OSAKA to KYOTO – gardens by day
Tuesday – this morning we had the option of going to the Osaka Central Market Tuna Auction at 3.45am. Everyone decided to give it a miss. A very relaxing sleep after an early check in last night and this morning we head for Kyoto for four nights so I can go through everything and re-organise. That will not take too long but it is good to have a few days where you don’t have to pack up after one or two nights.
Breakfasts at this hotel – Porta Inn Bentencho – are rather nondescript. Whilst I do not expect Michelin Star quality, I do expect food that looks and tastes appetising – this wasn’t and that is why there is no photo. The best part was the bottle of Lemon Tea I bought from the convenience store next door. Now that was delicious.
Don’t you love the name Happy Cheers?
On the way to the station we pass lots of little fruit shops – the produce they offer is always the best and they haven’t got that pungent smell like some of the ones back home.
Full of flavour and money well spent – the grapes are delicious. My holiday philosophy is that if I want to buy something I will – I don’t want to haggle in my mind whether or not it is too expensive and whether or not I can I afford it. If I can afford to go on holiday then I can afford to buy whatever I want – simples!
Spoiler alert – other varieties are bought on the holiday but that is another story for another time.
Today we are training it again to Korakuen Garden. This garden is famous as one of Japan’s ‘Three Great Gardens’. The spacious lawns in Korakuen are a unique feature and rarely seen in Japanese gardens.
At the entrance is a statue of cranes and also a statue of two ballet dancers. Both are relaxing but I am not here to see them – I am here to see the Autumn colour.
We are no sooner through the gate and we are hit in the face with this? How good can it get?
Aren’t those colours fabulous and we have only been here 10 minutes.
Down a little pathway to the left is an enclosure for the famous Red Crowned Cranes. If any bird deserves the accolade, then the crane should be considered the fashion model of the bird world: tall, slim, long-legged, and always elegant.
The Red-crowned, or Japanese, Crane is a potent icon. In symbolic form, Tancho, as it is known in Japanese, is the bird of happiness and long life (in fable it lives for a 1,000 years).
Once widespread, this bird, the meat of which was once reserved for emperors, became a prized target for the hastily armed hunters relishing the lifting of feudal restrictions.
How many cranes there were prior to their slaughter in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is not known, but we do know that it was wiped out almost everywhere following the Meiji Restoration (1868). Miraculously, a small resident population survived the hounding of the hunters in the marshes of eastern Hokkaido into the early 20th century.
They are bred here and admittedly the cages do look rather primitive but their carers make sure they are happy and comfortable and they do go for little outings every now and again.
Back on the path and heading to Jigen-do Shrine – there is a wonderful lake – Sawa-no-ike Pond – and as soon as I come to the edge there are hundreds of Koi. Must think I am about to feed them – but they are out of luck. Nearby is the Jigen-do Shrine.
Built in 1697 by Ikeda Tsunamasa for the peace of the clan and stability for Ikeda family and townspeople, this Shrine is a very welcoming little place and a relief from the sun let me tell you.
The brochure tells me that a visit here will bring me a little closer to the era in which noble lords strolled through sculptured gardens with traditional tea houses and past ponds filled with Japanese carp – I am imagining myself as one of those noble lords.
Wandering further down the path there is the Chishio-no-mori Grove (bottom left) – this is one of the most famous spots in the garden – and on the right is the Plum Grove. In early Spring ahead of the other flowers around 100 red, white, single and double petal trees bloom and fill the garden with an elegant fragrance.
Obviously there are no blossoms on the plum trees as we are in Autumn but they would be magnificent in the Spring.
Restored after the war it is also dedicated to Eizai Zenchi the priest, who is said to have brought tea to Japan from China. Chaso-do means ‘House of the Father of Tea’.
This would be a peaceful place to enjoy a refreshing cup of green tea served with some yummy Japanese treats but alas it is not open and I have to settle for a swig of cold water.
I pass another little pond and then find myself meandering along the shady trail that is beside a rippling little stream. There is a surprise around every corner.
This little girl is just the cutest thing. Korakuen is another place where there are lots of people dressed in national clothes. The parents of the kids are so pleased for you to take their photo – they don’t have any inhibitions at all.
Further down the path I can look over the river and see Okayama Castle, also known as “crow castle” due to its black exterior. It was built in 1597 in the style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. The original castle was destroyed in the last year of WWII, but a reconstruction was made in 1966. The castle is located on the Asahi River, which was used as a moat and is most becoming I must say – so tranquil.
Only one of Okayama Castle’s original buildings escaped destruction the war, the Tsukimi Yagura (“moon viewing turret”), which dates back to 1620.
There are also reconstructions and unearthed foundations of a few other former buildings, which help illustrate the former extent of the castle complex if you ever decide to visit.
As I meander through this amazing place – I notice umbrellas strategically placed on the sprawling lawns.
RL tells me they are put there for the night lights which are usually turned on through Autumn. They certainly add to the charm don’t they?
I am nearly back at the beginning but there are a few little paths yet to discover. But first some more brilliant colour!
Above right is the Jizo-do Shrine. A tree of the Elm family called ‘muku’, believed to date back to the time when the garden was originally built, stands beside the shrine.
This is the Eisho Bridge. What a wonderful walk This bridge spans the Kayo-no-ike Pond which is so cool and tranquil.
This walk leads to the most magnificent coloured trees that line the Kayo-no-ike Pond. It is so relaxing after wandering around in the hot Summer-like heat. There are some stones where you can sit – not too comfortable – but they do the job. I could stay and look at the trees and pond for ages –
Around another corner – these magnificent buildings are just looking incredibly peaceful.
Pictured above right is Enyo-tei House. Used as a place to receive daimyo – the Feudal Lord when he visited Korakuen, this house is a central structure commanding a broad vista of the gardens.
Even though it is hot and this has been one large park to walk – it has been fabulous. This garden has been considered one of the most famous gardens in Japan since the Edo Period. The pretty tea houses located throughout the garden were built for each succeeding diamyo (Feudal Lord) as were many other buildings.
The garden has a new view at every turn of the path which connects the open lawns, tranquil ponds, hills, picturesque tea houses and little streams that ripple over the rocks. Needless to say the camera gets a good work out.
Having exceptional manners, I always ask if it is OK to photograph them and they always say yes. Happy, smiling faces – I love the children – they are like little dolls but every now and again one of them adds their own bit of character.
We now head back to Okayama Station for our train to Kyoto and our hotel to rest up for our night adventure to Eikando Temple to see the Autumn Illumination.