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Maebaru-shi

At a glance

The largest of three cities (Maebaru, Shima, and Nijo) that make up the Itoshima Peninsula, an area rich in natural attractions and historical significance. The city’s symbol is a copper mirror, owing to dozens of such mirrors brought over from China in ancient trade missions. Check out the many fine and unique restaurants located along the famed Sunset Road.

Maebaru Tourist Information Center is located across from the North Exit of the Chikuzen-Maebaru Station.

Festivals

Kumano Shrine Purification ceremony December 17th

Maebaru Shimin Matsuri October

Sunset Live late September

Getting there

By subway…

-Chikuzen-Maebaru Station or Karatsu Station (¥560 from Tenjin)

By bus…

-From the Tenjin Center Building Terminal or Hakata Bus Terminal, bound for Maebaru (around ¥600)

By car…

-Although most of Itoshima is accessible by bus, it’s much more enjoyable and less stressful to go by car, especially if you want to tour the coast along Sunset Road and get to hard-to-reach restaurants

Points of interest

Keya Beach One of the nicer beaches in the prefecture, Keya is a great place to cruise and soak up some sun in the balmy summer months. Winter brings more rideable waves and a surfer crowd. More famous is the giant cave, Keya no Oto, which is the largest of its kind in Japan. For a fee, tour boats will take you right through the middle of this geological wonder (Apr- Nov). Keya is also host to the yearly mega-party, Sunset Live, in late September, and also hosts a few surfing competitions in the fall and winter. Futami Gaura, husband and wife rocks, are a good place for hopeless romantics to watch the sunset.
Getting there…From the Maebaru Bus Center, take the bus for Keya and get off at the last stop.

Raizan Literally “thunder mountain,” Raizan is a tribute to the god of Thunder. Aside from the sound and fury, its also home to one of the best hiking trails in the prefecture. Raizan Sennyoji Daihyoin Temple is located atop the mountain. This temple is home to a thousand-armed wooden statue of Buddha, a designated cultural asset. It’s the only temple in Japan to be founded by someone from India, and is particularly popular during koyo in autumn. There’s a great traditional togei (pottery) workshop, Raizanbo, at the base of the mountain as well as a nice deli for lunch.
Getting there… Take the Raizan bus from the Maebaru Bus Center to the last stop (Raizan Sennyoji Temple). Be sure to check the schedule as buses could stop running as early as 3pm.

Shiraito Meaning “white thread,” this is a beautiful waterfall and the pride of Itoshima. Especially popular in the summer is eating nagare somen as it zips down the fresh running water, after a refreshing swim under the waterfall.
Getting there... From the Maebaru Bus Center, take the Showa Bus for Shiraito.

Imazu Set in front of beautiful views of ocean side cliffs, this is a huge open-air park and sports facility with a lot of space for just about anything.

Mamushi Onsen has some good rotemburo and will pick you up at the station in their shuttle bus for free.
Getting there… Take the train to Fukuyoshi-eki (station) and call for a ride. Tel 092-329-3003. http://mamushi-spa.co.jp/

Sakurai Jinja Owned and run by the Toyama family, this fairly large shrine complex is located deep in the mountains and is an official national treasure. Once a year, it plays host to a yabusame (mounted archery) event.
Getting there… Take the Nogita Line Showa bus to Sakurai The shrine is a ten-minute walk from the bus stop.

Other temples and shrines in the area include:

Kinryu Temple, famous for its spring azaleas, and Takasu Shrine, featuring Takasu dancing during its festivals in April and October.

Eating and drinking

A car might be necessary for a visit to these far flung joints. Check for maps on their homepages.

Herb Garden’s main bay window has a spectacular view over its pastoral surroundings. The restaurant features the freshest organic produce from its nearby gardens. Good food and friendly service. Look for the katakana sign. Tel 092-331-2220. www.herbgarden.co.jp

Itoshima Ham is a cabin-in-the-woods kind of place. Always popular, this restaurant serves only the finest and freshest cuts of meat and allows you to grill them yourself at your table, the freshest yakiniku you’ve ever had. Tel 092-324-2821.www.itoshimaham.co.jp

Sokkyo Shijin This bakery is dedicated to its craft of producing bread from natural ingredients and yeasts in a Cretan-style farmhouse. The place to go when you’re fed up with those Japanese polystyrene ceiling tiles masquerading as real bread. 8:30am til it’s sold out; closed Fri and all of Aug. 507 Taku Road. Tel 092-324-3205. www.remus.dti.ne.jp/~ijumi-k/sokkyo-tenpo.html