Friday, February 29, 2008

Touring Okayama

Besides the Naked Man Festival, I want to share some of the other sights we saw during our visit to Okayama. We hit the two main tourist attractions there: the castle and the garden.

Okayama Castle originally was built in 1597, but it was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in 1966. Its claim to fame is its black exterior, which has earned it the nickname the Crow Castle.

I think the detail of the castle is beautiful, especially the gold ornamentation. Here's a shot of a lucky fish gargoyle from the inside peering out.

Next to the castle is one of the most famous gardens in Japan, Koraku-en, which means "The garden for taking pleasure later." My Lonely Planet Japan guide tells me this was taken from the Chinese proverb that "The lord must bear sorrow before the people and take pleasure after them." The garden was completed in 1700 by the local feudal lord.

It was a nice place for a Sunday morning stroll. I enjoyed some of the nice ponds and bridges, but I think it will look a lot prettier in the spring when all the flowers and plants come to life, especially the grove of 100 plum trees, which bloom in red and white. No doubt autumn would also be impressive as the garden boasts plenty of maple trees.

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