pull on Flickr.
The conjoined towns of Omuta and Arao straddle the border between Kumamoto-Ken and Fukuoka-Ken. They serve as the midpoint between the two main cities of Kyushu and at least two rail lines go through if we count the Shinkansen. Three if we add the Omuta to Fukuoka express line. Both towns sit on the Ariake Sea and both have a lovely view of Mt. Unzen which is near Nagasaki, which I never successfully got a picture of. Nagasaki can be reached by ferry, then highway, but most take the expressway north around the sea. As the crow flies, Nagasaki is close to Kumamoto, but is isolated by the geography.
Japan’s volcanic nature does make for some breathtaking landscape, but getting around is a pain in the ass because you can’t build a road ten meters before having to go around a mountain.
Every year they hold a tug of war with a 600 meter rope that passes through the center of both towns. There is an old but friendly rivalry between the two even though you wouldn’t know that you’ve passed from one to the other unless a local told you. Two teams represent each town. They have three matches: Women, the local high schools, and men. The best out of three wins bragging rights for the year. Then they roll up the rope, and go back to their business. I think Omuta tends to win.
Of the two, Omuta is the most developed. It has a small but active port and a larger population that mostly works in Fukuoka and Kumamoto. This gives it a more robust economy. Arao does have an amusement park on its outskirts that includes an Ultraman park, which is cool to hang around at night. Sadly, those photos were lost with the rest of my pre-2008 images. Arao also has a lot of abandoned, falling down old-timey homes that make for lovely photography. While both towns seem to have stopped growing in the late 70s/ early 80s, Arao seems to wear its age more openly.
I guess if you were forced to choose only one to photograph I’d say Arao just for that reason alone.