Three days into Fukuoka

Setting out from Nagasaki, I have three days of cycling planned on the way north. My time in Kyushu is coming to an end and I need to cross onto the main island of Honshu by the end of the week. The journey out of Nagasaki city is tedious with a lot of urban cycling on heavily trafficked roads. But eventually the chain stores and dealerships give way to small towns and country roads. With the bay on my right, I pass by many small islands and inlets, making for some nice scenery. It’s hot out and the UV rating is high, so it’s a bit of a struggle at times.

Islands in the bay

A Dutch theme park in Japan?

The first sightseeing I do is late in the day when I make it to Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-inspired theme park. Don’t want to leave Japan and travel all the way to Europe? The theme park has a lot of western architecture and attractions, giving local tourists a small sense of what it’s like to be in the Netherlands. It’s rather kitsch, inauthentic and expensive, so I only visit the free zone by the harbor and try a sasebo burger.

A Dutch windmill?
Huh? Am I back in Europe then?
Harbor zone, where the freeloaders hang out

That evening I decide to stay in a small hotel in Hasami, an onsen town known for its pottery. This entire area has a history of ceramics, particularly Arita to the north. After a lovely wash in the rotenburo (outdoor hot springs), I head out again on the road north. The hills give way to flat roads as I arrive in Saga prefecture, one of the smallest prefectures in Japan. There are fields stretching for miles across the low-lying plain, surrounded by hills and mountains in the distance. My first stop is at Yutoku Inari Shrine in Kashima city. With its main hall standing on eighteen-meter high wooden beams, the complex is built into the hillside of a valley. Dedicated to Inari, the goddess of foxes and prosperity, there are torii gates and smaller shrines all along the paths. There’s a quaint shopping street on the road leading into the shrine as well.

Isolated town of Hasami
Yutoku Inari Shrine
Shrines nestled in the hillside
Their very own torii tunnel

Heading onwards, I bump into Matt the Aussie on his way south to Nagasaki and we grab a beef bowl together for lunch before splitting off again. The flat roads across Saga are easy, if a little dull, and I make it to my campsite at dusk. It’s situated up in the hills to the north and isn’t exactly ideal, as there’s the crashing of the river all night as it winds downstream. On the plus side, crossing a bridge a few hundred yards, there’s a public bath and I can have a proper wash before bed.

The flat plains of Saga
Roaring river at the campsite

Yayoi: Bronze-age Japan

The next day, my plan is to make it into Fukuoka before nightfall. But first, there’s a historical site in central Saga that I want to visit. Yoshinogari Historical Park is an archaeological site with reconstructed buildings from the Yayoi-era (Japan’s bronze age). You can learn about the structure of society at the time, how the ruling class lived differently from the peasants they controlled, their burial practices as well as dress, diet and other interesting facts. I love a bit of history, and the open-air park makes for a nice detour.

Reconstructed watchtowers
Excavated burial jars
Historically accurate? Or just some cute pigs

After spending the morning on this field trip, I hit the road and head northeast. It’s an unpleasant cycle ride, mainly on traffic-heavy motorways into the urban jungle of Fukuoka. As the largest city in Kyushu, it sprawls for miles as I pedal for hours into the center. I finally reach my hotel for the evening, 200km from Nagasaki over three days…

See related posts

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