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Discovering Yabakei

by - 4:43 AM

Last month, I was invited to discover Yabakei gorges in Oita prefecture. I enjoyed a bus tour, maple leaves, stranges dolls and beautiful landscapes.


Nenbutsu Bridge


The Yabakei Gorges (耶馬渓) belongs to the city of Nakatsu (中津) which borders the southeast of Fukuoka Prefecture.
From Nakatsu I only knew that karaage fried chicken was popular and I didnt heard about Yabakei, even once. But, as shown by the shouts of joy from the two friends (named K and A-chan in the article) that I was allowed to invite, it's a well known and appreciated place by the Japanese people, especially in autumn.

Hhere was our schedule: from Saturday afternoon to Sunday early in the morning we would participate in a bus tour organized by Nishi Nippon Shinbun Travel Departement and then the Nakatsu-Yabakei Tourist Office would make us visit the area during a whole day.

We left Fukuoka at 2pm. Busy chatting, checking out the schedule and eating the cakes that we were offered by the staff (and to the other 17 participants too), the two hours of bus to our hotel passed extremely quickly.

Our accommodation for the night was Yasuragi No Sato Yamakuni. We were all treated with a private cottage for each group. When we saw the huge bathroom, the large kotatsu and the second floor, the three of us were looking forward to enjoy it.


Yamakuni Kogeisha
Yamakuni Kogeisha

Daruma

Before that we had things to do!
First we went to Yamakuni Kôgeisha, a shop where we were offered a nice octagonal plate and where I bought a small fish-shapped cutting board.
Then we went back on the bus that took us to the Nenbutsu Bridge to see illuminations. We also saw Yamakuni dolls called kakashi (カカシ). kakashi are dolls with no face and dressed with real humans clothes that the inhabitants put in very realistic situations (school, sports festival, farmers, etc.) throughout the village. They are exhibited from October to November as part of the Kakashi World festival and if it seemed a bit weird at first, it's quite interesting to see. (most of my night hotos are blurry so I also posted pictures taken the next day, in the same place)

Kakashi dolls
Kakashi dolls 

Then illuminations !
I love illuminations so I was pleased to see this one. The bridge turned out rainbow and I could watch it for hours if we didn't have an appointment after.

Illuminations at Nenbutsu Bridge
Illuminations at Nenbutsu Bridge

Illuminations at Nenbutsu Bridge

After a a while we went to the bus again. It headed us to the summit of a mountain where the highlight of the evening had been installed just for us: an open-air restaurant under a starry sky. W
ell, that would have been the case if clouds wouldn't have hide the stars.

We enjoyed a multitude Italian-Japanese dishes and drinks while listening to an orchestra that played Japanese and foreign classics on violin and piano.

The three of us enjoyed the dinner very much even though our little stomachs couldn't support all this excellent food (I hate half of the dishes actually). But it was really excellent and the waiters (one per table !!) even prepared us a heater and plaids for our knees. We feeled like VIP.

open-air restaurant under a starry sky

open-air restaurant under a starry sky


Back at the hotel, we put on our pajamas and headed off to the onsen. It was my first time bathing (naked) with friends and I was a little anxious but everything went fine. Now I feel I can bath with anyone haha.


The next morning, after a tasty breakfast made with fresh vegetables harvested in the early morning (I only could ate salad as I was so full from last night dinner), we let the others go by bus to Fukuoka and started our day private tour through the gorges!

First we went back to the Nenbutsu Bridge to see what it looked like one the day light. We walked along a path along the Mabayashi-kyo gorges and the Sarutobi Sentsubo ravine. It was gorgeous and  had absolutely nothing to envy Takachiho gorges (except that there were no boat to rent).
My friends and I were amazed by this landscape :  turquoise and clear water and gray stones,  lined with redish autumn leaves. I wouldn't think there would be a such beautiful place is only two hours away from Fukuoka !  I think this is the place I have preferred among all those we visited.
And then there was plenty of kakashi !!!

I should mention that this part of Oita is filled with wild monkeys and "sarutobi" means "the leaping of the monkeys" because the monkeys sometimes jump into the water. Besides, we hear them clearly at night.

Mabayashi gorges

Nenbutsu Bridge

Bridge in Sarutobi Sentsubo
Bridge in Sarutobi Sentsubo

Clear water in Sarutobi Sentsubo
Clear water in Sarutobi Sentsubo

Bridge in Sarutobi Sentsubo
From under the bridge
Then we really went to the Yabakei Gorge, in a place called Ichimoku Hakkei (一目八景). They are two large cliffs covered with maple trees and bordered by... guess what ?  The gorges.  But there was also dozens of small stalls.
It's a really popular spot among the Kyushu residents (we even saw number plates from Kagoshima !) so it was really crowded. We walked along the road, passing on small bridges to go on one or other of the banks, watching the children participate in a fishing workshop and so on.

Ichimoku Yakkei, Yabakei
Ichimoku Yakkei

Short walk in Mitama momiji to see if the maples were already red. It was not but the shrine was really cute with its foam stairs. A-chan said that feels we were into a Ghibli movie and it's true. We played with bubbles buyed beforehand to a nearby combini.

Mitama Momiji
Mitama Momiji

Before our last stop we had a lunch at a place call Yaba Topia.  This area is very famous for its soba and even I was still full, I managed to eat all my food.
Soba were "shin-soba", noodles made from newly harvested buckwheat. It was really tasty.
There was a cook your noodle workshop but unfortunately we didn't have time to attend it. Too bad.

Yummy soba and tempura at Yaba Topia
Yummy soba and tempura

We ended our day by visiting Ao-no-domon, a 185m long tunnel dug by hand in steep cliffs (which have not suffered from the last earthquakes, incredible) then the Yabakei bridge, The longest stone bridge in Japan. Well, as a French citizen I am used to stone bridges but this one was quite pretty. It was a good way to end our day.

Ao no Domon
Ao no Domon

Yabakei bridge
Yabakei bridge

This weekend was a fantastic experience. I discovered a great place while having fun with my friends. Our friendship has also strengthened thanks to this stay, so bad that it passed so quickly...

I think Yabakei is a place that a lot of people can enjoy, at least in autumn because the colors are really beautiful. There is no train, only a few buses so you better rent a car if you want to go. There is also a 35km long bike path called "Maple Road" which go the Yabakei from Nakatsu station. I would like to try it someday.

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