Aonodomon, which translates in English as "Blue Tunnel," is a hand-carved tunnel in Nakatsu City that took over 30 years to make. Of course this tunnel is not made by nature! It is in fact hand made by a Buddhist monk who, while passing Yabakei during his travels, was alarmed to see people and horses losing their lives on the treacherous mountain road. He later carved out the original 185 meter tunnel to allow travelers safe passage through the Yabakei mountains. Today, pedestrians and vehicles pass through the iconic cliff and mountain formation.
Legend has it that before the tunnel was built, people had to climb over the cliffs through which the tunnel is built to reach an important local shrine. During the Edo period (1603 to 1867), a Monk named Zenkai, who had committed a murder in his earlier life, decided to build a safe passage for worshipers in order to atone for his crime. Beginning at the age of 49, he dedicated 30 years of his life to digging the 185 meter tunnel by hand, using only a hammer and chisel. The tunnel was opened for use in 1763 and it is still in use today. Talk about longevity!
This location is a major tourist destination as the drive thru the various gorges and thru the mountains is quite spectacular and picturesque. In fact during the autumn months especially on weekends there can be a huge wait just to get into a line in order to drive thru this unique tunnel. In fact, because of this popularity it is basically impossible to do a tour thru this region in those circumstances as time is obviously a issue for those who have to get back on time to their Cruise Terminals. For these customers a subsequent itinerary will be formulated.
I can't tell you how many times I have visited this area of Oita Prefecture, but its at least 30 times and in each occasion I must tell you the feelings of amazement are absolutely palatable. It's an attraction that will knock your socks off and or leave you speechless all at the same time.
Please click here to see the Aonodomon Tunnel on a map:
Please click on these pictures below to enlarge:
|The Monk, Zenkai
|Start of the tunnel
|Scenic views abound
|From the parking area
|The shrine entrance
|Peek a boo