Photowalk to Suizen-ji Park

Today I traveled to Kumamoto almost 750 km away, to visit the lovely Suizen-ji Garden.

Suizenji Garden (水前寺成趣園) is a Japanese style landscape garden in Kumamoto. The garden is named after a Buddhist temple Suizen-ji that no longer exists on the grounds. The origins of the garden go way back to 1632, when Tadatoshi Hosokawa, the administrator of Kumamoto, built the Buddhist temple Suizenji. It was completed by 1670 and named Suizenji Jojuen which means “Garden of Elegance”.

Nara to Kumamoto

From Nara I took the local train up to Osaka. From Osaka I had to take another change-up to Shin Osaka, since bullet trains don’t have a stop at Osaka Station. From Osaka, I took the Hikari Shinkansen to Kumamoto. it’s a 5 hour ride even on the bullet train. A long ride like this can cost a fortune, but I was carrying my JR Pass. With the JR Pass I can travel unlimited number of times, anywhere in Japan on the JR line trains. It has been a great asset on my travels throughout the land of the rising sun.

The weather kept changing from a bright sunny to rainy and then misty as I passed prefecture after prefecture.

Inside the Shinkansen area of the Kumamoto Station, a huge face of Kumamon, the official mascot of Kumamoto welcomes you to the city. The Kumamon was unveiled in 2010 with the opening of Kyushu Shinkansen in order to promote tourism within the region. The mascot’s character is inspired by Kumamoto – the prefecture’s name literally translates into “bear origin”.

From the bustling station of Kumamoto, I changed to the local Hohi line, that dropped me off at the Shin-Suizenji Station. The train bound for Suizenji, leaves at regular intervals of 20 minutes and costs ¥‎210. Those with JR Pass can avail this ride for free. From the station however, it is still a 15 minute walk to the park.

Suizen-ji Garden

Google maps was playing up and it led me on a round-about way to the park. After a bit of searching I was finally able to find the entrance. A sweet lady dressed in Kimono provided me the admission tickets that cost ¥400.

Just beside the entrance one can find an Inari Shrine. A series of red Torii gates lead up to the shrine. Some of the Hosokawa family members are enshrined here.

In Japanese mythology, Inari is a god primarily known as the protector of rice cultivation. The fox, symbolizing both benevolence and malevolence, is sometimes identified with the messenger of Inari, and statues of foxes are found in great numbers both inside and outside shrines dedicated to the rice god.

After paying my respects at the shrine, I walked up the beautiful garden path lined with an array of miniature man-made hills. Just opposite to the shrine there is a miniature hill, made to look like Mt. Fuji.

Along the path, I crossed a small arched bridge to reach a pond filled with Koi fish. Three tiny islands float in the middle of the pond. The pond is fed by spring water from Mt. Aso, an active volcano in central Kyushu. As I went near the edge of the pond to feel the crystal clear cold water, a school of colorful Koi swam towards me searching for an afternoon snack. Unfortunately for them, I didn’t have any.

A few paces ahead I came across the thatched Kokin-Denju-no-Ma tea-house which was moved from Kyoto’s Imperial Palace to Kumamoto in 1912. A couple of Japanese were sitting inside. The tea house opens towards the pond. For people sitting inside the tea-house, the lovely pond looks like a picture frame. Pigeons were walking around just outside the tea house. A crane stood on rocks in the middle of the pond, making the scene even more exquisite. It’s a perfect place to relax and let the mind wander.

With the relentless Japanese summer sun beating down against my skin, I moved on, beyond the tea house, towards the beautifully trimmed pine trees on the other side of the pond.

It is said, the garden was landscaped to give the impression of views seen when traveling along the Tokaido, the 12th century highway between Kyoto and Edo (present-day Tokyo) .

The path up ahead, lined with an array of small green mounds are sure to please any nature lover. At Adachi Garden, I had made up my mind that it was the most beautiful garden. However Adachi Gardens can only be viewed from behind glass windows, so the feel of walking in such a beautiful garden just tilts my judgement towards Suizen-ji. The historical aligned, beautiful landscapes of this garden have led to it being acknowledged by the Japanese government as a site of historic and natural beauty.

Walking through, I came back a full circle back to the Shinto Shrine. On the right there are two statues of Fujitaka Hosokawa with Tadatoshi Hosokawa.

The garden covers an area of about 15 acres, reproducing the 53 post stations of the Tokaido, including the miniature Mt. Fuji, I saw earlier. Before I end the article, I want to share this most beautiful section of the entire park.

