Sunday, May 20, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Korakuen 後楽園

Visited 16.04.2015 (Thu)

View of Okayama Castle's Tenshukaku from Sawa no ike.
Three Great Gardens of Japan. After "conquering" Okayama Castle, we crossed Tsukimi Bridge 月見橋 to the other side of Asahigawa where Korakuen is situated. Korakuen, alongside Kenrokuen 兼六園 in Kanazawa Prefecture and Kairakuen 偕楽園 in Ibaraki Prefecture, is one of the three Great Gardens of Japan (日本三名園). To date (Nov 2017), I have visited all three and each has its very own attractive elements, so it is difficult to select which garden is the best out of the three. From the Tenshukaku (castle keep) of Okayama Castle, I already had a prelude of this fine landscaped garden from an elevation and was looking forward to visit it. Entered the garden via the South Gate (which is the closest to Tsukimi Bridge) and embarked on an excursion in this 133,000 m2 wide garden.


Background / Highlights:

- Korakuen completed construction in 1700; about a century after the existence of Okayama Castle. In the past, the garden was used as place to entertain important guests and a retreat for the feudal lord. In 1884, the ownership was transferred to Okayama Prefecture and the garden became a public park for everyone to enjoy. In fact, the original name of this garden was Ko-en 後園 or "the garden at the back" as it was built behind Okayama Castle. However, it was later changed to Korakuen because the garden was built in the spirit of the famous proverb (kotozawa), Senyu Koraku 先憂後楽, equivalent to 先苦后甜 in Chinese which means no sweet without sweat. The name serves as a good reminder to all on this important virtue in life.


- Severe damages were inflicted on Korakuen during the floods of 1934 and during WWII bombing in 1945. Fortunately, the garden was successfully restored based on paintings and diagrams drawn during the Edo Period. Korakuen was designated as a Special Scenic Location under the Cultural Properties Protection Law in 1952 and continues to be well taken care of to ensure future generations can learn about the rich heritage that the country possessed.

View from Yushizan 1/3.

View from Yuishinzan 2/3.

View from Yuishinzan 3/3.
- The two best viewing spots that should not be missed in Korakuen are:

(1) Yuishinzan 唯心山. This is a man-made hill which offers a spectacular view of the entire garden. From here, vast area carpeted with grass, various water features, arched bridges and traditional Japanese style huts and houses all formed a picturesque scenery of Korakuen which is a beauty to behold.

(2) Sawa no ike 沢の池. This is the largest pond in the garden with three smaller islands in it. Standing at the north side of Sawa no ike and facing southwards, you will be able to command a panoramic view of the garden with Okayama Castle in the background. Unfortunately, I did not bring along a good camera during my trip to capture a better picture of the entire scenery, so the photos featured here may not be a good representation of my description.


Side note: Found a shop which sold sakura flavoured soft serve here and bought one to try. However, the soft serve did not have the conventional swirling pattern and tasted average, lacking the rich and creamy texture that I would expect from this famous sweet in Japan. Later I found out that there are actually two different types of soft serve / ice cream machines in Japan. Usually it is dispensed from a machine where the soft serve liquid mixture is poured into it and continuously frozen and whipped (similar to the one we see in fastfood outlets such as MacDonalds). There is another type in which a ready made ice cream tub is inserted into the machine and the contents is forced out through a hole at the bottom of the tub. The one I had was made from the latter and I find the consistency of the soft serve generated to be poorer. With this experience, whenever I approach any soft serve stalls, I will first peek into their stall to observe the type of soft serve machine utilised before placing my order to avoid another disappointment.

Poorly executed sakura flavoured soft serve.
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Korakuen 後楽園
〒703-8257 岡山市北区後楽園1-5
Operating hours:
- 20 Mar to 30 Sep: 0730 - 1800 hrs; last entry at 1745 hrs.
- 1 Oct to 19 Mar: 0800 - 1700 hrs; last entry at 1645 hrs
Entrance fee = 400 yen; Combined ticket with Okayama Castle = 560 yen
http://www.okayama-korakuen.jp/



How to get there?

(1) By Okayama Electric Tramway 岡山電気軌道
From Okayama Ekimae Station (岡山駅前), board the electric tram on Higashiyama line (東山線) and alight at Jo-shita station (城下駅). From here, it takes another 7 mins to walk to Korakuen.
http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/tramway/rosen.html

(2) By Okaden Bus 岡電バス
From Okayama JR Station East Exit Bus Terminal Platform 1, board Okaden Bus 岡電バス non-stop bus bound for Korakuen or Bus 18 bound for Fujiwara danchi 藤原団地 and alight at Korakuen-mae 後楽園前.
Non stop bus schedule: http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/bus/jikoku/pdf180308/18_kourakuen_yumeji_1803.pdf
Bus 18 schedule: http://www.okayama-kido.co.jp/bus/jikoku/pdf171001/15_18_fujiwada.pdf

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Video: An excellent promotional video on Korakuen produced by Japan Tourism Agency.


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Commemorative stamp:


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