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Trekking the Kunisaki Peninsula
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If you enjoy the great outdoors and are looking for a challenging, but thoroughly rewarding trek packed with sights and sounds that will last a lifetime, we highly recommend paying a visit to the Kunisaki Peninsula and in particular, the Minemichi Long Trail.
Located in Northern Oita, on Japan’s Kyushu Island, the Kunisaki Peninsula is an area of unspoiled natural beauty and part of the Setonaikai National Park. The peninsula contains several cone-shaped volcanoes, the largest of which, Mt Futago (721m), features 28 valleys diverging out from its center.
‘The Kunisaki Hantou Minemichi Long Trail’, to give it its full title, is roughly 135km in length and runs from the Kumano Magaibutsu in Bungotakada City to Futago-ji temple in Kunisaki City. The route meanders throughout the peninsula, taking in some of the region’s most impressive sights and views.
Fortunately, the route is broken down into several smaller trails, making it much easier to manage. Each of these trails has a code and designated color, so if you get lost, simply keep following the appropriate colored bands dotted on trees throughout the woodlands.
This article will touch on the historical significance of the route before highlighting five of the trail’s most impressive locations which include ancient temples, a stunning natural rockface, impressive guardian statues and even a piece of modern art from world-renowned sculptor Antony Gormley.
The Kunisaki Peninsula was once one of the most important centers for Buddhism in all of Japan. The term ‘Rokugo-Manzan’ collectively refers to the area’s shrines and temples which were the base for an ancient religious group who were the first to synchronize elements of Shinto, Buddhist, Taoist and folk rituals. Due to this historical significance, the Rokugo-Manzan has become an important pilgrimage for Buddhist monks for centuries.
The Mysterious Temple: Futago-ji
Situated on the slopes of Mount Futago, Futago-ji temple is either the first or last destination on the Minemichi Long Trail, depending on which way you approach it. Established in 718, Futago-ji is the central temple of Rokugo-Manzan and is protected by two imposing Nio guardian statues.
The statues (built in 1814), combined with mossy stone steps and dense forest creates a calm, tranquil environment to take a step back and reflect.
1548 Akimachi Futago, Kunisaki, Oita 873-0356
The Stone Buddhas: Kumano Magaibutsu
At the opposite end of the trail, you will find the Kumano Magaibutsu Stone Buddhas which were constructed sometime in the late Heian Period.
Kunisaki is home to several Buddhist artifacts with Fudō Myōō (8m) and it’s neighboring Dainichi Nyorai (6.8m) amongst the largest and designated as Important Cultural Properties.
Legend has it that the uneven, difficult to navigate steps up to the Magaibutsu was constructed overnight by the devil, so take extra care when traversing them.
Kumano Magaibutsu 2546-3 Tashibuhirano, Bungotakada, Oita 879-0853
The National Treasure: Fuki-ji Temple
“Fuki-ji “is the oldest wooden building in Kyushu and a designated National Treasure. The temple hosts a statue of Amida Nyorai, the Buddhist deity who invites all believers into paradise.
The relaxed and tranquil atmosphere of Fuki-ji, surrounded by nature makes it the perfect spot to sit and take a moment. If you are interested, the temple provides a one-hour mini Zen meditation practice that visitors are welcome to attend.
Legend has it that the Amidha Nyorai statue was constructed from the wood of a single kaya Japanese nutmeg-yew tree.
Fuki-ji Temple 2395 Tashibufuki, Bungotakada, Oita 879-0841
The Cliffside Cave: Ofudo Iwaya
Located on the K-1 trail, which is said to be based on the ancient Rokugo Manzan Mineiri Pilgrimage Route, Ofudo Iwaya is a cave located on a cliffside that provides stunning views of the valley and forests below.
Ofudo Iwaya Kunimimachi Sendo, Kunisaki, Oita 872-1404
Modern Art in the Japanese Countryside: Kunisaki Art Project
Overlooking the vast Kunisaki countryside from near the top of Mt. Fudo may not be the most obvious place to see the work of one of the world’s most renowned sculptors, however, it is exactly where you can find a piece of Antony Gormley’s work.
The life-sized statue is part of his ‘Another Time’ exhibition which includes similar icon cast statues all over the world, this particular one was installed in 2013 and has since become a fixture of the region.
Kunisaki Art Project Kunimi, Kunisaki, Oita, 872-1404
It’s important to note that whilst most of the treks along the Minemichi Long Trail are relatively easy to navigate, there are certain areas with steep inclines that require the use of ropes and chains to navigate. Before setting off on your Kunisaki hike, it is important to be aware of the rules and precautions in place, which include:
・Sticking to the designated trekking routes.
・Ensuring you have the appropriate trekking attire.
・Only staying in designated accommodation (no camping).
・Not starting fires.
・For the full set of rules and guidelines, including valuable advice regarding how to act if encountering certain wild animals, please take the time to review the official website here.
We hope that this article has been beneficial in helping you plan your next hike and hope that you can experience the beauty of the Kunisaki Peninsula for yourself very soon!
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