Hita, in the west of Oita, is at the centre of northern Kyushu. Serving as the shogun’s most important stronghold on the island, roads fanned out in all directions allowing the rapid transmission of information and dispatch of military forces to suppress any dissent.
Yabakei, is an extensive, scenic area centred on a valley carved over 2. 5 million years by the Yamakuni River. Riven by forested valleys and interspersed with numerous cliffs and rock formations, the Yabakei area is renowned nationally for its beautiful spring foliage and autumn leaves.
Verdant mountains close in on both sides as the road from Hita reaches Onta, a beautiful and peaceful hamlet aside the Oura-gawa river. Tucked into the furthest reaches of a narrow valley, Onta’s charm and the pottery, which it gives its name to, are well-worth making the journey.
The Maple Yabakei Cycling Road follows the beautiful Yabakei Gorge from Ao-no-Domon to Morizane Onsen along the old route of the Yabakei Railway, the trains of which once threaded their way up the valley.
The journey to Autopolis along quiet country lanes, past carefully tended farmhouse gardens through the picturesque valley-riven, deeply forested countryside in the west of Oita is an unassuming precursor to the largest motor race track in west Japan.
In the 18th Century, Zenkai, a monk at Rakan-ji, witnessed a person falling into the waters of the Yamakuni River from the dangerous, cliff-hugging path it was necessary to negotiate to reach his temple.