Sponsored by Oita Prefecture/Tourism Oita
Explore the depths of the historic, unique Buddhist culture residing in some of Kunisaki’s most hard to reach areas on the one day bus tour around Kunisaki peninsula. With well-skilled and informed readers, you will stop at the best sights Kunisaki has to offer, without needing to worry about researching the best destinations, knowing the best times, paying entrance fees or finding parking spaces. This bus tour has it all sorted, including even dropping you back to Oita, Beppu or the airport when the tour is all done. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as I tell you about my insightful, adventurous and rather unexpected bus journey.
The daily tour begins after collecting passengers from Oita, Hiji, Beppu and Usa station. And while you can book online in English, the company have said they don’t actually prefer this. So, simply arrive at your nearest stop in good time, alight the bus and take a seat. Payment for the tour is dependent upon where you get on and off the bus at the end of the tour. And, since they are now celebrating their 120th anniversary, all tours are discounted by 50% until September 30th. There is also the option to have a lunch of either soba or dango (Oita’s most traditional dish) provided on the tour for an extra ¥1,080 but, this is not necessary.
So, now you are settled into your spacious and comfortable, reclinable bus seat, completed with air con, curtains, seat pockets and even cup holders, the part 1 of the tour is ready to begin. Don’t forget to check the time you need to return to the bus at each stop and of course, take a watch. Let’s go!
Usa Jingu (Shrine):
The first stop is just about ten minutes away from Usa station and is perhaps one of the most aesthetic shrines I’ve ever seen. With it’s prominent reds, beaming through the mossy greens and browns of the surrounding nature, it truly is a sight worth the ten minute uphill climb through the traditional architecture and blooming nature surrounding the temple grounds.
This particular shrine, also known as Usa Hachiman-gu, is a shinto shrine of great importance. Dating back to the early 8th century, it was the first and earliest Hachiman-gu in Japan, making Usa shrine the head of around 44,000 other Hachimangu shrines dedicated to Emperor Ojin, who was defined as Hachiman-jin (the god of warriors). Since then, the shrine has been protected and given much prestige by the Imperial palace.
The grounds are actually quite extensive. Beginning with the traditional large red gate, the path winds down past an interesting and unmissable black steam train, a bridged lotus pond, traditional gardens and even a small museum.
The shrine itself is extravagant. At first, you are hit by the boldness of the intricately designed red gate, cutting through the scenery with elegance and ease. The style continues as you walk through the gate, astounded by the sea of red that awaits you at the shrine. Take in the amazing views, pray for your luck or even buy a good luck charm at one of the oldest and most prestigious shrines in Japan.
Fuki-ji temple is one of the oldest wooden structures in Kyushu which, alongside Usa Jingu, contributed to the peninsula’s status as holy ground in the ancient times.
Having been built in 718, Fuku-ji is not only one of the oldest, but also one of the largest temples in the district, containing a wealth of historical artifacts, including murals, carvings from the Heian era (9th – 11th century) and the stunning seated image of Amida-Nyorai contained in the main hall.
This temple may require some effortful stair climbing to get to, but you cannot be disappointed by the preservation of the historical culture here. With every archaic, stone stair you climb, passing ‘nio’ guardian gods and beautifully blooming flowers, you are transported back to the 8th century. One can only imagine the beauty that surrounds this place in autumn. It may be simplistic but it is certainly not short on history, simple aesthetics and stories.
THE LUNCH STOP
It’s at Fuki-ji that we are designated a little extra time to grab some food. Many passengers made their way to a small place at the bottom of the temple stairs for their tour-inclusive meal but I decided to venture out to a small, wooden cafe I saw just a minute’s walk away. Whilst trying to read the Japanese menu board, was greeted by a delightful old lady. And, with the promise of a homemade meal of curry, hamburg, rice and coffee (and a few extras in the end), all for the exceedingly good price of ¥800, I couldn’t resist.
Having lunch in this amazing, wooden cabin, whilst talking to a very interested elderly Japanese lady, absolutely made this bus journey. She was hilarious, interesting and really fun to talk to, despite not being able to speak English. What’s more, she kept bringing me more food, drinks and even sent me on my way with some boiled sweets. Everyone should visit this amazing lady, as these kind of unexpected encounters are probably the best experiences you can have.
OITAKOTSU Bus: 1-DAY SIGHTSEEING BUS