Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

June 19, 2012

Kokoen Garden, Himeji (Gardens)

Kokoen, 'The Garden of Love for Antiquity' is not very antique itself as it was only built in 1992. It is, however, a pleasant group of gardens (in fact there are nine), laid out on the spot where once the Nishi-Oyashiki (the West Mansion) of Himeji Castle stood. The gardens are enclosed in white washed walls and one enters each one via a gate, whereby the fiction of visiting an old mansion is created.

Kokoen, Himeji

The largest and most interesting among the nine gardens is the first one, the Oyashiki no Niwa or Garden of the Lord's House. This is a 9,200 sq. m. large pond garden with a natural spring, located against the background of the trees growing on Himeyama, the hill on which Himeji castle stands. In the southern part of the carp filled pond is a large waterfall and the rushing sound of water (also heard when one enters over a long roofed corridor) is one of the major pleasures of this garden. A restaurant and guest house in traditional style, sitting at the edge of the pond, recreate the fiction of the lord's mansion. There are crooked pine trees, bright red azaleas and a stone bridge, this all against the distant view of the castle.

The Nae no Niwa (Garden of Seedlings) is less interesting, having as the name indicates seedlings in wooden plant beds. Cha no Niwa, a small tea garden with tea house, does not create a spark either, also because the tea house is hermetically closed and can not even be approached. Better again are the Nagare no Niwa, a flat landscape garden intended to recall the countryside; the Natsuki no Niwa or Garden of Summer Trees; the Matsu no Niwa or Garden of Pine Trees (that also contains many large rocks) and the Hana no Niwa, the Garden of Flowers.

Kokoen, Himeji

These are again surpassed by the traditional Tsukiyama Chisen no Niwa or Garden with Hill and Pond (also fitted out with arched bridge and tortoise shaped rock) and the Take no Niwa, a garden containing fifteen varieties of bamboo.

These gardens lie right in the middle of Himeji, but only occasionally, near the outer edges, can the traffic be heard or other buildings be seen. The idea of having differently colored, tiled mud walls enclosing the gardens makes wandering around something of an adventure, as you do not know what will be behind the next wall.

Address: (Himeji Castle Nishi-Oyashiki-ato Garden) Tel. 0792-89-4120 Access: 15-min. walk from Himeji Station; 5-min. walk from Himeji Castle. Admission: 8:00-17:00 (July-August: till 18:00).