Kora Taisha shrine and Rhododendron hiking in Kurume 高良大社
Kora Taisha Hiking in Kurume
Today we plan to hike the Kyushu Olle hiking course to Kora Taisha shrine in Kurume. We take the Kyushu highway and exit at the Kurume interchange. From here it is a short drive that quickly leaves the town and begins to climb through narrow streets. Soon the houses are left behind and the road climbs steeply, with numerous bends, through wooded mountain or steep hillside.
The full Olle hiking course starts from Kurume University station and ends at Mii station further down the line. This complete course necessitates taking the train and, as we are accompanied by a large dog, this is not feasible. The complete route is about 11 km. so we aim to walk part of it.
We park our car at a small car park just below the major shrine. (There is a small shop at one end of this parking area.) From the car park we cross the road and climb the steep steps that bring you to the shrine.
Kora Taisha Shrine
The shrine building is quite a large, thatched, elegant affair. It is nestled under a mountainside that, at this time of year, is ablaze with azaleas. There is a wide gravelled area in front of the shrine, some fine trees and, strangely, a chicken shed. There is also a great view over the city of Kurume and the plain of the Chikugo river far below.
Leaving the shrine, we take the path to the extreme right of the shrine and ascend into the woods. This is a pleasant path through the trees and surprisingly level for long stretches as we are headed for the top of an, admittedly, small mountain. On our return it becomes clear that taking the route to the left of the shrine is much shorter but more steep.
The route, as with all these Olle trails, is marked with blue and red ribbons or distorted wooden arrows in the same colours. Nevertheless, we were uncertain of our route on occasions as our destination the Azalea park near the top of the mountain is not necessarily part of the trail.
Our uncertainty was our own insecurity as the trail we followed brought us out to where we hoped to be without incident.
Okumiya Shrine 奥宮
On the way we passed the Okumiya shrine deep in the woods and skirting it on the right-hand side continued on our way. At one point the route descends and follows a tarmac road for a short distance before re-entering the woods. Then a steep ascent to an azalea garden. This we thought to be the azalea garden, but it was more of an annex.
It proved to be a good spot to have lunch. Azalea of all manner of shades and a view out and over to the Ariakekai (Ariake sea). There is also a toilet here. Leaving this grove, you, again, come out on a tarmac road but soon the trail reappears on the left and you ascend through some trees until you reach the main azalea garden.
Kurume Shinrin Azalea Park 久留米森林つつじ公園
Here you can wander through a maze of flowering bushes well above head height. And once again there is a view over the plain and the river winding below. There is also a shop and inappropriate music blasting from various speakers. What did you expect?
Exiting the azalea park, up to the right behind the shop, we follow the trail in a loop back to the shrine where we started. This return course is much rougher and steeper. There are rope handrails in places to ease the scramble. It is considerably shorter too and we found ourselves back at the main shrine much sooner than expected.
On this stretch we noted some deep scratch marks on a couple of trees. The obvious culprit was a bear but, although there may be bears in the Miyazaki area, it seemed very unlikely on a well traversed trail on the edge of Kurume city. So, we did not know what to make of it.
Moso Kinmei Chikurin-Yellow Bamboo Woods 孟宗金明竹林
Back at the shrine, unexpectedly soon, we set off down the hill from the car park to check out the yellow bamboo. A little below the shrine on the left of the road going down there is a grove of yellow bamboo. Bamboo as everyone knows is green but here it is distinctly yellow. Some of the trunks do sport green vertical stripes but the yellow is dominant. This is, apparently, some genetic phenomenon that occurs in a few areas in Japan.
Having viewed and walked around the yellow bamboo grove we return to the car and descend the narrow winding road into Kurume and home. The pandemic, unfortunately, keeping us from traveling far in this season of mild weather.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.