Kokoen Garden is actually a collection of nine gardens laid on the site of the feudal lord’s west residence. Each garden is designed in a different Edo-era style.
This is the entrance to the smaller gardens:
This garden had a collection of scores of different varieties of cherry trees, some of which were blossoming. We were actually unlucky – two weeks later and the whole castle would have been blossoming.
The range of cherry blossoms is amazing – Japan has the most varieties in the world:
Right next to Himeji Castle is Kokoen, a garden opened in 1992 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Himeji municipality.
This is the entrance to the garden:
Blossoms near the entrance:
The bridge crosses into the main part of the garden, which is the site of the former Lord’s residence:
The pond in the main garden:
Giant koi carp:
On a short break we took the Shinkansen down to Himeji, in Hyogo just outside Osaka, to see the castle which had recently been cleaned and so was back to a bright white colour – hence its nickname “White Egret Castle”. The castle, a World Heritage site and the largest castle in Japan, dates back to a hill-fort built in 1333 and the castle seen today was built in 1601-1609. In 1871 it was bought at auction for 23 yen (about US$2,258 today)!
This is the castle seen along the main drag from the station:
Sculpture along the street:
The castle with the bridge across the moat and main gate:
Selling ice-cream near the souvenir shops:
Shinjuku Gyoen actually comprises three gardens together: a Japanese traditional garden, an English landscape garden and a French formal garden. These are from the French garden, looking out towards Aoyama.
We went for a stroll around Shinjuku Gyoen to see the Autumn leaves – they are pretty spectacular in the Japanese traditional garden. There is also a small restaurant in the middle that does a nice set lunch.
As we were travelling back from Takayama to Nagoya I kept noticing these mysterious stones and stone monuments in the small villages along the route. I’m still not sure what they are but I guess they are family graves of some kind or possibly, as they seemed to be beside rice paddies, a harvest offering.
While in Takayama we stayed at the Ryokan Sumiyoshi, which I thoroughly recommend. The staff were very friendly and really went out of their way to help us and make us feel comfortable.