Oh look! Another castle! :p Haha! I know, lots of castles here in Japan. I wasn’t kidding when I said every sizable town has its own castle and every one of them is super unique. Though, I kind of gave up going into every castle. >.> I know. I know. I’m such a lazy tourist. Haha! But I find the outside of the castles to be ten-times more interesting and beautiful than the wooden support beams. That and you have to pay to enter every castle and I like saving my money… for food! :p
But this castle is in Okayama and I liked it because of the gold fringe it has on the outside. Don’t ask me if it’s real. I don’t know. Haha! But the gold does a really nice job contrasting with the black outer structure. What a sight to see, even on a cloudy day it sparkles and shines.
Yet, the real highlight of Okayama is Kōraku-en garden. This garden is big compared to the other gardens I’ve seen and… kind of puts the castle to shame. :p It took me at least and hour just to walk the perimeter of the garden, not including all the inner pathways weaving back and forth through the vast landscape.
Like all Japanese gardens, it had an adorable koi pond next to a soft-serve ice cream shop (which seems to be a popular thing to eat here in Japan even with how expensive it is). Yet, the gardens’ formidable size had more to do with the ume(plum) tree garden, the sakura tree garden, the momiji (maple) tree garden, and the large open grass areas.
Sadly, I didn’t come at the right time to see either the ume or sakura in bloom. (No worries, I already saw them earlier :p) Which meant that the maple trees were the highlight with their vibrant maroons and deep purple leaves. It reminded me a lot of a tree in the backyard of my childhood home. We, too, have a maple tree with purple leaves. And here I thought it was so strange, but it seems to be quite normal. :p
Yet, Kōraku-en Garden is best known for its crane aviary. (Sorry for the bad picture. My camera kept focusing on the fence instead of the cranes. -.- ) While WWII forced a self-evacuation of the cranes, people re-introduced them back to the garden some years later and now they raise cranes within the grounds of the garden. It was kind of like a little zoo. Though, birds aren’t really my thing and I would’ve been way more fascinated with monkeys. Hee hee! (It is the year of the Monkey after all! Represent! Where my monkeys at?)
I think the coolest part about Japanese gardens for me are the bridges. Normal Western bridges are just stone or wood and they’re flat all the way across. No arches. No fancy turns. And they almost ALWAYS have some type of railing, but the bridges inside Japanese gardens put Western architecture to shame. I mean, just look at that bridge. Isn’t it snazzy? Perhaps the shape serves some purpose to the Japanese style of the garden, or may be they did it just because. Either way, I totally want to build a garden now with that bridge in it. :p