Manhole Monday

Manhole Monday: Karatsu

Though the Culture Day weekend was a bit of a bust weather-wise this year, my family and I did manage to make it up to Karatsu (about a two hour drive from our home in Kumamoto) for their annual autumn festival, the Karatsu Kunchi. The streets were packed and we had to park a good three kilometers from the action, but it allowed me the perfect opportunity to track down a local manhole cover on our walk into town.

karatsu

So what, exactly, is on there? Well, it’s not any of the massive floats (called hikiyama) from the Karatsu Kunchi festival. (FYI – If you miss the festival, they store the floats in an exhibition hall that you can visit year round. Do go – those suckers were pretty cool.) It’s not the Karatsu Castle either, which looks lovely perched on the water’s edge on a hill at the edge of town. (Another hint – there’s an elevator to the top. :))

Nope, the manhole design actually references the city’s pine forest, the one major site I didn’t get to see during our time in town. Known as Niji-no-Matsubara, this 5-kilometer-long stand of pine trees hugs the bay here like the arc of a rainbow (rainbow is niji in Japanese) and is considered one of the three most beautiful pine forests in Japan. (No, I have no idea where the other two are. Sorry.) The trees were planted by the first lord of the Karatsu clan, allegedly as a protection against wind and strong tides. Today, the forest of 1 million+ trees is a soothing place for a wander, away from the city.

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