Day 41 – A Sightseeing Day In Kumamoto, The Kyushu 108 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

Day 41 – A Sightseeing Day In Kumamoto, The Kyushu 108 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

We had a relaxed breakfast in our hotel overlooking the beautiful Kumamoto castle.
We decided that since we have already visited all the temples we could reach from Kumamoto, it was best to spend our last day here seeing some of the sights of the city.

Right next to our hotel is the traditional craft museum.
We saw an exhibition of master craftsmen who were all born and live in the prefecture, each excelling in their own field.

We admired the work of a puppet maker, who inherited his workshop from his ancestors that started making puppets more than 250 years ago.

They displayed the head of a puppet carved 250 years ago.
It was a funny character called Koan Kinta, a ghost with a red face and a black hat.

When Kumamoto Castle was being built 400 years ago, Koan Kinta would make the hard working laborers, who were exhausted from the backbreaking work, laugh with his playful gestures.
It is said that he was able to roll his eyes and that the puppet’s face was bright red because he had been drinking lots of alcohol.

One of the most interesting things that we saw was a video of a master craftsman, making saws from raw pieces of steel.
His process of making saws by hand with mostly handmade tools, was so laborious and so elaborate, that I was sure that he would sell each saw for a fortune.
But some of his bamboo handled saws were sold in the museum shop for very inexpensive prices.

We also loved the very colorful flags and banners hand painted with images of samurais and horses for “Boys Day,” which occurs every year on May fifth.

The museum has a shop, where a lot of the items on display from those craftsman were available for sale.
We bought a couple of calligraphy pens made from bamboo, which I can use in my paintings.

We also rested in the Starbucks, catching up on our walking plans and on my writing.
After eating lunch we walked to the Suizenji Jojuen Garden,
a truly beautiful Japanese garden with a shrine and a large lake with huge carp.
This 17th century Japanese garden was originally part of the temple grounds that were built by the local lord. The garden remains very much the same as it was when it was built, more than four hundred years ago.

In 1632, Tadatoshi Hosokawa, the third generation of the Higo Hosokawa Clan, became the first lord of the Kumamoto Domain.
He built a Buddhist temple named Suizenji to the southeast of Kumamoto Castle for Priest Gentaku, who came from Rakanji Temple in Oita. Almost 40 years later, in 1671, the garden was completed.

Suizenji Jojuen is a great example of a traditional Japanese garden, where you can walk around the pond, fed by spring water coming from Mt. Aso.
In 1929, it was designated as a national scenic and historic site.

There is also a Noh theater in the garden which was considered an important cultural element in the samurai society.
All the successive Hosokawa lords were fond of Noh.

The original Noh Stage was built here in 1878, but it was burnt down in 1965.
The present Noh Stage was moved here from Yatsushiro, in the southern part of Kumamoto Prefecture, in 1986.
It was a gift from the Matsui family, the former lords of Yatsushiro Castle, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Emperor Showa’s enthronement.
On the first Saturday of every August, a Bonfire Noh play is performed on this stage, illuminated by bonfires.
The audiences are captivated by the play and the traditional Japanese music that echoes throughout the garden.

We had a simple okonomiyaki dinner before returning to the hotel to do our laundry and pack everything for an early departure tomorrow.
We also wanted to visit the Museum of Modern Art in Kumamoto, but we run out of time.

We are leaving Kumamoto with a sense that we got a good feeling for the city.
We walked along all the covered shopping streets, saw many of the fashion boutiques, visited the temples on the hillsides of the city, strolled in the gardens, walked along the wide river and admired the magnificent castle.

With love and joy,

Stats: 17,292 steps
Today’s walk: 12 km
Kilometers walked to date: 681
Temples visited: none

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