The garden is also home to a Noh theater, where Noh is performed in spring and fall ceremonies. It also contains the Izumi Shrine, built in 1878 and dedicated to the Hosakawa family.

It was evening, and I had about 6 hours ride in front of me to reach home. So, I went back to the Kumamoto station and caught the Shinkansen from there back to Shin Osaka.

As I made my may back to Nara, the lovely garden with its picture-postcard beauty kept lingering in my mind. The beautiful dusk only made my experience of the day richer.

The Garden is a slice of history and beauty put together in a tasteful combination. The Suizen-ji Garden is a must visit for anyone who loves nature and appreciates the cultural and historical aspects of Japan.

Don’t Miss

Ikinaridango: a mochi (rice) and bean paste cake which is popular in the Suizenji area

Admission Fees

¥ 400


8 am – 5 pm

Built by

Hosokawa family

Built in

1636 CE

The heavenly Adachi Gardens

The Adachi gardens feels like part of a painting. Too bad visitors cannot touch or walk among the heavenly garden. The garden is the brain-child of Adachi Zenko who created it in 1980 as a way of combining his passions for Japanese art and garden design.

Journey into Shimane

Shimane countryside

Getting down at Yasugi

Exhibits inside Yasugi Station

Bus to Adachi Museum of Art

Yasugi countryside

Entrance to Adachi Museum of Art

Adachi Garden

Zenko Adachi

Kokeniwa Garden

White Gravel and Pine Garden

Midori Tea House

Exhibits in Douga Exhibition Room

more exhibits

White Gravel and Pine Garden

Cafe entrance

Stone lantern

Ikeniwa Garden

narrow gravel path

White Gravel and Pine Garden

White Gravel and Pine Garden


Karesan Water Garden

Souvenirs shops outside

Back at yasugi station

Shimane countryside on ride back to Osaka

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A stroll at Ritsurin Garden

Ritsurin Garden is a chestnut grove garden, one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan. The garden is situated in the city of Takamatsu and dates back to the early 17th century. The garden has six ponds and thirteen mounds strategically placed to use Mt Shiun as a background. Different flowers bloom all year round with the scenery changing with every step I took.

Matsuyama Station

Train to Takamatsu

Ticket counter at Ritsurin Koen

Viki at Ritsurin Koen

Bust of Yorinaga Matsudaira

Wide expanse of greens

Mani at Ritsurin Koen

Tsuru Kame Pine Tree at Ritsurin Garden

Walking around the park

North Pond

Rows of Pine

Walking towards South Pond

Okedoi-taki Waterfal

Walking to South Pond

South Pond

Visitors taking a boat ride at the South Pond

South Pond with Mount Shuien in the background

South Pond

Viki on the Engetsuki Bridge

Back to Takamatsu Station

Leaving for Kochi

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The Ajisai Garden of Hasedera Temple

On a lovely sunny day, Mani & I left for Hase-dera Temple in Nara. It had been raining incessantly for the whole week and we were lucky to have caught a break over the weekend.

Hase-dera is not very far away from Nara but we had to change a couple of trains to reach the Hasedera Station. From Kintetsu Nara Station we took the train to Yamato-Saidaiji Station, then from there, another to Yamatoyagi. At Yamatoyagi we changed to a semi-express train for Hasedera.

On the train Mani explained to me how the original Hasedera was founded in 686 A.D. when a Buddhist priest named Domyo enshrined a bronze plaque carved with a three-storied pagoda and two sitting Buddhas. The bronze plaque, known as Douban Hokke Sessou Zu, is today listed as a National Treasure of Japan. Later, in the year 727, the temple was expanded by order of Emperor Shōmu and a statue of the eleven-faced Kannon was placed near the original temple that enshrined the bronze plaque. The temple has burned down and rebuilt several times over the years.

It didn’t take us long to reach Hase-dera Station. It’s a small building surrounded by lush green mountains. Only a handful of Japanese got down alongside us.

From the station it takes about 20 minute walk to reach the temple grounds. The streets are narrow and steep. It’s a quite neighborhood and it felt very peaceful walking through old rural city of Sakurai. One can also take a short-cut using stairways but we preferred to walk down the road, passing by old-fashioned wooden houses that will make you feel like walking in medieval Japan.

The road led us down into the Hase valley and across a bridge over the Hase River. Information boards are conveniently placed along the way to guide visitors towards the temple.

