Three is the magic number in Japan when it comes to rating and numbering things. The Japanese like to categorise in three’s and one such example is the trio of most celebrated gardens. Okayama’s Korakuen Gardens are considered to be one of the three finest gardens in Japan with the others being Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Kairaku-en in Mito.
As I was up early each morning I thought I’d take advantage of them opening early and so was there at 8am (they actually open at 7:30am) with just a few other people present during my time there which was so nice compared to the crowds at other gardens back in Tokyo.
The gardens have a rich history dating back to the late 17th century when they were constructed and three hundred years later the traditions are being kept alive in this fine strolling garden.
Korakuen is a vast expanse of flat lawns with attractive ponds, wooden bridges, tiny islands, teahouses and the mountains rising in the distance all add to the beauty.
The castle overlooking the gardens opens at 9am and I hadn’t really planned to go inside but as I covered Korakuen quicker than expected I thought I would check it out as my recent visit to Chiba-jo castle had taught me that the interiors were more interesting than I originally thought. The fact that there was a bridge linking the gardens and castle made my decision easier as I didn’t really want to go back the long way round. I’d only bought a ticket for the gardens but managed to persuade the lady on the ticket gate to upgrade me to the ‘garden + castle’ ticket combo (560 yen) before setting off over the bridge to see yet another castle.
This castle was originally completed in 1597 and is often nicknamed ‘U-jo’ (crow castle) due to the unique black-lacquered weather-boards installed on the castle tower.
Akazu-no-mon (unopened gate) is located at the bottom of a flight of stone steps (above) leading to the feudal lord’s residence and, as the name suggests, it was usually closed. It’s foundation stones (below) are not the original ones as they were destroyed in an air raid in 1945 but are instead reconstructed ones arranged in the original style.
Of particular interest to me was a wall displaying pictures of some of Japan’s finest castles and it seems that I have racked up a fair few over the years. Okayama-jo castle can now be added to that list and though it’s not considered one of the three most cherished castles in Japan, it’s still worth seeing. The views from the top were pretty good.
It was quite a walk back to the station afterwards (approximately 30 minutes) but I was happy enough to do it as it gave me my only chance to really see a bit more of the city beyond the aforementioned sights, station and my capsule hotel.
Click here to read ‘Okayama 2016 Pt V: On The Fox Trail……At Saijo Inari Shrine’
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