Japanese Temples: Honmyo-ji Temple, Kumamoto
Honmyo-ji Temple 本妙寺,熊本
History of Honmyo-ji Temple
Honmyo-ji is the premier temple in Kumamoto, and the head temple of the Nichiren Sect in Kyushu. Honmyo-ji is located on a hillside at the same height as Kumamoto Castle, which can be seen across the city from the temple. Like Kumamoto Castle Honmyo-ji temple is associated with Kato Kiyomasa, and above the temple on the hill top is his grave.
After a short walk from the tram stop you reach a short flight of steps that leads up to the Niomon, the Guardian gate, though this one is unlike any you may have seen before. Usually the Nio, fierce looking beings meant to scare away evil, will tower over the visitors, but the Niomon here is a huge concrete structure, and as you pass through you look up and can see the Nio statues way up high looking quite small and insignificant.
Then a long gentle slope leads up the hill, flanked on either side by a series of temples most of which have little of interest except for foliage in the fall. At the end of the slope more steps lead up to the Chuomon, the Middle Gate, and through it one is in the courtyard with the Hondo, the Main Hall, to the rear, from here you can look across the rooftops of Kumamoto and see the castle.
To the right of the Hondo is a small museum displaying artifacts of Kato Kiyomasa, including one of the very tall hats that he is often depicted wearing. The museum is only open on weekends and holidays.
From here many people take the path to the left of the Hondo that leads further up the hill, via 176 steps to Kiyomasa's grave and then on a further 130 steps to Honmyoji Park at the top where stands a statue of the man. Fine views can be had from here.
One of the best times to visit Honmyoji is during the last weekend of March for the Night-time Cherry Blossom Festival, when the cherry trees are illuminated, all the lanterns leading up the slope are lit, and concerts are held.
Originally constructed in Osaka by Kato Kiyomasa, a fervent Nichiren Buddhist, to console the spirit of his deceased father in 1585, Honmyoji was moved and rebuilt within Kumamoto Castle after he moved there in 1586.
In 1611 Kiyomasa died and was interred in the grave on top of the hill. Sometime later the temple in the castle grounds burned down and was rebuilt at its present site below the grave in 1614. During the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 the temple was destroyed and the current Hondo was rebuilt in 1884.
Honmyo-ji Temple Access - how to get to Honmyo-ji Temple
Tel: 096 354 1411
The museum is open from 9am to 4.30pm on weekends and public holidays. Entrance is 330 yen for adults.
With advance reservations, groups of 10 or more may visit the museum on any day.
Access by Honmyoji Iriguchi tram stop. Walk north west along Route 1 and the temple is on your right hand side. Honmyoji can easily be seen along with Kumamoto Castle, Hosokawa Gyobu-tei and the Honmaru Goten Palace.