Koraku-en is a wonderful and magical place where one can see nature, culture, and tradition wrapped together beautifully in a neat package. They incorporate the visitors in much of its traditions so they too can learn the history of Koraku-en. They do this with many events that celebrate the world heritage site. It’s a place of beautiful cranes, flowers, and nature.
Koraku-en gets its start from, a daimyo (or feudal lord) named Ikeda Tsunamasa. In 1687, he ordered his subordinate Tsuda Nagatada to begin construction on Okayama Koraku-en. It took 13 years to complete and aside from a few changes from various daimyo it has maintained its original appearance from the Edo period.
Like many gardens of Daimyo’s the garden was used as a place to entertain important guests and as a retreat for the lord. In this particular garden regular fold could visit on certain days. Ownership of Koraku-en was transferred from the owners to Okayama Prefecture in 1884 and it was then opened to the public. The locations have not been immune to history damage and tragedies. In 1934 the gardens took severed damage from floods and again in 1945 from the World War II bombing. Fortunately it has been restored using paintings from Edo period paintings and diagrams.
Dating back to the Edo period, cranes have been released and kept in the gardens.
Shortly after World War II the cranes disappeared from Koraku-en. A president of the Chinese Academy of Science named Guo Moruo had attended Okayama’s Diaroku Senior High School and presented the garden with two new cranes. He felt after the garden had lost its castle in the war it seemed lonely and wanted at the very least for the cranes to return. Luckily the garden succeeded in hating and raising a number of cranes and Koraku-en finally had its cranes returned. Now over 60 cranes grace Okatama prefecture.
Today Koraku-en currently posts 8 cranes that are raised in cages, However on New Years Day every year the cranes are released and visitors get the treat of viewing these majestic birds in their habitat.
Koraku-en is home to many wonderful events and seems to hold more than the other two gardens.
Early Spring Festival
January 1st to 3rd
*Free Admission on January 1st
At this event you can welcome in the new year at the Enjyo-tei House with a koto concert and the release of Japanese cranes.
1 p.m. to 3p.m.
This is one of Koraku-en’s yearly spring traditions. The keepers will burn brown grass until it chars to place. They’ve been doing this starting in 1965 to get rid of pests as new growth appears in the spring.
Pine Straw Burning
Late February from 10:00 am to 10:30 am
Starting in 1976 it was made a yearly event to watch as the previous year’s straw wrappings are removed and burned to rid the park of the pests inside of it. Burning the pine straw signifies the coming of spring to Kouraku-en.
Garden Opening Commemoration Day
This day celebrates when the Ikeda family gave Korakuen to Okayama prefecture in 1884 and opened to the public on March 2nd. The tradition started in 2000 and became a free admission day.
First Sunday in April
The Goshinko Festival takes place in Munetada Shrine in Okayama City. At the Geshinko Festival you will be able to watch a 1 kilometer long procession with people wearing period costume march though the city. Along the way the procession will make a stop at Koraku-en.
This annual event is sponsored by the Munetada Shrine Committee and the Okayama Chamber of Commerce.
Tosai Tea Ceremony
Fourth Sunday in April
This yearly event dates back to 1933 to honor the priest Yosai Zenji who was a tea master from Okayama. The ceremony consists of a large tea festival held in the prefecture’s five main styles.
The Tosai Tea Ceremony is sponsored by the Yosai Zenji Appreciation Committee and the Sanyo Shimbun.
Tea Picking Festival
Third Sunday in May
Held at 10:30 a.m. 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Each session lasts about 20 minutes.
Beginning in 1956 the Tea Picking Festival includes members from the Tea Picking Dance Preservation Society demonstrating traditional tea picking and tea picking dance. Lovely young ladies wearing deep blue kimonos with patterns, red strips, gloves, leggings and a cloth ties around their heads will carefully pick new leaves from the tea plants. You can also try picking some tea yourself.
Rice Planting Festival
Secnd Sunday of June
11:00 a.m. and1:00 p.m.
