Back in the mythical past of Japanese history, the grandson of the first emperor of Japan (Emperor Jimmu), Takeiwatatsu-no-Mikoto (健磐龍命), was sent out by the government to survey the country. Almost in the middle of the island of Kyushu he walked up a mountain to see the land and this spot became known as Kunimigaoka (国見ヶ丘), or “the hill from where you can see the country”. From here it is today possible to three of the nine traditional “countries” of Kyushu: Miyazaki prefecture, Kumamoto prefecture and Oita prefecture. Kunimigaoka is located a short drive from the city of Takachiho (高千穂) on of the most inaccessible and gorgeous little towns in Kyushu. The spot is also famous among photographers for the “sea of clouds” effect you can get on certain cold mornings, where the surrounding country is covered in clouds and only the mountain tops peak out of the mist for a totally surreal experience. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait around for that very rare atmospheric effect. Apart from the Shinto appeal of the place, there is also a Buddhist connection, as you might be able to spot in the first photo of this post: can you see the silhouette of the resting Buddha? From left to right in the middle of the photo, a mountain ridge that looks like the legs, hip, shoulders and head of a buddha statue laying down.
Anyway, back to the Emperor Jimmu connection. There’s no evidence of such an emperor ever existing, but neither is there any evidence that disproves him, so no matter what you believe, he is a mythological person for all we know. It is said that Emperor Jimmu was the grandson of the sun goddess, but that he was born and raised here in Takachiho in present day Miyazaki prefecture. He is said to have been born around 700 B.C. but it wasn’t until about 800 A.D. that he is firmly established as the first emperor in actual writing (that remains to this day). Because of this mythological claim to have been the birthplace of the imperial lineage, Miyazaki prefecture today runs a tourism slogan “The birthplace of Mythology”, and there are many “power spots” in the prefecture. I don’t believe in power spots, but in the last few years it has been a popular subject in Japanese press and media. The whole island of Kyushu does have a certain special “vibe” though, something you can’t quite put your finger on, that makes it a special place, maybe that is just me?
The spot itself is beautiful, with a different kind of nature compared to the sub tropical lowlands of Kyushu, here it is dominated by trees and animals that we would expect to find in much more northern areas. There’s a large monument to commemorate Emperor Jimmu’s grandson’s “view of the country”. The text inscribed in the monument was far too complicated for me (and indeed many native Japanese) but I assume his royal highness is in the middle and that the other two are his ministers or assistants. More about Kyushu, Miyazaki and the city of Takachiho coming later this month!
The other day I visited Tokyo’s Odaiba district, the Ariake part and took these photos of the mainland Tokyo skyline. The train line running on the far right corner is Yurikamome line and just in the corner you can see the Ariake Tenisunomori station (有明テニスの森公園) that was completed over 20 years ago but still looks brand new, probably because very few people ever use it. As you can see there isn’t much around here. In the middle of the photo you can see a still undeveloped piece of land which is set to become the new place for the famous Tsukiji fish market, but as of now there’s still not much going on right here as the land needs more preparation before the new construction starts. To the extreme left in the first photo you can barely make out Tokyo Tower and to the right you can see the new Sky Tree tower, the outline is complete but there is still a lot of construction to be done inside.