Suizenji Park −The Treasure of Kumamoto

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  • If you find yourself in Kumamoto, high up on your to-do list will be a visit to Suizenji Koen (水前寺公園 Suizenji Park). There are many visitors to the park every year and it’s well-known for its beauty and traditional style.

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    At the entrance to the park you can purchase ikinari dango いきなりだんご – a traditional Kumamoto dessert made out of sweet potato and red bean paste, which is covered in salted mochi skin. The name means something like ‘suddenly… mochi’ or ‘easy-make dumplings’. The idea is that these steamed sweets are quick and easy to make.

    Suizenji Koen Introduction

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    Lord Hosokawa Tadatoshi started construction of the scenic garden and tea house in 1636. The location of the park was picked because of its spring-fed pond, the water of which was known to be marvellous for making green tea. A temple used to stand in the area, and it is what the garden was named for.

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    Author’s photo

    These days the garden homes the Izumi Shrine, where some members of the famous Hosokawa family are enshrined. In the garden is a miniature representation of Mt. Fuji – a pointy grass-covered hill that is supposed to look like the notorious Tokyo mountain. There is a theatre stage where seasonal plays are performed. The stage was completed in the same era as the family shrine. A small tea house with a quaint thatched roof overlooks the pond.

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    The pond is the best part of the garden; it has a multitude of birds which flap on the water’s surface and dozens of carp in a medley of different colours within the shallow waters. The garden is beautiful, picturesque and exquisitely sculpted. Visitors will do well to remember that this was once a simple family garden, so don’t expect a giant park with wide expanses of grassy lawns. It’s actually rather small, considering its fame. However, at only 400 yen entrance fee it is worth a visit, particularly on a nice day when you can sit in the sun by the pond, feed the fish and read a good book.