Japan Day 23 – Dazaifu

Saturday 28 January

Our time in Japan is nearly over, today we head back towards Fukuoka ready for our departing flight. Just time for my final morning rooftop dip watching the sun rise over the petrochemical plants of Beppu.

Sunrise over Beppu

Drive to Dazaifu

Today are driving to Dazaifu, a shrine town on the outskirts of Fukuoka. We had planned to stop in the mountain village of Yufuin en route, but with sub zero temperatures after a day of snow, we decide not to risk getting stuck in ice/because the expressways are closed and head straight for Dazaifu.

Beppu Global Tower

It was definitely the right decision. Before we’ve even reached the outskirts of town it’s snowing again and even on the expressway the snow is starting to settle on the outside lane.

Drive to Dazaifu

It’s a scenic if somewhat nerve wracking drive through the mountains of Kyushu.

Drive to Dazaifu

Dazaifu

We reach Dazaifu without incident, despite the snow. This former Capital of Kyushu is known for its shrine. When we arrive it’s heaving. Luckily our apartment has its own parking spot so we head there first.

Dazaifu

Sonic Apartment Hotel

The Sonic Apartment Hotel is quite close to the centre of Daifuzu, just round the corner from the pedestrian area which leads to the shrine.

Sonic Apartment Hotel

Our apartment has two double beds, a kitchenette and a bathroom crammed into it and is surrounded by an abundance of plastic foliage. It’s above a restaurant so smells of fried chicken and it’s very cold.

Bedroom/living/dining area at Sonic Apartment Hotel

We turn on the heaters in the hope that the apartment will be habitable on our return and set off for a wander.

Kitchen/Bathroom at Sonic Apartment Hotel

Pancakes at Kasanoya

We walk along the busy pedestrian shopping street towards the shrine. Dazaifu is famed for its pickled plum pancakes (umegae-mochi) sold at various shops along the street. In many you can observe the pancakes being made either by hand or by machine.

Making umegae-mochi

We opt for the shop with the biggest queue, Kasanoya and buy a bag of the highly coveted pancakes (5 for Y650). They’re like dough balls into which a mixture of beans and plum have been stuffed. It’s very claggy and the beans keep repeating on me. Not great when you’re wearing a surgical mask…

Eating umegae-mochi

Kyushu National Museum

As the shrine is so crowded, we decide to visit Kyushu National Museum first. This enormous building looks like someone dumped a spaceship on the hillside.

Journey to Kyushu National Museum

It is reached by a series of escalators and moving walkways, which bring you up the hill to the very impressive glass and steel building.

Kyushu National Museum

Entry to the permanent exhibition costs Y700. This is situated on the 4th floor, accessed by yet more escalators.

Ancient Sumo Statue

After such an impressive arrival, the exhibition has a lot to live up to, which it can’t quite manage. The ‘Cultural Exchange Exhibition Hall’ contains a range of exhibits from ancient artefacts to satellites from both Kyushu and across Asia.

Early Dalek Prototype

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine

We descend back down the hill to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. This large shrine with a pond and legendary plum tree is thought to bring good luck, particularly to students taking exams. Students come/are brought here from far and wide to wish for examination luck.

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine – Lucky Bull

After you’ve rubbed the lucky bull’s nose to bring you good fortune, you pass over Tai Ko Bridge towards the main shrine.

Tai Ko Bridge

Behind the shrine is a museum, but we decide to walk back down the hill in search of somewhere to eat. Everywhere is either very busy or about to close. Dazaifu is a popular day trip from Fukuoka. Not many people stay overnight, hence not much stays open late.

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine

So it’s another gourmet microwave meal from the convenience store for us. Then an early night ready for our flight to Seoul in the morning.

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
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