The Kokoen garden, sometimes called Himeji Kokoen, is just a five minute walk from Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. If, for example, you arrive too late to tour the castle and everyone in your group is cranky, Kokoen Garden is a fine option.
Built in 1992 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Himeji municipality, the gardens are set at the location of several samurai houses – a fact established through seven archeological excavations. Set on just under nine acres, the gardens were designed in the style of the Edo Period, the period of Japanese History from 1603-1868, when shoguns ruled Japan (also known as the Tokugawa shogunate).
Professor Makoto Nakamura of Kyoto University designed the gardens so that, which each turn down one of the many paths, the view changes and it appears one has entered another garden entirely. As such, the gardens are themed – the garden of the lord’s residence, complete with requisite bridges, waterfall and koi pond, a tea garden, where a formal tea ceremony can be enjoyed for an additional fee, a pine tree garden, a bamboo garden, a flower garden, etc.
While the gardens are beautiful in any season, if you can arrange your schedule with a bit of spontaneity, go to Japan during cherry blossom season (any time from March to May, depending). It’s hard to predict, but an entire nation celebrating new life in the form of perfectly delicate flowers on previously barren trees is a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed.