Happy New Year 2019!
To start the New Year off Scott and I visited a small shrine on Hogmanay to wish for good luck for the year. The tradition in Japan is to visit a shrine on the NYE countdown, and a lot of people seem to visit in the next few days following, sometimes visiting more than one. This is the year of the boar and the boar Shrine (Wake shrine) is just outside Kirishima city towards the mountains. Ridiculous cute illustrations of tiny wild boars can be found all over the place now, from NY greeting cards to packs of cheese in the supermarket (cheese is available here but in small, expensive lumps. Sometimes, even individually wrapped like a Quality Street).
In Kagoshima there are two very highly ranked/regarded shrines close by to where I live; Kirishima shrine is a large, grand shrine about 10km away from the city. It’s surrounded by forest and one of the most popular shrines to visit at New Year. The other is Kagoshima shrine which is in the Hayoto area of Kirishima, it’s smaller but still has beautiful surroundings with a small river running around the stone step entrance and large trees dotted around the grounds, with forest located behind the shrine.
Kagoshima shrine has a good feeling about it, it’s my favourite, but the cold and the thought of crowds put us off going for midnight, it was pretty nice just going to a small shrine by ourselves in the end.
The next day we braved an early morning start and got up to see the first sunrise of the New Year, (about 7:00am so not too bad!) another well known tradition here. We headed to Kokubu beach; Scott was in his pjs (sensible!) and I was armed with a flask of coffee. I won’t lie though, the best part of the experience was seeing a woman walking with her very large cat along the shore, I wish I’d managed to get a picture, but the minute she saw our excited faces she picked her cat up and walked in the other direction..oops.
After going back home to crash out, we headed to Sengan-en, a Japanese garden attached to a former Shimazu clan residence who were rulers of the Satsuma region in Kagoshima. It’s also very pretty with a shrine, traditional house and chinese inspired zen gardens which overlook the volcano, Sakurajima!
On the 2nd of January we did an incredible hike around Oonami Lake on the crater ridge, this is in the Kirishima mountains in Kagoshima Prefecture. It was a gorgeous day but we did leave it a bit late to start walking..so it was also a race against time to make it back to the car before it got dark. We managed to do it though in just under four hours and really enjoyed it. If you visit Kirishima/ Miyazaki prefecture this hike has the most incredible views and interesting routes on the journey, I definitely recommend it. You could even go a bit further up to Mt. Karikuni which is right next to it if you want a bigger challenge and even more of a view.
We saw to see steam rising in the distance from vents and natural hot springs, although in return we had a pretty brazen eggy smell in the air the whole day. The ice on the trees melted as the sun followed us around the circuit, and to no surprise, that also smelt pretty eggy too..but it did look beautiful!
Scott is about to move up to Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture to start his new job..so he’ll be a bit further away that we’d both like, but, it means we can go and explore more places that we might not have done otherwise! Focusing on the positives. I hope it’s a great year and here’s to more adventures in 2019 :)