Right next to Himeji Castle is the Kokoen Garden, which was where I started my sightseeing in Himeji. I had visited this garden during my 2017 journey across Japan but on that trip I gotten to the garden late in the day, so this time I arrived in the afternoon to see the garden under different lighting conditions.
The Kokoen Garden was built on the former site of a feudal lord’s residence and is fairly young compared to other major gardens I visited, having only been finished in 1992. Kokoen is comprised of nine separate gardens, with each one mean to represent a different style of garden design that existed during Japan’s Edo Period. After entering Kokoen one of the first gardens I explored had a large pond with a small villa next to it. The trees around the pond were starting to change colors but I was a little too early to see Kokoen bathed in the colors of autumn.
I happened to be at the pond at the right time to see one of the staff feeding the koi. Before he showed up the fish had just been swimming around the pond but once they realized that it was feeding time all of them swarmed the bridge where he was standing.
After that I spent about an hour exploring the rest of the Kokoen Garden. I really liked how each of the nine gardens felt distinct from each other and how Kokoen uses Himeji Castle as the backdrop for its scenery. At some point I’d like to come back and see Kokoen again, either during peak autumn colors or springtime. If you’re in Himeji and going to also visit the castle there’s a money-saving combo ticket that you can purchase to see both Kokoen and Himeji Castle. These two attractions are right next to each other, so you might as well see both of them if you’re visiting the city.