Each session will last about 8 house
Beginning in 1962 this event allows you to watch traditional rice planting by hand. A rice planting dance demonstration will also be held by the members of the Planting Preservation Society and the Kohjiro Fold Song Preservation Society. Young ladies referred to as “Saotomes” wear deep blue kimonos decorated with straw hats will plant rice seedlings to and upbeat drum rhythm performed by a group of male drummers and singers called “Sage”
Kaanrensetsu (Lotus Flower Viewing)
First Sunday in July
4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
In 1958 Koraku-en holds the Kaanrensetsu. In this event the garden will open early so that visitors can enjoy the blooming of the lotus flowers. These lotus are known as the lotus flowers of Ittenshikai, or “Universe”. The flowers will bloom into a large white flower.
In addition to the lotus viewing you will be able to see a koto concert and the Ewnyo-tei House, or you can take part in a light meal and a tea ceremony.
Special Late-Night Garden Opening; Garden of Dreams
Closing time is Extended to 9:30 p.m.
During this event the garden house are extended so visitors can enjoy the garden grounds illuminated with lights and candles making for a brilliant and dreamy display.
Moon Viewing Ceremony
August 15th in the old lunar calendar
Hours extended until 9:30 PM
Starting in 1956 Koraku-en has extended their hours so that visitors can enjoy a ceremony that honors the harvest moon. What makes this a unique spot to view the moon is the fact that even though this is a metropolitan area you can witness the moon rise over the mountains without any buildings obstructing your view.
After 5 p.m. you can go on to the lawns, which is normally not permissed, and attend a koto concert and tea ceremonies at Enyo-tei House. To attend the tea ceremony you will need to make sure you buy your ticket in advance. If you visit tea dealers in Okayama City you will be able to buy two tickets for the garden and the tea ceremony as a set.
Noh Appreciation Meeting in Okayama Korakuen
First Saturday in October from Noon to 4 p.m. (though starting my vary depending on program)
The Noh Appreciation Meeting in Okayama Korakuen began in 1992 and promotes Noh Theater, one of Japan’s traditional arts. With the performances explanations are given to attendees. This way those who are new to the form of art know exactly what is going on in the play.
The sponsor for this event is the Okayama Prefecture Provincial Culture Foundation
Okayama Korakuen Chrysanthemum Exibition
Late October to Mid November
Starting in late October chrysanthemum enthusiasts bring about 450 post of their flowers that they grew themselves to be displayed. There will be a wide array of colors and hughs from the variety of blossoms. These blossoms will include Japanese chrysanthemum, small-flowered chrysanthemum, and miniature chrysanthemum
Pine Straw Wrapping
9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Pine straw wrapping is a unique way the garden keepers exterminate pests and has been done since ancient times. It takes advantage of the fact that bugs will typically come down the branches of the trees and go onto the ground during the winter season.
The care takers will place straw wrapping around the trunks of each ping tree on the garden grounds and guide the pests into the wrapping. Before Keichitsu in the following spring the straw matting is removed and burnt to destroy the pests and this protecting the gardens.
Noon to 4 p.m. (starting time may vary depending on program)
The Korakunoh is an initiative of the Okayama Prefecural Culture Festival and has taken place every year since 1972, thirteen years following the restoration of the Noh stage. It helps spread regional cultures, classical art, and of course, Noh theater.
This event is sponsored by the Okayama Prefectural Government and the Okayama Noh Committee
Special Late-Night Garden Opening Autumnal Fantasy Garden
Mid to Late November
Garden closing time is extended to 8:30 p.m.
This event is very similar to the August event, but for the one held at this time of year you get to enjoy the autumn air and changing colors of the trees.
Getting there and Contact
To Get to Koraku-en
- – On foot from JR Okayama Station: 25 min
- – City bus from JR Okayama Station: 12 minTake the bus bound for Fujiwara Danchi from bus terminal platform 1. The gardens are next to the Korakuen-Mae bus-stop.
Korakuen 1-5, Kita-ku, Okayama City 703-8257
Phone: 086-272-1148 Fax: 086-272-1147
Much can be learned from this garden. Tradition, love of nature, art, and tea, all are incorporated in this magical experience. Do you have an event that you would like to see? Or another subject you would like to learn about? Let us know in the comments below.