Bicycle touring Oita Prefecture: Usuki and the bamboo lantern festival (Takeyoi)

November is apparently bamboo lantern festival season in Oita with Usuki the first weekend, Hita the second weekend, and Taketa the third weekend.  During my planning for this Kyushu tour, my original route was too long, and one of the places I skipped to make the route shorter was Usuki.  However, I added it back in when I realized it was the only convenient place for us to catch one of these bamboo lantern festivals.  It was an excellent decision as our time spent in Usuki was certainly one of our Kyushu highlights.

With a bit of extra time we followed the coast around the peninsula NE of Usuki and just like coming into Nakatsu we stumbled upon a bicycle path, the Saganoseki Cycling Road.  It’s interesting that South Korea really touts their cycling infrastructure, but you don’t hear much about Japan.  Off the designated routes in Korea, the cycling conditions were pretty grim.  In Japan, however, we found great riding almost everywhere we went.  Japanese drivers are perhaps the best in the world.

Another unexpected bicycle path in Japan by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191101_103140 by bryandkeith on flickr

We rolled into Usuki with no hotel reservation on the day before the start of their biggest festival of the year.  I figured we’d be heading out of the city each night to pitch our tent, but we went straight to the tourist information office and they found a hotel for us just a 15 minute bicycle ride from the festival.  Wow, that works.

We still had a day before the festival and our hotel reservation so we rode SW from the city to the famous Usuki Stone Buddhas.  Ferda and I had seen some other stone Buddhas in Japan and weren’t expecting much here.  However, wow!  The 59 Buddhas carved from the 8th to 14th centuries are pretty amazing.  The site is really well done.  If you’re in the area, make the effort to get out here.  And to make it even more appealing, the tourist office where they were so helpful with our hotel reservation has free rental bicycles to ride out to the Buddhas!

The Three Amidas (Amida-san-son-zou) by bryandkeith on flickr

The Three Nyorai Statues (Nyorai-san-son-zou) (1st cluster, 3rd gallery) by bryandkeith on flickr

Jizo and the Ten Kings (Jizo-jyu-ou-zou) by bryandkeith on flickr

Furuzono Stone Buddhas (Furuzono-sekibutsu) by bryandkeith on flickr

The following day we checked into our hotel in the morning and rode to the festival in the afternoon.  Of course there was plenty of street food.  Here’s some fish wrapped on bamboo then cooked:

IMG_20191102_155710 by bryandkeith on flickr

and some kind of crazy-looking burrito-type things:

IMG_20191102_172349 by bryandkeith on flickr

We were excited that there was a small bonzai exhibit since these were the only ones we saw in Kyushu:

IMG_20191102_162836 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_162726 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_161655 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_162046 by bryandkeith on flickr

and a calligraphy exhibit upstairs:

IMG_20191102_163233 by bryandkeith on flickr

Also, the entrance fee to Usuki’s restored samurai house (Inaba Family Villa) was waved during the festival.

Villa of the Inaba Family /Old Samurai Residence of Hirai-ke Family by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_170322 by bryandkeith on flickr

Taisei is a local high school student who practised his English while giving us a short tour of the festival by bryandkeith on flickr

Bamboo lanterns aren’t so exciting during the day:

IMG_20191102_154622 by bryandkeith on flickr

But things warm up as it gets darker.

IMG_20191103_172701 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_173652 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_175422 by bryandkeith on flickr

The festival only lasts two evenings, but there’s more to see and do than we had time for.

IMG_20191103_200435 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_191445 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_183820 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_184833 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_180755 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_175045 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191102_184402 by bryandkeith on flickr

Usukijo Castle ruins by bryandkeith on flickr

Tafuku-ji Temple is the photo on the front of the very well done festival brochure:

IMG_20191102_180141 by bryandkeith on flickr

Day and night:

IMG_20191103_165038 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_191137 by bryandkeith on flickr

It just kept going and going.

IMG_20191103_183535 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_195812 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_195958 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_200713 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_204746 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191103_203342 by bryandkeith on flickr

Oh wow, after all that, the rest of this post is going to be pretty boring.  We pedaled west via Harajiri and Taketa intrigued by various rice drying patterns.

IMG_20191105_111147 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191105_145618 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191105_152710_4 by bryandkeith on flickr

The fall colors started to get a little better.

IMG_20191104_131544 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191104_171308 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191104_170834 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191105_091234 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191104_173328 by bryandkeith on flickr

Slowly making our way to Kumamoto.

IMG_20191105_134843 by bryandkeith on flickr

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