Located next to Okayama Castle on the north bank of the Aashi River, is Korakuen Garden, one of Japan’s official three great gardens (Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Kairakuen in Mito comprise the remaining two). The name Korakuen translates to pleasure afterwards. It is based on a famous Confucian quote stating that a wise ruler must attend to his subjects’ needs first and afterwards attend to his own.
The garden was constructed by Ikeda Tsunamasa, the fourth lord of Okayama Castle. Construction of the garden began in 1687 and was completed 13 years later. The park was designed in the Chisan Kaiyu style (scenic promenade) and presents its visitors with a new view at every turn of the path. The path running through the garden connects to vast lawns, ponds, waterfalls, hills, tiny shrines, tea houses and streams. There is even a miniature maple forest, a lotus pond and a greenhouse filled with orchids and cacti.
Korakuen Garden was opened to public in 1884 and continued to attract visitors until the bombing attack of WWII. When the war concluded, the garden was restored to its former glory based upon old records.
The garden spans approximately 133,000 square meters, with the grassy area covering approximately 18,500 square meters. The length of the stream which runs through the garden is about 640 meters long. It features a central pond called Sawanoike (Marsh Pond), which contains three islands (Nakanoshima, Misoshima and Jarijima), all purported to replicate the scenery around Lake Biwa near Kyoto.
A local ordinance prevents the construction of high-rise buildings that would encroach on the beautiful scenery. There are two entrances to the garden: across from the Okayama Prefectural Museum and across the Moon-Viewing Bridge. Park hours are from 7:30 AM-6:00 PM (April-Sept) and 8:00 AM- 5:00 PM (Oct-March).
Photo credits: Moritoshi Inaba