Here we reach our second installment of the most beautiful gardens of Japan. Our second of our three is the garden of Kairaku-en. This lush and stunning garden is a vision in its own right. Steeped in history this garden is also home to its own festival and array of floral life including the Japanese favorites or ume (the plum blossoms) and the sakura (the cherry blossoms)
We’ll go over the history and the wonderful aspects of nature which you will see here, but I will also include how to get there while in Japan, as well as input from trip adviser.
The History of Kairaku-en
Unlike the other two gardens holding the titles of “most beautiful gardens of Japan,” Kairaku-en is the only two of the three that was originally built to share not just with the lord who built it and his family, but with the public as well. This make Kairaku-en the first ever public garden in Japan. The gardens were laid out but Japan’s ninth feudal lord of Mito, Tokugawa Nariaki who lived from the years 1800 to1860. The name of Kairaku-en translates to “park that can be enjoyed together” or “a garden for everyone’s pleasure.”
Unfortunately, in world war two the beautiful garden faced a horrible tragedy. With the atomic bomb that struck Hiroshima the area took unimaginable damage to life and land. Kairaku-en was no exception. In the blast the gardens took their toll. One of the standing historic features of the gardens, the feudal lord’s villa, was destroyed. Today in its place stands a new Kobun-tei pavilion which is a recreation of the destroyed villa which was constructed in the years 1955 to 1958.
Nariaki, who helped to design the original villa, invited artists and writers for the composition of traditional Japanese verse and parties. The annex to the main house was used for private quarters. Here the lord’s wife and entourage were housed.
There were some damage sustained during the 2011 earthquake, but such damages were repaired and were reopened in 2012.
Kairaku-en is famous for having over 3,000 ume trees. This includes trees from 100 different species which include white, pink and red blossoms. However, Kairaku-en isn’t know just for its ume trees. What Japanese garden would be complete without the countries famed cherry blossom trees in the spring? In the early summer you’ll be able to view the blooming azaleas and wisteria. In autumn expect to see hagi (or bush clover) blossoms with beautiful bamboo groves and cedar trees.
One of Kairaku-en’s most unique feature in my opinion is the to-gyoku-sen fountain. This fountain is in a natural spring which as been covered over with marble from Mt. Mayumi. The water travels through the marble to the top creating the fountain. The water is used in the tea ceremony at Karoan tea house on the grounds.
Mito Plum Festival
This famous plum blossom festival dates back more than 120 years and is Kairaku-en’s perfect opportunity to showcase its 3,000 plum trees. The early plum blooms (referred to as Hayazaki) will start appearing around mid January to mid February. Those considered to be mid-season bloomers (referred to as nakazaki) are expected to make their appearance around early February to mid-March. The late blooming varieties (referred to as osozaki) come around early march to early April. This will vary from year to year depending on the climate and weather.
The festival is officially held from February 20th to March 31st. You can also enjoy events withing the festival such as “Yoru Ume Matsuri” held on one night during the festival, and Yagai Koto-no-kai, and out door performance. You can also take a nighttime tour of the gardens and enjoy watching evening firework shows.
How to Get There
From JR Mito Station it eill take a 15-minute bus ride to Kairakuen iri-guchi bus stop. Buses to Kairaku-en run from bays 4 and 6 outside the south exit of Mito Station. Buses to Kairaku-en run to Tokiwa Shrine and the Ibaraki Prefecture Museum of History.
From the south exit of Kairaku-en cross over the main road and railway line to see the gardens of Gokoku Shrine and the Tokugawa Museum up the hill. Senba Lake is also close, on the way back to Mito Station.
From Tokyo and Ueno Station take the Joban Line to Mito (1 hour, 5 minutes) on the Super Hitachi express. Local trains take roughly over 2 hours. During the Mito Plum Festival Joban Line trains stop at the temporarily open, one-platform Kairaku-en Station. From Tsukuba take a bus from outside Tsukuba Station to Tsuchiura (about 30 minutes) and then a train to Mito which is also about 30 minutes by the Super Hitachi express or an hour by local train.
Tel: 029 221 6570
Admission: Free; 190 yen for entry to the Kobun-tei pavilion
Hours: 6am to 7pm (February 20 to September 30); 7am to 6pm (October 1 to February 19)
Trip Advisor: According to reviews given by visitors Kairaku-en received a 4 out of 5 and was ranked number 3 out of 132 for things to do in Mito.
Japan has many wonderful and beautiful sites to see. This garden is yet another example of the cultural heritage, history, and tradition. Despite facing earthquakes and the most powerful explosives known to the mid twentieth century this stunning landmark has stood firm and recovered for generations and will remain for generations to come.
In out next post we will be covering the third garden under the title “The Most Beautiful Gardens of Japan,” called Koraku-en located in Okayama.
Be sure to check out the part and google map under the post.
Do you have a favorite garden so far? Or maybe a favorite flower you would like to see from Japan? Or maybe a particular garden you are interested in? If so, let us know in the comments below.