Garden's scenic spots
Special Scenic Spots of Korakuen
Used as a place to receive the daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) when he visited Korakuen, this house used to be the most important structure in the garden. Although it was burnt to the ground in World War II, in 1960 the best materials and technologies available at the time were used to restore it to the layout it had when the garden was created. It has been built to afford views of scenic spots both within and outside the garden, and former lords have also gazed at the surroundings from here. There are ongoing efforts to preserve this landscape.
2.Noh Stage and Eisho
The rooms around the Noh Stage were used to watch the Noh performances or to treat guests. Ikeda Tsunamasa, who built the garden, vassals, and townspeople also watched Noh performances from here. It was rebuilt at the time of the succession of the next lord (Tsugumasa). After being burnt to the ground in World War II, it was restored to its original layout.
This area used to be called Nishiki-ga-Oka (two-colored Hill). The original design was for a thicket of cherry trees that would bloom in spring, and maple trees whose leaves would turn in autumn, to ensure changing colors in each season. Japanese cypress trees play the main role nowadays, and wild birds visit in large numbers even though it is a metropolitan area. Mosho-an Teahouse, Shitenno-do Shrine and Jizo-do Shrine are located here.
The white flowers of ittenshikai (universe) lotuses (also known as the daimyo lotus) can be seen in their full glory at this pond in summer. Water from the garden’s Kyokusui (meandering stream) and the pool at the base of the waterfall is skillfully manipulated through rock work to flow beautifully down into this pond.
5.Jizo-do Shrine(the six tutelary shrines on the garden grounds)
One of the garden’s six tutelary shrines. It is a part of Nishiki-ga-Oka that is bathed in silence.
6.Ofuna-iri-ato Dock Remains
Once the landing dock for boats used by the daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) from the castle, Onari-go-mon Gate also used to be here. In the Taisho Period, when building a road around the outside of the garden, the main part of the entrance was closed off and no water currently enters here. It is now surrounded by a bamboo thicket, a vestige of the past.
7.Renchi-ken Rest House
One of the few buildings that escaped damage in World War II, parts such as the stone bridge straddling the pond and small islands on the other side of the bank are as they were in ancient times. From this building you can see a view full of undulations, such as a pine grove that overlooks Sawa-no-ike Pond and the graduations between Kyokusui and the pond.
Yuishinzan Hill was built when Ikeda Tsugumasa took over from his father Ikeda Tsunamasa. It changed the flat landscape of the garden, giving it a more sculptured aspect. Yuishin-do is located on one side of the hill, and plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons are planted there to match the rock work on the slopes. Their seasonal red and white flowers adorn the area.
9.Ryuten Rest House
Pebbles of beautiful colors are scattered throughout the stream which passes through the center of the building - a rare design in Japan. It has a simple appearance and was used as a resting place for the daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) on his strolls through the garden. It is one of the garden buildings that escaped damage in World War II.
10.Japanese Iris Garden and Yatsuhashi Bridge
In early June, beautiful white and purple flowers bloom here giving a special atmosphere to the rainy season. Japanese irises are to be found next to Yatsuhashi Bridge, which spans the Kyokusui (Meandering Stream), making for an artistic visual feast reminiscent of the Azumakudari (east-going) chapter in the Tale of Ise.
This area was originally designed with mountain cherry and other blossoming trees incorporated into the view around the pond. There is a building next to the pond called Kako, and it gave its name to the pond and the waterfall. Poetry in the Edo Period has been passed down through time portraying how the waterfall makes the flowers seem even more beautiful.
12.Chaso-do Tea House
This building was originally the Rikyu-do, one part of a villa belonging to a high-ranking vassal towards the end of the Edo Period that was taken apart and rebuilt here. It was destroyed in World War II, but rebuilt in 1961 and is dedicated to Yosai Zenshi, the Okayama-born priest said to have brought tea to Japan from China.
The Plum Grove was created around the end of the Edo Period. Nowadays, around 100 plum trees bloom with red and white flowers ahead of other flowers to usher in spring, and are beloved as the subject of many songs. Cherry Tree Grove and Chishio-no-mori Grove are located next to the Plum Grove.
The maple trees are beautiful in spring, when they are in bud, and in autumn, when their vivid tapestry of auburn hues is like a Japanese brocade. This has been one of the most famous scenic spots in the garden for many years. It has been called Chishio-no-mori since the garden was built, in reference to the term “Chishio”, which means to dye a cloth many times. Across the garden path are the Benzaiten-do Shrine and Inari Shrine.
15.Seiden (Rice Fields)
These rice fields serve here to remind us of older times when rice fields were spread throughout the garden. They were made at the end of the Edo Period and modeled after the Zhou Dynasty system for taxing rice fields. The Rice Planting Festival is held on the second Sunday in June every year.
The Tea Plantation has been in this area since the garden was built, and is in harmony with the gentle curves described by the earthen banks. The tea produced here in the Edo Period was regularly drunk by the daimyo (Japanese feudal lord). The Tea Picking Festival is held on the third Sunday in May every year.
Guarded by two statues, this building was constructed in 1697 by Ikeda Tsunamasa with the goal of bringing peace to the clan, and stability to the Ikeda Family and the townspeople. It is currently empty. Within the shrine precincts there remain items such as Eboshi-iwa (rocks piled up in the shape of the top of a crow’s head) made from 36 pieces of granite, a gate, and the boards of a seat.
Sawa-no-ike Pond is located in the center of the garden. From the left side, you can see Shima-Jaya Teahouse on Naka-no-Shima Island, Mino-shima Island with its fishing palace, and Jari-jima Island with its beautiful white sand and green pines. A point between Naka-no Shima Island and Mino-shima Island once marked the county boundary between the Jodogun and Minogun areas of Okayama Prefecture, and a stone marker is still in that spot to this day.
19.Paddock and Archery Range
Korakuen was built not only as a place for daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) to enjoy the scenery, but also as a training ground for practicing both the literary and military arts. Kanki-tei and Kansha-tei were places where daimyo would observe displays of horsemanship and archery by vassals.
Cranes were kept in the garden since its inception, but there were none left after World War II. Guo Moruo, Chairman of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, had as a young man attended Okayama’s Dairoku Senior High School, and in 1956 he presented the garden with two cranes. Later, in collaboration with Kushuiro City in Hokkaido, the garden succeeded in hatching and raising many cranes, bringing back their once lost beauty to the garden. Currently, eight cranes are being reared in the garden.