Kunisaki Peninsula & Usa

OIta Rokugo Manzan
The picturesque and verdant Kunisaki Peninsula is a haven of rural life that today belies its history as one of the greatest centres of Buddhism in Japan. The powerful religious institutions that once dominated the region have long since faded away.

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african safari2 v3
At the largest wildlife park in west Japan an exotic and exciting experience is provided for children through to adults alike in the heart of Oita.

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Oita Usa Jingu
Usa Jingu retains an atmospheric grandeur befitting its status as the principal shrine of Hachiman, the Shinto protector god of Japan.

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Tekizanso Hiji
Tekizanso is a gracefully classic one story building that dates from the Taisho Period (1912-1925). Sited in a corner of what was once the grounds of Hiji-jo, the local daimyo lord's castle, this picturesque structure, set in a classic Japanese garden, is registered as one of Japan’s national treasures.

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Suzumegusa v2
The colourful banners fluttering in the sea breeze will draw anyone’s attention to the quiet and unassuming building that serves as home, studio and gallery for the original and varied work of a young husband and wife team of artists.

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Sadaji Futabayama
Throughout the ages there are some athletes so accomplished they transcend their sport and establish records considered so substantial that they are considered unbreakable. Futabayama (1912-1968) is one of these.

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Mamoru Shigemitsu Kitsuki
The scene on the deck of the USS Missouri at the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, when Japan formally yielded to the Allied forces on 2 September 1945, is a familiar scene to many, especially older generations around the world.

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Oita Himeshima2 v2
The ferry across the placid Seto Inland Sea only takes 20 minutes to sail from Imi to Himeshima, an island lying off the Kunisaki Peninsula’s north coast.

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At a glance

20 minute ferry ride from Imi

Ideal for cycling

Interesting Geology

Oita Nada Shrine
Hachiman Nada Shrine, located at on the south-east coast of Kunisaki, is one of the peninsula’s most atmospheric sites of Shinto worship. Secreted into a pine forest aside the two-kilometre long white sand Nata Beach, the shrine faces east to Shikoku across the steely-blue Seto Inland Sea.

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Oita Buddhaist deities
Shaka NyoraiShakyamuni 

Shakyamuni is the historical Buddha ‘of our times’. He was born into the noble Indian clan of the Shakyas. Shakyamuni literally means “sage of the Shakyas”.

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At a glance

Buddhas, Shinto gods and ancient sect leaders of Kunisaki and Japan.

Cycling Oita
For bicycle touring aficionados, Japan, with its varied countryside is a great place to visit. Oita’s many quiet country lanes, lack of vehicle traffic on all but the major thoroughfares, and almost entirely considerate and polite drivers make it a good region to explore on a bicycle.

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Oita Fukae
Oita’s 774km long coastline is lined with fishing ports, both great and small, but only a few have a fish market. One exception is at Fukae, in Hiji on the Kunisaki Peninsula, a sleepy fishing village.

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Oita doburokumaturi
Visitors to Ota, a usually quiet village on the Kunisaki Peninsula, swell the local population by a factor of 30 or more over two days in mid-October when its popular Doburoku Festival is held. With a history stretching back to 710 A. D.

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Bungo Takada Showa
The Showa-no-machi quarter in Bungo-Takada, a small city settled into the north-west shoulder of the Kunisaki Peninsula, seems to have been stopped in a retro time warp centred on the 1950s.

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Kunisaki Art gormley v2
It is surprising to find a work of art by Anthony Gormley, the famed British sculptor, in the very depths of the Kunisaki Peninsula.

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Toyo Ito Kitsuki
Ito began his career in Kiyonori Kikutake architectural practice, and he has employed younger leading architects Kuzuo Seijima and Ryue Nishizawa, who together created the SANAA architectural firm, and Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, who together established the Klein Dytham practice in Tokyo.

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Oita Tour du kunisaki v2
Kunisaki’s quiet country roads through verdant countryside and aside the Seto Inland Sea are ideal for cycling and each year, over 2,500 cycle enthusiasts enter Oita’s largest cycling event, the Tour de Kunisaki.

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Oita Tomaya
To cross the threshold of Tomaya in Kitsuki is to go back in time. The current building, a delightfully quaint tea emporium, dates to 1875 but the business was first established in the mid-Edo Period (1603~1868).

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Oita Tennenji
Like so much to be found in Kunisaki, nothing fully prepares one for Tennen-ji temple, a beautifully rustic and understated thatched structure protruding from a cave at the base of a monumental cliff.

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Oita Tashibu
Tashibu-no-sho, a charming district with some of the most picturesque countryside found anywhere in Japan, was once under the direct control of Usa Jingu.

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Oita Gokart
A stone’s throw from the Ajimu Winery is the pocket-sized Sonic Park, where karting enthusiasts speed up to 80km per hour around its tightly twisting, 1,080 metre track.

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Oita Nagasakibana
On the north side of Kunisaki betwixt Matama Sunset Café and Imi lies Nagasakibana, a long, finger-like peninsula jutting out into the Seto Inland Sea.

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Oita Monjusenji
For anyone fortunate enough to be at Monjusen-ji at dawn, the deep, resounding sound of bell echoing across its tranquil setting, a remote valley deep in the heart of Kunisaki, heralds the start of the temple’s day.

