One of the things I like best about Kumamoto is that you are never far from a potential outing. Kumamoto is littered with beautiful old buildings, hidden away temples, scenic spots and idyllic areas to walk in. For today’s outing, we headed over to Honmyoji Park.
Greeted by an impressive white torii, we walked down the paved boulevard that only days before had been flushed pink with rows of cherry blossom. After the rain, the trees were bare but the ground was still scattered with sweet smelling petals, their pale pink colour slowly turning to mushy brown, the cloying scent turning to rot. But for now the scene was still beautiful.
At the foot of the hill, we found a beautiful old building with lush crowded gardens – perhaps part of the Temple complex. The grounds were full of trees, plants, flowers and mosses, their leafy greenness not quite on the pinnacle of ripeness. The garden was still and silent with a promise of imminent verdancy. Flowers were predominantly pink and white – shielded by a wall of trees, one lone cherry blossom had retained it’s delicate petals.
Out of the garden and up the stairs we went, our path lined with row upon row of gravestones, their lantern-esque design throwing shadows at our feet, interspersed with tunnels of light which filtered through crescent-moon holes. Amongst the grey-stone structures, my favourite was one gravestone that was completely overgrown with moss and vines – camouflaged against the forest behind.
At the top of the stairs, we found the temple, existing quietly with panoramic views over Kumamoto city. Behind the temple, the stairs continued up to another plateau, with views more spectacular still. Despite the clouds and the rain, the view was picturesque. A tall statue guarded the area – as did the large black cat which lounged lazily in the branches of a moss covered tree.
On our way back down, between the first set of steps and the second, we stopped off at a little tea shop, which also inexplicably sold fancy light fixtures. We opted for the set deal – a cup of strongly mixed matcha green tea with a small slice of what could best be described as red bean paste jelly.
Given my usual dislike for red bean paste, the sweet treat pleased me immensely. The caramel taste just about covered that of the red bean paste, and I liked the texture – silky smooth on the outer edges and rougher in the middle. The tea was stronger than I usually like the matcha, but I enjoyed watching our host whip up the green bubbles using a tiny wooden whisk.
The set cost 550 Yen, and you also got the beautiful view back down the hill and the perfect silence in the deserted tea house. A great finish to a nice day out in Kumamoto.
*Also beautiful night event called Hanatourou is held here in March.