I always love when people you meet suggest places to go. A few weeks ago, a little girl came into my classroom on a Friday and handed me a free English newspaper. Apparently she had told her mom that I liked visiting temples around Japan, so when she saw a temple on the cover she decided she needed to bring it to me. The newspaper was all about a small temple town south of Fukuoka, and it just so happened that that same weekend I was already planning to be in Fukuoka to watch the big Sumo Grand tournament (more on that later). So I decided to check this old temple city out, and take a chance on a 4 year old tour guide.
Visiting the temple is a perfect side trip from Fukuoka, so if you happen to find yourself in Fukuoka I highly recommend jumping on the train and checking it out. It also happened to be a day for celebrating Shichi-Go-San, which translates as 3-5-7. Around the middle of November, families go to temples and pray for the health and well being of their children when they are ages 3, 5, or 7. The children get dressed up- girls in their kimonos and boys in hakama and haori jacket- to go to the temple. So although it was crowded at the temple, there were some really cute kids wandering around dressed in traditional outfits.
Its easy to get to Daizafu from Fukuoka via a train, though unfortunately it’s not a JR train, so rail passes wont work getting there. The walk from the station to the temple takes you down a pedestrian street with lots of vendors selling all sorts of different treats, but mostly small cakes filled with red bean paste. I don’t know the name of it, but people were buying entire boxes of them so I decided I had to try one. I wasn’t disappointed, especially because it was still hot coming straight from the grill. (As a side note, I have to say that Japan does snacks right. Most places that I have visited, from mountains to temples and parks, always have some sort of treat to eat, and never disappointing.)
After eating your way through the pedestrian street, and before entering the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, take a right at the end of the street and head to the Komyozenji Temple where you can see some amazing zen rock gardens. Honestly, this Zen Temple had the best rock gardens I have seen in Japan, but I am not an expert as I have only seen a few in my time here. The gardens were beautiful, with fallen autumn leaves placed almost perfectly on top of the raked sand. The temple has a nice place to sit on a porch and gaze out at the beautiful zen scenery.
In the end, I really enjoyed my time at Daizafu. Despite being crowded, it added a fun atmosphere, and I loved people watching and seeing everyone, parents and children alike, in their beautiful outfits.
How do you decide where to go when you travel? Have you ever taken travel advice from a kid? What is the best travel advice you got outside of a guidebook?