A landscaped garden meant for everyone to enjoy, Kairakuen is one of the most popular attractions in Ibaraki Prefecture. Created in 1842 by the ninth lord of the Mito domain, Tokugawa Nariaki, this garden was designed not only for the feudal lord and his warriors but also for the public. Kairakuen is considered one of the three most famous gardens in japan, along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture) and Korakuen in Okayama Prefecture.
Kairakuen is located in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture, and is about 1 hour and 10 minutes from Tokyo. The journey from Tokyo Station to Mito Station takes about 70 minutes by limited express on the Joban Line, or about 2 hours by local train. From Mito Station, it is about 20 minutes to Kairakuen by bus.
Kairakuen was founded as a place of rest and relaxation for both the body and soul. The philosophy behind the establishment of Kairakuen, known as “Kairakuen ki,” is embodied in the key phrase “one tension, one relaxation.” This idea stems from the Confucian text “Reiji,” in which Confucius emphasizes the importance of not only working hard but also taking time to relax and enjoy oneself. In 1841, Tokugawa Nariaki opened the Kodokan military school, and the following year, he opened the Kairakuen garden. These two facilities were conceived as complementary educational institutions, with the Kodokan providing training in the arts and sciences and the Kairakuen serving as a place for rest and relaxation.
Unlike most Japanese gardens that are famous for their cherry blossoms, Kairakuen is renowned for its plum blossoms. In early spring, approximately 3,000 plum trees of about 100 varieties bloom, transforming the garden into a paradise of red, pink, and white. The Mito Plum Festival, held at Kairakuen, is a significant event that attracts people from all over Japan. In addition to plum blossoms, Kairakuen features cherry blossoms and azaleas in the spring, as well as bush clover and colorful autumn leaves in the fall.
One of the highlights of Kairakuen is Lake Senba, also known as the “Oasis of Mito.” The lake is home to beautiful swans and other waterfowl, and visitors can take a tour of the lake in a swan-shaped boat to get a closer look. At night, the fountains in the lake are illuminated, creating a stunning view.
Within the grounds of Kairakuen, visitors can explore the Kobuntei Pavilion, which was built by Lord Nariaki as his personal villa. This pavilion served as a place where literary figures, artists, retainers, and family could gather to celebrate life and poetry. The Rakujuro, located on the third floor of the pavilion, offers a spectacular view in three directions. The Kairakuen and the Kodokan facilities were the largest feudal schools in Japan, offering a wide range of subjects, including Confucian studies, astronomy, and martial arts such as swordsmanship and horsemanship. The main gate and main office, both of which date back to that time, have been designated as National Important Cultural Properties and have been preserved to showcase their historical significance.
Throughout the year, Kairakuen hosts various events. The Mito Plum Blossom Festival in early spring is the largest event, followed by the Mito Kairakuen Fireworks Festival in the summer. These fireworks take place on Lake Senba, providing a unique experience of enjoying the fireworks and their reflections on the water. There are also events to celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms, azaleas, and bush clover.
In conclusion, Kairakuen is a beautifully landscaped garden in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. With its rich history and stunning natural beauty, it has become one of the most popular attractions in the area. Whether you visit during the Mito Plum Festival or any other time of the year, Kairakuen offers a tranquil and enjoyable experience for everyone. From the thousands of plum trees in bloom to the scenic views of Lake Senba, there is something for everyone to appreciate in this remarkable garden. So, if you’re planning a trip to Japan, make sure to include Kairakuen on your itinerary and immerse yourself in the beauty of this remarkable garden.
Address And Maps Location:
1 Chome, Tokiwa-cho, Mito-shi, Ibaraki-ken