........海の眺め
Or this mysterious shrine decaying in the woods.......
.........tiles littering the ground
At last the small settlement of Misumi comes into view. Quaint old wooden colonial-style buildings 趣のある古い木造の建物 are grouped near a massive stone quayside. Here is a view from Urashimaya, the old inn.......
Complete with original clock.....オリジナル時計
....and piano. Tip: If you are a pianist and need to practise whilst on holiday then simply go to Japan. They will love you.
This is an amazing place.これは素晴らしい場所です But not easy to get to. Apparently Misumi West Port was one of the most important ports opened in the Meiji Era - in 1887. A Dutch hydraulic engineer, Mulder, was brought in to construct drainage channels, quay facilities and infrastructure. The main purpose of the port being to export coal from the Miike mine, 44km to the north. The Japanese knew how handle their native stone (think castle moats), and the legacy of their work is all there to see today.....オランダ語 - 日本語プロジェクト
It was all part of the Japanese "Industrial Revolution" - iron, steel and coal exports, shipbuilding. All happening at an astonishing speed as Japan began opening up to foreign trade in the 19thc. Inside the old shipping office....古い出荷オフィス (しゅっか)
Outside a helpful sign gives some information...
There are a couple of Japanese tourists around, and some local fishermen. Otherwise : Nobody. I enter the only restaurant in sight, which is in a converted warehouse. For some reason its main offering is burgers. I sit down, absorbing the stunning view. The waitress looks rather concerned when I order only one burger. I soon discover why when it arrives. It is about the size of a tennis ball. I feel a bit guilty and lash out on coffee and ice cream.......ハンバーガーはとても小さいので、その後にアイスクリームをたくさん食べます
Just look at this place! Heaven on earth. The day will come when coaches of Chinese tourists will stop here. But there are no Chinese tourists at this time of writing. It's nice for me of course, but I can see that this place desperately needs some tourist income.この場所には観光収入が必要です。 A bit of fishing is not enough..釣りが足りない..(this container if full of fish still very much alive).......
I wander down the quayside slowly, taking in the raking curve of the harbour.....港をゆっくり散歩
and branch off behind the town onto a so-called "Nature Trail", climbing up past a cobwebbed Buddhist Jizo sitting on a lotus flower. Jizo (地蔵/), as they are called, are made in the image of Jizo Bosatsu, guardian deity of children and travellers. Just right for me then. The spider has thoughtfully chosen a matching colour scheme....how tasteful.....
Next to it/she/him is a little Shinto shrine with a fox....a 狐....kitsune. The fox is often present in Shinto mythology......I wonder why. (Incidentally, I have been to shinto shrines where the rancid smell of foxes is almost nauseating.)
.... a view of the sea from the shrine .....
.......It is all a bit bizarre. Those spiders! Walking between high bushes on the trail you suddenly feel a spiders web on your face. それらのクモ！ トレイルの高い茂みの間を歩いていると、突然顔にクモの巣を感じます。Aarh! The threads are surprisingly strong. Later on I picked up a stick and held it before me like a wand, pushing away the threads before I walked into them. The track had been newly renovated.....maybe before Covid struck....for many a bamboo shoot was forcing its way up through the ground....
".....Beware of big and little leaping boars........!..." I love the graphics..it's almost manga....
And all the while the squawking of birds which I did not recognize.
The old Misumi Summary Court, to give it its full title, was quiet. Clean, well maintained, nobody there. Well it was a Monday...
Roadside colours .......
I had to make way for a minibus. It stopped outside a "Nursery School"...however, to me, the little boys and girls who tumbled out of the bus looked more like primary school children. One boy exclaimed in all naivety (and probably not expecting me to understand Japanese) " look! a foreigner!". I smiled, and answered him in basic Japanese. He was very curious, and, letting all his friends disappear into the school, asked me where I was from. "....イングランド (Ingurando) "........"えいこく" 英国 (Eikoku)...."...(England)....but none of this worked. He did not understand where I was from. Maybe it was my pronounciation. We tried India, Iceland, America.....I should have asked him if he had a stick of chalk in his rucksack, and then written this on the road 英国........but maybe he hadn't learned those kanji yet. Well that was a little frustrating. Getting a little concerned that I was distracting a little boy on the road I then sort of ushered him into the school. But to be pointed out as a "foreigner"!!!! To a European mind this is extraordinary, you do not say this. But we are not in Europe. Go with the flow. Don't ask too many questions.......
I have a little tourist map in my hand. It points to another historical building just up the road. I hesitate at the entrance and tentatively walk in.
A rather senior looking man is in conversation with a younger man in the doorway. Noticing me, the younger man quickly disappears (heirarchy? maybe I have a certain advantage here, being over 60...?) Taking the initiative, but not in any self-important or officious way, the (older) man asks me politely if I am a tourist. It is in moments like these that I am so happy to be able to answer in rudimentary Japanese and dispel any awkwardness. 日本ほんごをべんきょうしてよかったです。He then assumes I am a teacher, and is rather surprised to learn that I am on holiday here. After a few pleasantries I learn that this is actually some sort of technical college. I thought it was another museum....🙄.......With much bowing and scraping I take my leave. What little discoveries to be made here!
Little discoveries indeed. Hello, what's this? Not a violin-maker surely?.....
There is a rather eccentric café further on. The owner has collected all sorts of American signs and has adorned the walls with them. A Jazz enthusiast. How very Japanese! I love his car......but it needs some work.....😅..
Time to catch my luxury express train (!) back to the big city. After the 2 km walk....
I soon find myself at the "new" harbour, the one with the solitary ship.
Then I see him. He is a strong looking guy with a heavy sports bag over his shoulder. It is obvious that he is lost and needs to be somewhere now, or else, horror of horrors 😮, he will be late. He beetles off behind a warehouse, looking desperate. I carry on, looking as if I know where I am going. Oh no, here he comes again....there is nobody around.....and he's going to ask me something......😮....Do I look as if I know anything? Does he think I have just stepped off that ship? (the gangplank was down....). As I apologize for not knowing what the hell he is on about I hear a shout. Phew, 😌, somebody has spotted him from an office gate and is gesticulating at him. Walking on I look back over my shoulder. He is apologizing profusely now for being late. I can almost see the sweat on his face from a distance.
A flower blossoms casually beside the shipyard.....but come on, I need to catch a train....
My train is on time (what else?) and, although it is not the newest model, it is clean.
Soon I am soon back in the city - Kumamoto. I recover with fried oysters washed down with shochu on the rocks.....焼酎.....カキ....https://www.satsuma.co.jp/english/con-shiru-shochu.html#:~:text=Shochu%20is%20a%20Japanese%20traditional,rice%2C%20buckwheat%20and%20sugar%20cane.
What a day! The things you discover when you just board a train to an unknown destination.
This is also the End of the Line for 2022
I started this blog with my first post on January 9th:
"North South East West"
I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Feel free to share with friends if you like.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year