The tranquil and picturesque Korakuen garden in Okayama is widely regarded as one of Japan’s three best landscape gardens along with Mito’s Kairakuen and Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen. Located just beside Okayama Castle, which can be viewed from the garden grounds as “borrowed scenery”, the garden is the perfect spot to escape the white noise of the city and recharge your zen batteries with some quiet contemplation time.
Korakuen garden provides a unique and thrilling viewing experience as it is designed in such a way that provides the guest with a new view at every turn of the path running through the various ponds, lawns, hills, streams, and tea houses of the garden. This design style is known as Kaiyu, or “scenic promenade”.
Originally constructed in 1687 as a place of relaxation and for entertaining important guests for the ruling family by the local feudal lord of the time, Ikeda Tsunamasa, the garden was planned to epitomize the Japanese garden aesthetic of combining strategic, yet natural flowing design devoid of artificial ornamentation, with symbolism of philosophical ideas such as the fragility of existence.
In its infancy, the garden was mostly used privately at the whim of the ruling feudal family,although the public were permitted to enter the garden on occasion. A few years after the feudal era, in 1884, the garden became official property of Okayama Prefecture and was subsequently opened to the public, who largely enjoyed the gardens without incident until it was damaged by floods in 1934, followed by further damage from bombing during World War II. Despite this, Korakuen has stood resolute, and has always been restored throughout
its history after taking even the slightest of damage, thanks to accurate records kept by the garden’s original designers.
As with most Japanese gardens, Korakuen features a large pond as the centerpiece, with streams branching out throughout which interweave with scenic walking paths and a hill that serves as a lookout point, all complimented by the expansive and extremely inviting green lawns that run throughout. Korakuen also boasts an archery range and a crane aviary, as well as tea and rice fields, and groves of plum, cherry, and maple trees.
Korakuen is open every day from 7:30am to 6pm (March 20 to September) and 8am to 5pm (October to March 19), with admission ending 15 minutes before closing time. Admission to Korakuen costs 400 yen, although a special combination ticket allowing access to both Korakuen and Okayama castle can be purchased for 560 yen, though keep in mind that this combo ticket is not available while special exhibitions are being held at the castle.
The impressive garden is approximately 1.5 kilometers, or a 25 to 30 minute leisurely walk east of Okayama station, note that there are two ways to access Korakuen - the main gate which is located next to the Prefectural Museum, and a south gate close to the bridge that connects to Okayama Castle. If walking is not your thing then you can take the convenient bus that runs between Okayama station and the Korakuen-mae bus stop, which is located just beside the garden main gate, for 140 yen. The bus takes around 20 minutes to get from the station the the garden and runs every 15 to 25 minutes.