If you happen to be in Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, you really should make a point of visiting Takeo City in the western part of the prefecture. Here you will find the sprawling 170-year-old park on the western foot of Mount Mifune (御船山), called Mifuneyama Rakuen.
Built over a period of three years, it was completed in 1845. The park was the second residence of Shigeyoshi Nabeshima, the 28th ruler of the Takeo Region. It sprawls over 150,000 square meters (10 Tokyo Domes) and is home to 200,000 Azalea bushes, 5,000 cherry blossom trees and 170-year-old Japanese wisteria tree. Mifuneyama Rakuen was listed as one of 30 reasons to go to Japan before you die by Tsunagu Japan and it is truly amazing. During the autumn months, the momiji or Japanese maple presents a dramatic explosion of color, which is further enhanced by the night time illumination during the month of November.
Mount Mifune Park hosts a variety of events throughout the year including tea parties and photo sessions. The tsutsuji (azaleas) bloom in mid to late April.
The park is a 30-minute walk from the Takeo Onsen Station (via the JR Sasebo Line). There is an admission charge of ¥600 for adults and ¥300 for children. Do not forget to bring your camera!
Address: 4100, Takeocho Takeo, Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, 843-0022, Japan