The Western Japanese city of Okayama might not be too well-known to international visitors, but it is home to Korakuen garden, one of Japan’s three best landscape gardens. Located on a small island in a river, Korakuen (Kōraku-en in Japanese) is a serene and pleasant garden that was built in 1687 by the local feudal lord to receive important guests.
Korakuen has a beautiful lake, ponds and streams, and a bamboo forest, but what makes it unique is its large manicured lawn in the center. Few Japanese gardens have a sprawling, flat lawn as they are usually centered on a pond surrounded by trails.
Korakuen does have trails, which lead to maple, plum and cherry trees; small rice and tea fields; and even the remains of an old ship dock that was used by the local lord. In the rear is a crane aviary where you can see a few cranes. Frankly, I wasn’t that impressed seeing these large elegant birds inside cages where they can’t fly.
Besides Korakuen Garden, Okayama also features an elegant castle that is next to Korakuen and can actually be seen from the garden. Other attractions include several art and history museums, and biking trails outside of the city. I stayed at Okayama mainly so I could make a quick visit to Himeji Castle (21 minutes by Shinkansen high-speed rail) before I proceeded to Osaka. However, I was very glad that I visited Korakuen garden.
Small artificial “hill”
Atop the little mound (above and below)
Ruins of an old dock that was used by the local feudal lord in the past
Island on which Korakuen Garden is located
Okayama Symphony Hall, along the road to Korakuen Garden
Fountain outside Okayama Station
Statue of Momotaro, a local folk hero known as “peach boy” because he was said to have been found as a baby inside a large peach floating on a river