Korakuen Garden 岡山後楽園
One of Japan's three great gardens, with a noble past
This beautiful landscape garden is regarded as one of the three great gardens of Japan. It was created around 300 years ago by the Ikeda family who once ruled Okayama, as a place to relax. The vast grounds, designed around carp-filled ponds, have the classic features of a strolling garden, including borrowed scenery, waterfalls, bridges, tea houses and cherry trees. The meandering paths reveal beautiful vistas at every turn. The garden retains many of its original features. Gazing up at Okayama Castle just beyond the garden, visitors can feel like they stepped back into a bygone era.
- Okayama Castle, which is next to the garden
- Relaxing in one of the teahouses located in Korakuen
- Seeing the garden lit by bamboo lanterns or under a full moon
How to Get There
It's a 25-minute walk from Okayama Station to Korakuen Garden.
If you prefer to travel by tram, depart from Okayama Station and ride for eight minutes to the Shiroshita Stop. From the tram stop, the garden is a 10-minute walk away.
An introspective escape
The spacious garden grounds have many areas to explore and discover. The grounds cover about 14 hectares and include a tea plantation, aviary, several ponds, and original tea houses and resting buildings where the daimyo—the Japanese feudal lord—would rest.
You will also find small pockets of space that offer an explosion of color and fragrance. Between March and mid-April, the plum grove of 100 trees welcomes spring with soft shades of white and pink.
During the summer, you will see the Japanese iris garden that comes into full bloom in early June, with colors of white and purple. This blanket of color is broken with an artfully inserted wooden bridge that zigzags over a stream.
Four seasons of colors and scents
Summer also brings the opportunity to visit the park during the early evening hours. The garden is lit with beautifully carved bamboo lanterns that sprout out of the ground. The lanterns guide you throughout the garden, where you can to see the trees, flowers, and creatures of the garden in a very different light.
You can visit Korakuen during full moons from August to October. The fall season brings a rich palette of reds, oranges, browns, and yellows that are acutely realized in the Chishio-no-mori Grove. Here, you will see the maple trees as they change their colors, then fly away in the crisp fall breeze.
One of the key spots around the garden is the lookout point on Yuishinzan Hill, which has a picturesque view over the Sawa-no-Ike, the largest pond, and also faces Okayama Castle just across Asahi River. This location is a perfect place for photos.
Another outstanding area is the Crane Aviary where you see these majestic birds. On New Year's Day, they are released in celebration into the garden. Korakuen Garden has been raising cranes since 1956 and Okayama is the champion crane-breeding prefecture in Japan.
Not just a pretty garden
Korakuen has many events throughout the year. In May, you can see ladies dressed in traditional kimono harvesting tea from the on-site plantation. This is followed in June by a ceremony to plant rice.
For those interested in Noh theater, you can see a performance on the first Saturday in October or on November 3, which is a national holiday in Japan called Culture Day.
The best way to visit
Rather than only visiting the garden, it is better to purchase the Okayama Castle and Korakuen Garden Pass. With the pass you can also visit the castle, which is visible from spots in the garden and a short walk away. There is a bridge that will take you from just outside the garden to the castle grounds.
Okayama Castle , called the Crow Castle for its black exterior, has a six-story main keep. The size of the castle and its majestic location next to the river make it a grand place to visit.
While you can walk around the Korakuen Garden in a couple of hours, it is worthy of a more lengthy, leisurely stay, with time to take in the sights, scents and sounds.