After many years in Japan I finally had the chance to visit Koraku-en in Okayama, which is considered one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. Stopping by is a good idea to spend a couple of hours if you pass by Okayama with the bullet train while going to Hiroshima or coming back to Osaka, Kobe or Kyoto.
Japanese style gardens are designed trying to emulate real landscapes, they are like “scale models” of big landscapes. For example, there are usually mounds between five and the meters high that represent mountains. Rivers are designed using little water streams, and pounds are used to form lakes and seas.
I love to stroll around Japanese gardens. While walking through winding paths in between water streams surrounded by the greenest grass you could ever imagine I feel like if I had been transported to another dimension.
How to get there: walking east 20 minutes from Okayama bullet train station. You also can get there taking the bus that goes from Okayama station to Korakuen-mae.
Recommended visit time: two hours.
In Odaiba there is a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Japanese people love to bring the best things in the world to Japan and adapt them according to their needs and tastes. Apart from the Statue of Liberty replica, in Tokyo there is also a red color replica of the Eiffel Tower called the Tokyo Tower, but in this case the Japanese replica is a little bit higher than the original.
The interesting thing is that the Japanese Statue of Liberty is NOT a copy of the American statue. It is an almost exact copy of the statue located in the Sena river in Paris. Japanese people built it in Odaiba to celebrate and strengthen Franco-Japanese relations.
The Japanese Statue of Liberty is located next to the sea in front of the Aqua City building in the Odaiba island (the best way to get there is using the Yurikamome line and stop at the Daiba station). The best photo of the statue can be taken during sunset, as the Sun appears on the left side or behind the statue depending on the season. If you take a picture in Summer there is also a lot of ships on the bay, which will give you the opportunity to take even a more original photo.
This is the best shot I have been able to get until now:
Maybe I played around with Lightroom too much and the photo ended up with some exaggerated halos!
I visited Miyajima last fall but I did not have yet time to upload the pictures I took and share them. It is one of my favorite places in Japan, it is near Hiroshima and you can visit Miyajima easily staying in a hotel in Hiroshima and taking the ferry. But the option I took I think it is much better, I stayed in a hotel in the Miyajima island. Staying in Hiroshima is boring so I would suggest to stay in one of the hotels-ryokans in Miyajima and enjoy the island when it is quiet. During the day Miyajima is filled with tourists coming with the ferry for daily trips. But during the night there is not much people in the island and you can enjoy walks next to the sea, bothered only by deers and tanukis and enjoying views like this one:
Miyajima (宮島), also known as Itsukushima (厳島), is a little sacred island. It has tons of Shintoist shrines and some Buddhist temples. The whole island is considered to be sacred land and in fact the name says it Miyajima (Miya宮: sacred shrine, jima=島：island).
The island in itself is a Shinto shrine, many Gods live in the island and some people even consider that the island is a God. It is not allowed to die or give birth in the island, animals can’t be killed in the island and trees can’t be chopped. In fact there are tons of monkeys, deers and tanukis wandering freely in the island. Shinto tradition considers deers as God messengers.
The most famous shrine in the island Itsukushima, a world heritage. It is considered one of the most beautiful sceneries in Japan and also in the whole world. It was built more than 1.500 years ago and of course it has been rebuilt many times. The big torii gate is the most photographed part of the shrine, when the tide is low you can even walk until the door.
In the old times it was not allowed to walk on the island, that is why the Itsukushima temple is all built above the water of the sea in the beach like a pier. To enter the island a little boat passed by the torii gate to purify and enter the sacred territory. The torii gate is 16 meters tall and it is designed to be able to resist typhoons.
This are some of the pictures I took in Miyajima last fall:
My friend Albert and me in front of the famous torii gate.
Mini-shrine I found in a hidden beach.