Etched in stone
Southeast of Beppu, stroll through the village of Usuki, famous for its stone Buddhas of the Kamakura era.
A few steps from the train station, the ruins of the castle of Usuki and its old neighborhood of samurai residences (bushiki) in the center of the city testify to its military past. The historical tour starts with the cobblestone Nioza path, which winds between the temples and warrior mansions built during the Edo period (1603-1868). Two of these are open to the public: Inaba home (320 yen entrance) and Marumo (free). Only the city walls, a door and a tower remain of the old stronghold. The park has now taken the place of the fort and is open to the public 24/7. It overlooks the countryside and offers a lovely view of the city and the surrounding mountains.
Down the way, in a peaceful place, stand 60 majestic stone Buddhas (Sekibutsu) which mark the popularity of the city. Carved on a cliff between the XII and XIV century, one can access them by a staircase with four niches filled with statues representing the Buddhist enlightenment and serene spirituality. The place is particularly striking during the fall festival, bordered by beautiful dense bamboo forest.