Himeji Castle is undoubtedly one of Japan’s star attractions. Even as its scaffold-clad exterior finishes up a multi-year reconstruction project, the numbers of visitors remain steady. Most, however, overlook one of my favorite sites in Himeji City – the stunning gardens of Kokoen, a stone’s throw from the castle’s western edge.
Kokoen is not a garden of historical significance. In fact, the landscaping is just over two decades old – the city of Himeji built the Kokoen in 1992 on the old grounds of the lord’s west residence to mark the centennial of the municipality. However, the styles of landscaping are reflective of gardens designed during the Edo Period (1603-1868).
Kokoen has nine distinct garden areas, all peppered with various garden “details” – a tea house here, a koi pond there, a stand of bamboo off in one corner. You’ll find a full complement of flowering plants on sight, from the expected maple and cherry trees to azalea bushes and a few plum trees. If your appetite gets the better of you, there is also a restaurant on the premises. Expect tea and light meals, with fantastic views.
Need more convincing? Here are a few shots I took on my visit to Himeji a few years ago:
More details can be found here.