It was warm and sunny autumn day, a perfect time for exploring the rural areas of Kagoshima on bike. Light breezes were gently touching my hair whilst cycling as I witnessed the whole mountainous panorama, breathing with slight movements of the wind with dewy paddy fields and sunshine shining through. I have to say, it was a truly beautiful scenery.
Exploring the country side of Kagoshima prefecture is one of my favorite ways of getting to know more about the local lifestyle, culture and history and Kagoshima. Through my travels in this region I discovered that there are numerous forgotten gems that are worth seeing and investigating. The bus doesn’t reach many of these hidden places and therefore biking is your best option. It’s an enjoyable and easy way of delving into the regional legends and folk stories. Not only that, you can find out about worshiped gods that have been long forgotten in these wild lands.
I was cycling through a dense forest when I suddenly spotted something rather original and fascinating! Two massive stone tories (gates) emerged from the mossy ground, a sure signal of a shrine nearby. To my astonishment, the tories were next to each other, a very unusual occurrence in Japan. Behind them is a short walk up a hill, and at the top was a small, yet graceful timber shrine surrounded by the quiet and tranquil scenery. I could only hear the rustle of the trees as if a god left this abandoned and sacred place.
From the information board provided, Minamikata Shrine was heavily damaged by harsh weather and time. It was built around the time when Satsuma Domain ruled under the Shimizu family. After the rise of Meiji Era many shrines according to new law were destroyed or abandoned with no exception to Kagoshima Prefecture. Of course some still remain to this day.
As I have mentioned above, The two near-standing tori gates of Minamikata Shrine is quite a rare sight. It turns out the other tori belonged to a shrine demolished during Meiji Era. In order to protect what was left, the locals decided to place the tori next to Minamikata Shrine’s tori. Their efforts were payed off as we can admire its mystery to this day.
Presumably, that was also the case with another shrine located not far away from Minamikata Shrine. Two tori gates stand alone among the grassy fields.
Cycling through the village neighborhoods I encountered more hidden treasures and more small shrines. The damage can be easily seen from the natural forces of nature and time. It’s a miracle that some of them still stand in an area frequently afflicted by typhoons.
Local people sometimes bring offerings of fruits and other goods for these forgotten gods, who according to their beliefs, still live in the abandoned shrines.
Useful links and information:
There is a well-developed cycling route around Minamisatsuma. You can get the maps in a rental bike shops or information center (in Japanese only). However, for those who crave for more adventurous trips, I would suggest just going where your intuition leads you. Before that, make your own map of the things you want to discover and see.
In addition, don’t forget to pack a lot of snacks, water, and a jacket that will protect you from the rain. Weather in Minamisatsuma changes very quickly and unexpectedly.
How to get to Minamisatsuma area:
|Name||Minamisatsuma City area|
|Address||Minamisatsuma, Kagoshima Prefecture|
|Access||[map]Minamisatsuma, Kagoshima Prefecture[/map]|