Nichirin Temple, just outside Yamaga, is known as one of Kumamoto's top spots for azalea viewing. Though this year's azaleas bloomed uncharacteristically early, I still managed to catch some blooms on the hillside during my visit in late April. The hill is covered in over 1000 azaleas of the Kurume variety, a type quite popular in Kyushu. There is a paved path that runs to the top of the park, where you can gaze out over the mountains of northern Kumamoto Prefecture. There are benches both at the top and en route and plenty of places to spread a picnic blanket. For drivers, the temple is well-marked and is a short drive north (perhaps 5-7 minutes) of Yamaga's main bridge over the river (on Route 3).
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