Sponsored by Kumamoto Prefecture Tourism Federation
A must stop when visiting Kumamoto, the charming Suizenji Garden is just 15 minutes by tram from the city center. First of all, the tea house was established in 1632 during the Edo Period by Lord Hosokawa Tadatoshi. In addition, the park which was founded by Hokokawa Tsunatoshi is now one of the most famous Japanese gardens in the country, with more than 75,000 square meters of greenery.
On the sando street to the park
The Charming Little Street – Sando
After crossing the Sando Street, which is lined with numerous local businesses, I discover the main entrance of the garden. A vast expanse of colors and harmonious shapes intertwine around a distinctive small bridge, which allows me to access the walkway that surrounds the pond.
The stone bridge and bonsai trees and hills in the background
The entrance of the garden by the bridge
The Peaceful Izumi Shrine
Just a few meters from the entrance, on the left is the Izumi Shrine. With its paved entryway leading to the main gate, it is almost impossible to resist stopping by. As in many other traditional Japanese temple, there is at the entrance a fountain dedicated to the ritual of purification: the “temizu”, and a space for hanging “ema”, small wooden plates decorated with drawings and wishes.
the fountain of purification ritual
the “ema” at the entrance of the temple
Bonsai, A Symbol of Traditional Japanese Art
After this short stop, I finally resume my way to the garden, where I find myself surrounded by a multitude of bonsai; beautiful dwarf trees, popular in traditional Japanese art. Each one equally as perfect as each other, they are regularly maintained by the staff, who shape them with a meticulous hand.
Photo Tips: Do not hesitate to approach the water’s edge, to admire the perfect reflection of the shrubs on the pond!
the reflection of the trees on the pond
A gardener pruning a bonsai
the shapes and details of a bonsai
The Tokaido Miniature Road
Now in the heart of Suizenji, I continue my way on the hilly road, where small hills resemble mountains. Initially designed to reproduce the 53 stations of the Tokaido, a famous route from Edo to Kyoto. I also noticed there is a miniature representation of Mount Fuji, with bright colors.
the miniature Mount Fuji hill, surrounded by greenery
the path, behind the hill
Once around the hills, another narrow path appears. I walk along it peacefully, until I reach the edge of the lake, where I now enjoy a view of the entrance, embellished with small stones. Although the garden is famous for its spring colors, I particularly appreciate the contrast offered by the winter palette, with the green fir tree and the golden yellow grass.
the way zig-zags between the bonsai
the view of the lake and the entrance to the garden
the narrow path with the city in the background
The Local Shops in the Gardens
After fifteen minutes of walking, I finish the loop to join the main path of the garden. On the left are various small local produce shops and souvenirs of all kinds, while on the other side, it is possible to spend a moment of relaxation in the Japanese confectionery which offers an open space overlooking the garden. I saw someone drinking their tea and enjoying the beautiful view of the pond.
a local business inside the park
two people drink tea with a view of the lake
the charming confectionery entrance overlooking the lake
the interior of the relaxation room, open concept
I finally leave the Suizenji Park by the main door, with a feeling of calm and serenity a secret effect which only a Japanese garden can provide. This momentous journey made me travel more than 250 miles in just 30 minutes, almost forgetting that I was actually in the heart of the city!
And as the pure air of nature opens the appetite, I take advantage of my last visit by the street of Sando to partake in a small local snack!
the small street of Sando, at the entrance of the park