Saturday, June 6, 2009
Trip to Japan: Day 6 - Life isn't always a Beach ５月２９日
Before leaving for Japan, I had packed a swimsuit in the hope that the weather would be warm enough in Kyūshū 九州 to allow for a dip in the ocean while I was there. Well, things don't always turn out as planned. In fact, the day I went to Karatsu 唐津, a city of 130,000 with a long stretch of beach (about 70 minutes by train from Fukuoka 福岡), was the worst in terms of weather during my trip. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring along a jacket as well as swim gear, because I needed one on this cool, overcast and windy day.
Karatsu is first and foremost a pottery 焼き物 town, and I visited a couple of kiln-galleries, as well as purchased a pair of small, inexpensive items from the Karatsu Ware Federation Exhibition Hall next to the train station. Although I'm hardly a connoisseur when it comes to ceramics, I could appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the pottery (and gape open-mouthed at some of the prices being charged!). The galleries I went to were also attractive buildings in their own right, especially that of Nakazato Tarōemon 中里太郎右衛門窯:
After lunch at a kaiten-zushi 回転寿司 restaurant (a must when in Japan; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaitenzushi), I went to Karatsu-jinja 唐津神社, in the center of Karatsu:
The shrine was OK, but better was the Hikiyama Festival Float Exhibition Hall 曳山展示場 nearby, containing 14 floats used in the city's Karatsu Kunchi Matsuri 唐津くんち祭り every Nov. 2-4 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karatsu_Kunchi). The festival has been held since 1592, and looks like it would be a spectacular sight, judging from the video of the event shown at the hall. The floats are big, and come in designs including samurai helmets, a dragon, a chicken and a bright red fish:
Next, I walked to Karatsu-jō 唐津城 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karatsu_Castle). I'm not usually a fan of reconstructed castles (this one was built in 1966), but the hilltop location overlooking the sea was certainly picturesque. Inside were the usual displays of archaeological finds, ceramics and samurai armor and swords, but the view from the top floor was the drawing card. As you can hear in the video, it was pretty windy up there!:
From the castle, I made my way towards the forested area seen in the background of the second photo above. Crossing the bridge, it was all I could do to stand upright! The wind continued to blow in from the ocean as I walked along the beach, as you can see in this self-portrait:
Even if the weather had been good enough for swimming, the Niji-no Matsubara 虹ノ松原 Beach was in a terrible state (I assume it gets cleaned up before the start of the "official" swimming season in July). Reaching the pine tree area, I turned back towards the city, and took a long walk back to the train station. Had it been a nicer day, I would've taken advantage of the free bicycles available for tourists, but I didn't really feel like pedaling into the wind all day. I returned to Fukuoka in the late afternoon, and following dinner, relaxed with a pint of Bass at a British-style pub near my hotel before retiring to bed in preparation for my last full day in the city.
On the way back to Karatsu Station 唐津駅.
I had actually passed through Karatsu back in 1990, pausing long enough to rent a car and drive to Yobuko 呼子, a fishing port on the Higashi-Matsuura Peninsula 東松浦半島, where I stayed a couple of nights (the town merged with Karatsu City 唐津市 in 2005). Despite the less-than-ideal weather, I enjoyed my visit this time. If I were living in Fukuoka, I could imagine myself spending time there in the summer months swimming and biking on the weekends. Pottery and surf make for a good combination!