Day 17 – Ureshino Onsen, and a Bit About The Olle Trail, The Kyushu 108 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

Day 17 – Ureshino Onsen, and a Bit About The Olle Trail, The Kyushu 108 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

This morning we had breakfast with Wendy and Joseph at the hotel.
It was a Japanese interpretation of a French breakfast.
We had clear consommé soup, a vegetable terrine, freshly baked buns, a small filet of fish baked with vegetables, yogurt and Mikan orange juice.

When we got ready for walking, Wendy realized that she had forgotten her Goshuin book at the last temple we visited yesterday.

We asked the front desk of our hotel to call the temple, and ask if they could possibly send it to the hotel, and we would pay for the cost.
The front desk promised to do so, and by the end of the day when we returned to the hotel, they told us that the temple had found Wendy’s book and that a hotel employee who lives nearby will pick up the book the next day, at no cost.

We had one temple to visit today, located on the slopes of a mountain outside Ureshino, in the town of Yoshida.

Because we wanted to walk more, I found a mountain route that was listed as “Intermediate to Advanced” that would take us to the summit of the mountain and back down, passing by all the sights of Ureshino.

The path was part of the Olle Trails that are all around Kyushu island.

When I found out that Kyushu Island had some Olle trails, I was very excited.

Years ago while traveling in South Korea, Jules and I hiked many of the mountain peaks and walked a few of the Olle trails.

I really enjoyed hiking the Olle trails in Korea, particularly on Jeju island where they meandered around the whole island.
We always found little cafes and eateries right off the path, things to see and nature to enjoy.
The vast ocean was all around us and we walked on beaches and cliffs, seeing the women divers diving for pearls and supplementing their income by grilling clams for the tourists by the sea.

The Olle trails actually originated on Jeju Island.
The name Ollie is a dialect of Jeju, meaning: “The small alley leading to a house down the street.”

Jeju might look like a small island on the map, but the island is vast and rich in natural beauty and many trekkers visit Jeju to hike for multiple days.

Apparently, the Korean Olle trails have become a famous trekking course, and an idea that has been adopted by other countries.

Kyushu island is also so rich in natural beauty, from the coastline to the many mountains to the old hot spring towns, that they developed the Kyushu Olle trails.

The Kyushu Olle website promises to “stimulate all five senses and make you feel ease and pleasure while managing the walk at your own pace of walking.”

The Kyushu Olle follows the same signage as the Korean version.
The road markings include Blue and Red tied ribbons, Wooden Arrows, Painted Arrows, and a sign called “Kanse,” inspired by a Jeju horse head.

Our temple, Daijo-ji Temple, is located just up the road from the Hizen-Yoshida pottery complex.
We saw mossy stone walls, large old camphor trees, and various old and new stone Buddhas covered in green moss.

The temple is part of the Olle trail but it was undergoing a major roof restoration.

We knocked on the doors of the house, and the priest took our book to stamp, but said that the roof of the main hall is being replaced.
Then he changed his mind and invited us to walk through a corridor of his house, into the main hall.

It is said that the temple was founded by Naozumi Nabeshima, the lord of the domain during the Keicho era (1596 to 1615).
The principal image is that of Kobo Daishi, carved in wood and believed to be protecting Ureshino for hundreds of years.

From there, we walked up and up into the mountain.
We passed by many of the Olle signs, but didn’t follow them exactly.
Some were too steep and mossy, which meant that they might have been quite slippery.
Instead, we walked on the mountain road which was without any cars, and even though it was not maintained and full of soil from landslides and rotting pine needles, it was the safest way to climb the mountain.

We reached the summit at about 560 meters in about two hours.
We had no benches to rest on, so we sat by the side of the road and had some water.

At the top of the mountain, an ancient forest was discovered that has been dated to be a million years old.
Not that the current trees are that ancient, but they were offshoots of ancient trees that had been here for over a million years.

We walked down the mountain on a very steep and long slope that seemed to be steeper than the 560 meters that we had climbed.
Or perhaps I so enjoyed the forest path with the views of the many tea fields that we passed as we climbed up, that I simply didn’t experience the steep uphill as difficult.

I suggested to Wendy and Joseph that they bring their folding hiking poles today, knowing that we would be climbing a mountain, but they never took them out of their day packs and everyone walked very well without slipping.

After another two hours, we reached the town of Ureshino.
We went to the Tea museum and cafe.
Ureshino is well known for its tea production that has been cultivated here for hundreds of years.
Most of the landscape surrounding the town and up into the mountain is covered in tea plantations.

At the museum cafe, we had green tea ice cream and cookies with tea, because they had nothing to eat beside sweets.

Rather than eating more sweets, we decided to have an early dinner instead.
Back in the hotel, we showered and soaked in the hot springs, and, dressed in our summer kimonos, we collected our clothes and went to the laundromat to do our laundry.

While the laundry was in the washing machine, we went to eat dinner.
It seemed like all the restaurants were closed that night, but we finally found an Izakaya, where we had many small dishes and some Sakè to cheer us up.
At home, we never drink alcohol, but on the pilgrimage we had it a few times and still slept well and had no side effects.

After dinner we picked up our laundry and walked back to the hotel.

It was a great day of challenging hiking and everyone did really well.
Good night world and thank you for everything…

Stats: 32,903 steps
Today’s walk: 22 km
Kilometers walked to date: 303.5
Temples visited:
Daijo-ji Temple #103

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