Shrines and campsites, from Shibushi to Aoshima

As the storm passes, the forecast is overcast with occasional drizzle. Though my WarmShowers hosts suggest I could stay another night, I take a chance and hit the road, leaving Kishira behind. After a few photos and goodbyes, it’s up along the winding coastal path, through the hills. Outside of some initial slopes, it’s mostly either flat or descents on the way to Shibushi. Nothing much to see or that really happens here. Just solid cycling.

Heading east to Shibushi
Space mural
Still getting used to riding in tunnels
Yet another space monument

In Shibushi, I stop off at Sukiya, a gyudon-themed fast food chain and have a bizarre cheese and tomato beef bowl. There are a lot of steam train related attractions here, but that’s about it. Continuing on, after one and a half weeks here, I pass out of Kagoshima prefecture and into Miyazaki prefecture. Reaching a lovely campsite just east of the city, I get set up for the night right on the edge of the bank, with a view of the sunset over the port.

Cheesy beef bowl
Campsite at sunset
Facing south across the port

A shrine nestled in the cliffs

The next morning, I rise early and set off on time. It’s inland today, cycling through forests and small hamlets. Without many convenience stores (or people) around, I mostly rely on vending machines to give me some energy. Speaking of which, there’s a habit you have to pick up around vending machines here. There’s such a lack of public bins/trashcans in Japan, you can usually only find them at convenience stores. So if you buy a drink at a vending machine, it’s best practice to stop and down it, right there, so you don’t have to carry an empty bottle for miles. Eventually I reach the coastal road on the eastern shore of Kyushu. South of here, there isn’t much to see other than the horse breed for which the area is known. Pedalling north, I wind my way to Udo Shrine.

This way to the east coast of Kyushu
Forested roads
Public service announcement
A vending machine bin

Nestled in the cliffside above the crashing waves, the shrine is a very popular spot and there’s congestion on the bridges and staircases. Inside the cave, the claps as you pray reverberate around the walls. Behind the shrine is a leaking stalagtite, said to represent a breast or a nipple, and visitors rub it for luck on the way past. I buy myself a good luck charm to ward off evil spirits. Outside, you can pay for some stones to toss across the way and hit a target, bringing yourself luck as you do.

Main gate into Udo Shrine
Rabbits along the path
A shrine hidden in a cave
Toss a stone, make a wish

Big trouble in little Nichinan

It’s about 10km away from my hotel in Aoshima that I have my first crash of the trip. My mind starts to drift and before I can react, I bash into a concrete post and fall to the ground. Luckily I’m totally uninjured (outside of some hurt pride), but the bicycle has taken a knock. The shifting has been affected by the tumble, and won’t take to the top gear on the front chainring. I tweak the limiter and do what I can, but it seems something is wrong that I can’t work out straight away. Almost immediately, a car pulls up and the driver asks me if I need help. Soon after, another local in a truck stops off to give it a look. We both conclude it needs a professional check-up and he calls a bike store in Miyazaki. Within minutes, it’s booked in for a check and he offers to drive me the twenty minutes into the city. I apologise, but he waves it off as this is just otagai (γŠδΊ’γ„), a Japanese expression that roughly translates as ‘(to help) each other’.

Grateful for the generosity, I throw the bike on the back of the truck and clamber into the passenger seat. On the way there, we chat and I learn he’s a cyclist himself, entering into the occasional race. He helped me as he would hope for the same from others. We talk about local food and sights, and it’s a lovely interaction. At the bike shop I get a check-up and the shifting is fixed. Ultimately it seems the bicycle is fine. Afterwards, the driver of the truck takes me to my hotel in Aoshima for the night, driving the fifteen minutes back the other way. It’s incredible generosity on his part and I thank him as much as I can. I hope I can do the same for someone else if I’m ever in a similar position.

A much needed bowl of ramen

Walking into the hotel, I drop off my things and immediately head for the open air onsen. The hot soak is exactly what I need after a long two days on the road. For dinner, I grab myself some chicken heart/gizzard skewers and a bowl of ramen. Tomorrow I’m off north of Miyazaki city, on the way to Takachiho Gorge and northern Kyushu.

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A Japan-enthusiast from the UK, with a particular interest in history and the language, as well as cycling, writing and rock climbing.