As we walked towards the temple, we came across a small red bridge on the right continuing towards a dense forested area. The vermilion gate meant there was a shrine up there but we decided not to go up that path.

As we neared the temple, we started to see some more people. Soon, we were at a crossroad. On the left there is a fleet of steps leading up to the temple gate. At the base is a small temple building known as Souketsuke. Just opposite was a road where the wooden houses have been converted into tiny shops and restaurants. Mani picked up a green kusamochi (sweet rice balls) from one of the roadside Mochi stores. Further down the road one can find many traditional restaurants. It was lunch time so we also picked up a Kakinoha Sushi box and headed towards the temple.

It was hot and we were sweating profusely from the walk. Once we reached the base of the stairs, we decided to take a break at the Souketsuke. It serves as sort of resting place for visitors. Couple of benches are placed inside the building along with some vending machines serving fizzy drinks.  I grabbed a drink while Mani feasted on the sushi.

A deity named Akiba Gongen is enshrined at the Souketsuke, a god protecting against fires.

After lunch, we made our way towards the Niomon Gate. Unfortunately the gate that was covered up for repairs. Maybe because of the repairs, the entry to the temple was free for the day. Past the Niomon Gate, we took a diversion to the left. The temple grounds were laden with Ajisai. The hydrangeas in baby blue. pink and purple greeted us into the grounds.

The gardens were laden with hundreds… no, thousands of hydrangeas in different colors. We walked past the lovely flowers checking out closely the different petals of each.

I was also surprised by the red maple trees in Summer. Generally they only turn red during Fall.

After spending some lovely time with the hydrangeas, we strolled up the path towards the Main Hall of Hasedera.

The Main Hall is, as the name suggests, the heart of the temple. It houses the Eleven-Faced Kannon, an image depicting Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy and her 11 faces. The original statue of Hase Kannon is said to have been carved out of a camphor tree in the year 727 by a priest named Tokudo Shonin. Tokudo Shonin was a fervent worshiper of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, and he started the pilgrimage network of 33 sites in Kansai sacred to Kannon, including one in Nachi.

The current statue was crafted in the year 1538. It is about 10 m high, probably the largest wooden statue in Japan. These faces are made up of one primary face and 10 secondary and are said to allow Kannon to see 360 degrees, in case anyone is in need of her assistance.

During the Heian period the temple was regularly visited by members of the nobility. It was helped by the fact that it was situated along the route to the Ise Shrine.

Hase-dera flourished as one of the centers of the Shingon Buddhism, particularly after the arrival of priest Sen’yo from Negoro-ji in 1588. Upon his arrival, Hasedera became the main temple of the Buzan sect of Shingon Buddhism, a position it holds to this day.

Photography of Kannon is prohibited, so we just went up the main hall and lighted some incense sticks praying for health and happiness. Beside the public area, some visitors were entering the inner hall and praying at the feet of Kannon. Admission to the inner area requires a fee of ¥1000 yen. We skipped it and walked towards the front where a large veranda outside the Main Hall allows for a spectacular view over the Hase Valley and the surrounding hills.

Beside the main hall there are a few smaller temples with Jizo statues beside them. One can spend hours walking around the temple grounds and will still discover new sights.

From the Main Hall we went up the hill towards the Five-Storied Pagoda. It’s not very old and was constructed in as recently as 1954. It has been named Showa Pagoda after the period it was built in.

It was early evening. We were a bit dehydrated in the Sun, so we walked back to the station to catch a train back to Nara. The best part of Hase-dera is its gardens. Though the statue of Kannon is something but the lovely gardens will take your breadth away. Try to come during cherry blossoms or like I did during the Ajisai blooms. I have heard it is also great during fall when the maple leaves turn red all across the garden.

Thank you for reading, I’m excited to hear your comments!

Best time to visit Hasedera Temple

New Year’s Eve: The most celebrated event at Hase-dera is during New Year’s Eve. In a ceremony called Kannon Mandoe, the entire staircase corridor is lit up with thousands of lanterns. This continues for evenings of January 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Sakura Season: From late March to early April, the cherry trees of the temple blossom, providing an exquisite scenery.

Chinese Peony Season: From mid-April to early May, the 7,000 Chinese peonies planted alongside the Stairway Corridor are in bloom.

Momiji Season: Momiji are Japanese maple trees turning bright red in autumn. The temple celebrates their autumn colors from mid-October to early December.

From April to September: 8.30am to 5pm
March, October, November: 9am to 5pm
December to February: 9am to 4.30pm

Adult 500 yen, child 250 yen