Today I headed to Okayama, a city situated between Osaka and Hiroshima on the South coast of Honshu. This city is home to one of the purported '3 great gardens of Japan', Karokuen, a 300 year old garden built in the shadow of Okayama Castle.

As with Kenrokuen before it, this is a stroll garden set over several hectares in a Kaiyu or 'scenic promenade' style reminiscent of early Buddhist design. It is written as "presenting the visitor with a new view at every turn of the path", however though true of some parts of the garden, I found it's most endearing feature was actually the large open spaces of lawn and water accross which large parts of the garden are viewed.


In Zen philosophy an important aspect of a landscape is not the objects within the garden but rather the spaces between them. This blank or infinite space in one helps clear the mind and also defines the objects within it more clearly. When entering the garden from the main residence this large open space does clear ones mind somewhat from the city life outside and brings you mentally into the garden.


I enjoyed Karokuen, particularly the Ryoten Pavilion through which a simple stream flowed and where past feudal lords would rest while walking the garden. However I did not find it as well kept or intricate as Kenrokuen. The large spaces, while helping draw me into the garden, also left me feeling a little exposed and forced me to rush through rather than relax and 'stroll'.  


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