Whenever you travel anywhere in Japan, the Japanese will always remind you what that place is famous for, and upon your return they will surely ask you whether you experienced that particular famous thing (whether visiting or eating). So, before we went to Kyushu we were given a long list of things that we simply must do. For example, Fukuoka is famous for ramen, so we knew we had to try it. Nagasaki is famous for castella (a type of cake), so we would eat that as well.
Fukuoka is also famous for Dazaifu Tenman-gu, a Shinto Shrine that is frequently visited by students, hoping to gain wisdom and success for their entrance examinations. So, we knew we wanted to go there as well. After all, we could all use a little extra wisdom.
Dazaifu is about an hour train ride out of Fukuoka and a perfectly pleasant place to spend a half-day or so. We did visit the shrine, but after that we found something which we thought was a little more spectacular.
A short walk away is Komyozenji, a Zen temple famous for having the one-and-only dry garden in Kyushu. Aaron and I have always been a fan of these types of gardens, and this one was no exception. Even in the middle of winter, an ordinarily gray and bleak time of year to visit a garden, it was still a peaceful and beautiful place.
At first I was a bit disappointed, the outer garden was nothing spectacular. Although I did really enjoy watching the man carefully and patiently rake the stones into the geometric shapes that I always enjoy.
Fortunately, my disappointment completely dissolved when we made our way towards the inner garden. The only bummer about this part was that we had to remove our shoes to enter, and it was a pretty cold time of year to be walking around outside stocking-footed.
Unlike other zen gardens we have visited, especially Ryoan-ji, we were there with just a handful of visitors. It was extraordinary how serene it was. Just being able to sit and look, think about the holidays that had just past and the new year that was soon to begin.
A really beautiful, peaceful place. One that I am so glad we visited, and one that I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in the area. I can only imagine how beautiful the garden would be once all the trees inside it are blooming, but I’m sure that by then the crowds would be out as well. Large crowds would take away from the tranquility that I so enjoyed about the place, but I’m sure the gorgeousness would more than make up for it.