Himeji Castle, one of the world heritage sites in Japan. The beautiful figure that the white birch spreads its wings, isn’t it just a Japanese castle? A certain tea room is “Sojiki”.
What is Koko-en?
KOKO-EN is a popular beautiful sightseeing spot in Himeji City. Beautiful Views of HIMEJI CASTLE from KOKO-EN gardens.http://www.himeji-machishin.jp/ryokka/kokoen/en/index.php
It is 3.5 hectares (8.5 acres) in size, located just south-west of HIMEJI CASTLE.
KOKO-EN, consists of 9 separate strolling-style gardens of different sizes and landscaping themes in style of the Edo Period (1603 and 1868). The largest of the gardens is called “The Garden of the Lord’s Residence”; another garden is “Tea Ceremony Garden” with the Sukiya-style Tea House,“Souju-an”. KOKO-EN, with it’s authentic Edo Period buildings and landscaping, is used as a backdrop for period TV Dramas and movies.
You can enjoy a lunch of delicious seasonal Japanese dishes with a scenic view of the garden at the Japanese “Kassui-ken” restaurant.
Access to Koko-en Garden
I walked from Himeji Station, but it was quite a distance.
When you get off at JR Himeji Station, you will see in the front, the famous 50-meter wide road and the most impressive sight of Himeji Castle. Since I can see the castle, I thought I don’t need to be worried about getting lost and the distance to the castle looked very close to walk.
However, right after I started walking, I noticed that there was actually quite a distance. Also, I walked about 10-15 mins from Himeji Castle to Koko-en. Using a city bus or taxi is recommended on the day of midsummer and bad weather.
The recommended route for walking to Himeji Castle, taking a walk along the shopping street “Himeji Station Shopping District” you will find right after you walk out of Himeji station. You can feel the atmosphere of the city walking along its shopping district. You will find Himeji featured restaurants, cafe, souvenirs as you walk by.
On the way, I happened to find a neat local tea, Kobayashi-chaten. I love going to tea shops in that town when I’m traveling. Here, I bought one of their matcha “Furumatsu-no-mukashi which is Urasenke XVI’s preference.
Here I am, at Koko-en!
There were very few people in the garden that was because it was Wednesday, not weekends. Admission fee for adults is only 300 JPY.
There were many times where only I was in the garden, at least, by myself in that area. Because It is such a massive garden, 3.5 hectares (8.5 acres) in size, I felt like as if I came to another space.
Because Koko-en belongs to the Himeji-castle, there were so many people working in Koko-en. I was struck by the fact that no one was watching them but they were working very sincerely and carefully maintaining the garden everywhere. That looked like they had their passion for their job, keeps the garden look great. It looked to me that they are very proud of the Himeji’s treasure. I understood why the garden was such beautifully maintained.
Koko-en Teahouse Souju-an
The traditional Tea Ceremony House, called Souju-an”, is a “sukiya-zukuri” style structure with design and construction supervised by “Sen Genshitsu”, The former 15th Urasenke Grand Tea Master. It is in the tea room style of a samurai residence of the Edo Period (ca.1600-1860). It was designed as simple as possible, with the concept of architectural beauty in traditional Japanese culture,“Cha-no-yu” (tea ceremony). The authentic tea room was built with the spirit of traditional architectural artisans from Kyoto. Having the highest respect for the Keep of Himeji Castle, the whole building and all the tea rooms face the Main Keep of the castle.http://www.himeji-machishin.jp/ryokka/kokoen/en/soujyuan/index.html
You can see seasonal plants and roji, a dewy ground, in the tea garden. The exquisite balance between the artisan’s traditional craftsmanship and the appearance of the tea house in the garden, emphasizes not only the beauty of nature, but also the tasteful elegance the tea ceremony room.
While drinking a cup of green tea and viewing the tea garden, you may forget the flow of time and return to a more relaxing traditional time in Japan.
The design was supervised by Urasenke XV Oiemoto (tea master). I did not know this and was surprised to find out when I saw a photo of him at the reception. A Japanese actor Nishimura Ko ( who played a role in a famous drama “Mito-koumon”.) and tea master was good friends. ( They were special attack corps during World War II.)
The price for matcha and sweet is 500 JPY. The served tea was a tea from Kobayashi tea shop I stopped by in the shopping district. The sweet was also from a local shop “Iseya”.
Visit Koko-en and you can enjoy Himeji even more!