Kokoen Garden, or Koko-en, offers a tranquil escape with nine distinct Edo period-style gardens and enchanting views of the adjacent Himeji Castle. Opened in 1992, this 3.5-hectare space in Himeji presents a traditional Japanese garden experience. Visitors enjoy strolling through the landscapes, participating in tea ceremonies at the tea house, and the seasonal beauty of cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.
The garden’s history is interwoven with the region’s past. Constructed on the grounds of the former Lord’s West Residence, Kokoen celebrates the principles of the Edo and Meiji periods. The layout reflects the historical west residence erected in 1618, utilizing the Edo-period Himeji Samurai Residences Map for its design. The garden’s name, Kokoen, is connected to Kokodō, a place where the local lord’s vassals were situated during the Edo period.
Each of the nine gardens within Kokoen tells its own story, with themes ranging from the Oyashiki no Niwa’s representation of the Seto Inland Sea to the Sōju-an tea house. These gardens, enclosed by walls, display various traditional Japanese gardening styles.
Himeji City opened Kokoen to the public on April 29, 1992, coinciding with the centennial of Himeji’s municipal organization. By March 2017, the garden had welcomed over 5 million visitors and has been a location for filming historical television series.
The Kamuro-en tea house within Kokoen provides an authentic tea ceremony experience. Additionally, there are pavilions like Rinse-Tei and Hanagasatei for visitors to rest and enjoy the surroundings.
Kokoen also houses the Kassui-ken restaurant, which offers diners views of the gardens. In 2017, Kokoen signed a sister garden agreement with Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Visitors can explore all nine gardens, each providing a unique perspective on Japanese garden design. The Lord’s Residence Garden, with its large pond and Koi fish, and the Bamboo Garden are particularly noteworthy. Seasonally, the cherry blossoms in spring and vibrant autumn foliage are highlights, making Kokoen a year-round destination.
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