Last summer, my friend in Munakata City invited me to join his continuing group trips to visit a mecca of mid-Kyushu burial grounds around the Kikuchi River Valley, Yamaga City in Kumamoto. He mentioned the next trip in September includes “Chibusan, Obusan, and Tonkararin" I asked him 'are they Japanese?'. He answered, half chuckling, “Yes, they’re just like ‘Obasan, Sanbasan.’” They are famous ancient barrels, some ranking as national treasure”.
Tonkararin is a combination of a natural cave, ditch and/or drained culvert like an underground tunnel along the hilly slope 450 meters long where man can wiggle through in the dark. It is unknown why it was made. Named after perhaps the clinking sounds of a stone thrown in. You have to bring your own light and attire you don’t mind getting dirty in.
Panicked Yamato, in fear of Tang and Silla's invasion, guarded Dazaifu and homeland, building castles at Mizuki, Onojyo and Kizan with the help of exiled Baekje generals and artisans. That much I knew, but didn't know Yamato also built another castle in Yamaga, 80km south of Dazaifu. The Kikuchi Castle was supposedly the last backup depot for the worst scenario, serving combat support and military logistics.
I first targeted it on my birthday, March 4. The family had some plans for me, so I waited a week for a fine warm day. Climbing was hard and tough for this octogenarian. I recalled El Teposteco, the sacred mountain, near Cuernava, Mexico (2000m above sea level, but 800m above Tepostlan land level) was one of my last climbing experiences. That was 15 years ago. Goshoyama is 250m high. But Kogoishi is at the Middle Gate, about 150m high. I climbed over and above the Middle Gate to Keiko Shrine close to the top and had my lunch. While on the trail, I came across a dozen group climbers in decent mountaineering clothes. I celebrated my belated birthday with a tea cup toasting. Now I proudly declare that the photos in the blog are all mine. I truly enjoy these adventures.