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Oita Miura Baien
Muira Baien (1723-1789), born into the family of a physician, spent most of his life in a small village in central Kunisaki and followed his father in also becoming a physician. A prolific thinker, Baien also became a philosopher, scientist and astronomer whose fame spread throughout Edo Japan.

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Oita Makiodo
Makiodo is a repository for Buddhist statutes, which are all that remain from a grand temple, Makisan Denjo-ji, that once dominated the surrounding area.

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Oita Kyusentoji v2
The ‘Kyu’of Kyu-Sento-ji means ‘former’ and only the extensive grounds of what once was one of the greatest of Kunisaki’s temples remain. Today, a quiet lane leads to a forest footpath, which winds first under a torii shrine gate, before passing a group of stone Buddhas and stupas.

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Kunisaki and Usa was recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the United Nations in  2013. Look at a map of the Kunisaki Peninsula and neighbouring Usa area and the preponderance of lakes and ponds inevitably catches the eye.

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Oita Giahs
Kunisaki and Usa was recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the United Nations in 2013. Look at a map of the Kunisaki Peninsula and neighbouring Usa area and the preponderance of lakes and ponds inevitably catches the eye.

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Oita Kunisaki cycling1
In years past, it was common to see the professional Keirin athletes from the velodrome in Beppu training in pelotons on the roads of Kunisaki until fixed-wheeled bikes, which they use in their sport, where made illegal on the public road in Japan.

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Oita Kunisaki Long Trail
The Kunisaki Hantou Minemichi Long Trail, to give its full name, is a meandering, 134km-long hiking route that weaves through the Kunisaki Peninsula following in the footsteps of the Rokugo-Manzan monks, who first came here for their ascetic practices 1,300 years ago.

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Oita OitaBus
The Oita Kotsu bus company runs two regular, scheduled tours to Kunisaki and Yabakei. Both are convenient ways to explore both areas with start and finish points at Oita and Beppu Stations. Kunisaki Route: Usa Jingu, Fuki-ji, Makiodo, Kumano Magaibutsu, Zaizen Bochi; and Futago-ji.

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At a glance

Scheduled one-day bus tours to the Kunisaki Peninsula and Yabakei.

Oita kumano magaibutsu3 v2
Kunisaki is a treasure trove of Buddhist artefacts and the twin Kumano Magaibutsu Buddhist relief carvings, depictions of Dainichi Nyorai and Fudo Myo-o, are the largest amongst these.

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Oita Kitsuki
Kitsuki is a compact, quiet and genteel town that still retains the atmosphere it once had as samurai stronghold. The kitadai samurai quarter is reached via a flight of old flagstone, steps starting from aside a traditional shop selling miso paste.

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Oita Keishoji3
A sign at the foot of the short flight of steps leading up to an unassuming hut, the sole structure left in the grounds of this now sleepy but once much grander temple, indicates the way in Japanese characters to Jigoku Gokuraku, or Hell and Heaven.

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Oita Iwatoji
Iwato-ji is one of the three temples on Kunisaki that still hold Shujo-onie. As with nearly all the temples on Kunisaki, two fearsome Nio guard the path to the temple. This couple, however, are the oldest in the area and date from 1478.

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At a glance

One of the three temples on Kunisaki where the peninsula's famed Shujo Onie festivals is still held.

Oita Itsutsuji Fudo
Itsutsuji Fudo marks the furthest and highest extent of Kyu-Sento-ji’s grounds. A small shrine clings to the sheer rock face, from which panoramic views across Kunisaki over the Seto Inland Sea beyond to Honshu are a fitting reward for making the climb.

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Oita Imi
Imi was an important port in the Edo Period (1603-1868), which is attested to by the impressive Hachiman shrine in extensive grounds adjacent to small dock.

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Himeshima Kaisuiyoku beach
Himeshima is a homely island and, amongst other attractive qualities, sports one of the nicest and least visited beaches in all Oita. The ferry from Imi on the Kunisaki Peninsula’s north coast arrives in a short 20 minutes at Himeshima’s port, which is cheek-by-jowl with the island’s main settlement.

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Oita Futagoji2
Like many of Kunisaki’s temples, Futago-ji traces its founding back to Rokugo-Manzan’s founding monk Ninmon.

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Oita Fukiji
Fuki-ji temple’s main hall is perhaps the simplest and most elegant Buddhist structure found anywhere 
in Japan. Built in the 12th Century, it is also the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu.

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Himeshima cycles
Himeshima, with its very limited number of vehicles, relaxed and quiet lifestyle, limited hills to climb and very few vehicles, provides a delightful environment for a leisurely exploration on bicycle.

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Innai cycling
Electric-assist mamchari cycles are available to rent at Innai’s Michi-no-eki wayside station to explore the surrounding picturesque countryside, which boasts the greatest concentration of stone bridges in Japan.

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Oita Choanji
Choan-ji was, for a while, the principle temple of Kunisaki.

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Baien no sato
Baien-no-Sato is a small, onsen hot spring resort atop a hill in the centre of the Kunisaki Peninsula. It also has the additional and very unusual attraction for a hotel of a 65cm reflecting telescope used for star gazing into our Universe and far beyond into deep space.

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Oita Ajimu winery
Top grade grapes for the table are grown widely in Kyushu and are a staple fruit during the summer months. Grapes for viticulture, the production of wine, are, however, much rarer in the region.

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