Taketa, Ōita → Kamitsutsumi, Ōita

Map of Ōita Prefecture with author’s route from Taketa to Kamitsutsumi highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

View of a small town from atop a hill covered in dense vegetation.

An old railway bridge of red steel and black basalt support columns.

A woman in a stylish European dress mounts a white scooter.

Fox dolls dressed in ceremonial silk gowns in a shop.

A beautiful blue touring bicycle with green canvas luggage.

Statues of human heads carved from basalt on a hill, with two octogonal red antennas in the background.

A small statue of dancing boy and a girl. 📍 Taketa, Ōita

Colorful pressed flowers on pieces of white paper on a table.

The author holds small packs of tea-flavored candy in his left hand.

A middle-aged Japanese woman in glasses stands in the doorway of her shop, with many pots of live flowers outside.

The woman stands behind a table, with her pressed flowers visible. 📍 Taketa, Ōita

In the black basalt town of Taketa, a place of streams, tunnels, toy trains, old bridges, and excellent fried chicken, Yasumatsu Yuko presses flowers she grows outside her shop. They come in every color, real or make-believe, and they also come with a handful of tea-flavored candy for the road when they’re arranged for the mother of a European vagabond.

An abandoned-looking white house in an overgrown plot.

The author holds a small land crab in his left hand. 📍 Taketa, Ōita

I first noticed these small land crabs two years ago, on the lower slopes of the Kirishima Mountains, but they’re all over the back roads of Kyushu. A few hundred meters above sea level, between rice fields hours from the ocean, or in chilly mountain forests, they make for some peculiar roadkill, which many of them become. This one though, minding its own business on a country road in Ōita until I picked it up, was very much alive.

Two Buddhist statues, one dressed in red, on a small altar, with a vase of flowers.

A thick buildup of minerals around the outflow of a hot spring. 📍 Nagayu Hot Spring, Ōita

It’s very expensive, you will have to wait, and it closes at seven,” the woman said when I asked about the hot spring, which had left a tall mound of mineral deposit outside the building. It was 6:50 PM. But don’t worry about it. It’s my house.”

She lived in a beautiful house in the hot spring village of Nagayu, new, but built with traditional methods, with her sculptor husband and their two daughters, impossibly named Momoko (🍑) and Sakurako (🌸). Very Japanese names,” she said, and I gave them dried Iranian mulberries.

And when I could go in at last, I found an onsen for one, a private room with a single tub, sweet alkaline mineral water constantly filling it from a spring in their back yard, and I watched the rain from the window, and later, after she had given me a packed dinner and her daughters had waved goodbye in their pyjamas, I walked into the night.

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.