Korakuen is famous throughout Japan. In a country where there is a “best 3” list for everything (3 is a lucky number in Japan), Korakuen is one of the best 3 most beautiful gardens. That really speaks highly of the place, especially if you have been to some of the gardens in Kyoto!
Korakuen is in the heart of Okayama city along the Asahi River. You can see Okayama Castle from the garden.
Every year in summer (during August but the date is set by the lunar calendar, so the actual date varies) is the Moon Viewing ceremony. Around this time the park is opened at night for a few weeks. You can simply stroll around the garden or bring a rug and relax with a beer and bento on the spacious lawns.
The spacious lawns is what makes Korakuen really unique. Especially at night, the garden paths lead you through amazing views with different places lit up by fire or specially placed lights.
The garden has a history of about 325 years. Initially it took 13 years to build. For a long time the garden was exclusively for high ranking lords, although occasionallly the public were allowed in. Since 1884 it has been opened to the public.
Each area and building in the garden served a different purpose at one time or another, for example, tea ceremony houses, halls, an archery range, shrine and stage areas to receive guests. The garden contains steams, ponds, a small man-made lake, a small hill (a lookout point of the garden) and bridges, native plants, rock gardens and even tea and rice fields, and much more.
Entry is 400 yen for adults and you can buy a combined pass to get you inside Okayama Castle as well.
Korakuen is amazing in all seasons, take a look at the official Korakuen pamphlet (in English).
You can also check out the high-resolution photo of Korakuen and Okayama Castle, as well as a map of the exact location at the Japan Photo of the Month for September 2011 post.