Sunday, 5 May 2019

Tara Hiking Taradake 多良岳, Kyogadake 経ヶ岳 and Kinsenji camping 金泉寺 2019.5.3 & 4

Tara Hiking Taradake 多良岳, Kyogadake 経ヶ岳 and Kinsenji camping 金泉寺  2019.5.3 & 4

Tara is a small town in the southern part of Saga on the border between Saga prefecture and Nagasaki prefecture. It is home to the Tara mountains and old extinct volcano which has given rise so a whole bunch of closely connected peaks. Mt. Tara 多良岳 is a large mountain with lots buddhist statues and religious significance and Mt. Kyouga 経ヶ岳 is the highest peak in Saga prefecture and one of the highest in Kyushu at 1075m tall. 

Access: For this hike we travelled to JR Tara Station 多良駅 and followed the road 252 which directly leads to the Nakayama camp ground 中山キャンプ場. There are bus services available which can take you to the small village of Nakayama however they are limited to weekdays and are not very frequent. The walk up to Nakayama however was very pleasant with lots of stop points and beautiful rural villages and farms. There is a halfway point at Taramachi Aiai park 太良町あいあい公園 which is a river park next to the Tara river. There are toilets and a water fountain. From there the next stop point was another small car park 多良岳水源の森 for the forest with a very well kept toilet and a small water wheel. After that it was a just a little further to get to the camp area. It took us about 2 hours and half on the way up and just under two hours on the way back down. 

Route 252 to Nakayama
Taramachi Aiai park

Views from the road. A beautiful walk even on the road

Gear: The Tara mountains have some very steep peaks with a good deal of rocky climbing. Wear hiking footwear and make sure you have a pair of gloves. Water sources are limited so make sure you bring plenty. As we planned to stay the night we packed our tents and sleeping bags. If you plan to walk the road make sure you bring lots of sunscreen as there is little shelter until you read the mountains. 

Staying the night: There are a number of campsites around the area. The Nakayama campground is free to stay and has some facilities although no showers. We were up near Mt. Tara when the light started to fade. We stumbled on Kinsenji shrine 金泉寺. A largeish shrine with a mountain lodge right next to it 多良岳金泉寺山小屋. We discovered that you can pay 500 Yen per person to the nearby shrine and you are allowed to set up your tents. You are also free to sit in the lodge. You can arrange to stay in the lodge on a small mattress if you pay 1000 Yen per person or 500 Yen for children. Space is limited so you need to call a head. The people who run the lodge are volunteers and are very friendly. They can even provide with maps and more information if you ask. 

Our tents set up in the camping area

多良岳金泉寺山小屋

Kinsenji 金泉寺

The Hike day 1: Tara station 多良駅 > Nakayama campground 中山キャンプ場 > Taradake 多良岳 > Kinsenji 金泉寺

 

We left Tara station and headed to a nearby supermarket Ellena エレナ太良店 for supplies. Then we headed to Taradake shrine 太良嶽神社 by the area to eat lunch. We enjoyed the sea air and the shrine itself was colourful and peaceful. 


After eating our fill we set off on the 10km walk to the Nakayama campground and the trailhead for our hike. We passed many farms and got waved at by the friendly local residents. We rested at Teramachi Aiai park and continued on with the road getting steeper and steeper. 

A water wheel at Teramachi Aiai park


Another water wheel this time at the parking area at Nakayama
The sign as you enter Nakayama campground
Finally we arrived at Nakayama camp ground 中山キャンプ場. There are some cabins here but it seems off season. There are also well mainted toilets and garbage bins you can use. The trailhead is very easy to locate as it is on the road and marked by some bright red Torii gates. 
The trail head. The Red arrows point to the two mountains. Straight ahead is the route to Taradake

Area map



Possibly an old monk living quaters




We stopped around this area to look at the rock formations. Tara is an extinct volcano and it shows in the rocks with layer upon layer of rock. 

As we looked at the rocks we got the feeling that we were being watched. We looked up to come face to face with a Tanuki (Racoon dog) staring at us. It took a while for it sink so I couldn't get a photo. After we noticed it it promptly turned and walked back into the rocks which it must use as a home. 
 





 

The hike eventually brought us to a shrine with lots of Japanese sandals. To the right is the route to Kinsenji and to the left is the route up to Taradake. The next part of the hike had lots of small Buddhist statues all hidden along the route. It was interesting to spot them along the trail. 




Steps that go towards Taradake; The going gets a little togher from here



After walking and climbing up the last leg spotting small statues we finally arrived at the summit of the mountain. There is a stone shrine on the very top and some views through the trees. There were flowers on the trees around and a lot of bees buzzing this way and that. 










As explained in the "Staying the night" section above our last stop for the day was Kinsenji. We approached the mountain lodge/office and talked with the volunteer who was managing it. He told us to pay 500 Yen to the shrine and we could pitch our tents. After pitching the tents we went back to the lodge and were invited in to enjoy the fire. Another hiker was grilling meat with his young five year old daughter. We ended up spending hours talking under the oil lantern light eating wild boar meat and drinking sake (Japanese ice wine) 






        多良岳金泉寺山小屋


The Hike day 2: Kinsenji 金泉寺 > Kyogadake 経ヶ岳 > Nakayama campground 中山キャンプ場 > Tara station 多良駅




Refreshed and revitalised we packed up our tents and set off towards Kyogadake. The route was steeper and in places punishing especially with a heavy pack on my back. 




 
Through the long grass




After a while we came to this cross roads. This place was key as it is where a bunch of trails meet. One route heads back down to the Nakayama camp site. We would head back here later but for now it was onwards towards Kyogadake. 





The hardest climb of the trip. Luckily there are lots of thick good ropes to use.
Summit sign for Kyogadake
The rock at the centre. Stand on the rock to get 360 degree views! 

The views from central rock were breathtaking. The weather was clear and we could see far into the distance. 

Under the metal box there was a plastic case with a notebook to record and make notes on. We added our comments and continued to enjoy the views. 

A panoramic view from the summit



After basking in the views we headed down. Our aim was to ge to the crossroads but instead we made a wrong turn and ended up heading up many small peaks along the ridge. It did give us some great views of Kyogadake and the area around it. 




 We made it back to the crossroads and found our way down to the mountain road. Nothing else to do aside from getting back to the Nakayama camp area for a short rest and then back to Tara station. The trains are not so often (Every few hours or so) so we had to get a move on but made it in time with no further drama.
It was one of the best areas I have hiked so far and I will definately be back. The people we met on the way in Tara town and on the mountain were all very welcoming left a great impression of the people in Saga and Nagasaki. 

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