For anyone thinking of getting married in Okayama, you might have the ceremony in a luxury hotel – or wherever – but you must definitely visit Korakuen Gardens, one of the three best Japanese gardens in the whole country. There, you have photos taken, outside the main gate, looking over Sawa-no-ike Pond and at various other scenic points. It is as if the 50-acre garden has been developed just for photo taking… a Japanese garden offers total calm, immaculate greenery with bamboo and a myriad of trees each one exactly pruned and positioned to look, says the gal, as though it just grew naturally.
But then I spy a man with hand-held clippers manicuring a fir tree (come November, the firs will all be wrapped in sacking, for winter). I see two old ladies, with big conical hats to shield them from the sun, prostrate as they replace a few soiled blades of grass in a big field area. There are, by the way, areas of stunted palm trees, and a tea plantation; there are rice fields, with each plant exactly in military order. A maple grove with nearly a hundred trees will produce an autumn display to rival the justly-famous cherry blossom time in spring. Thousands, of all ages, come to visit the gardens every day. One group of the decidedly mature is having a photo taken.
A millenial, with a group of girlfriends, takes her own photo, looking across the main lake to distant Okayama Castle (this used to be known as the castle’s back garden, even though it is across Asahi River, the two banks now joined by Tsukimi Bridge). Young couples have brought charmingly unreal children as cute as robots. There do not seem to be any dogs, so presumably they are not allowed. There are tea shops, and as well as thick all-leaf-ground green tea, the knowledgeable suggest cones of just-made peach icecream. We sit for a while, watching the people around, but then they are watching us as we are the only Caucasian tour group this morning.
And then we return, for a last look at the koi, hundreds if not more of them, each unique. Some are shades of gold and yellow, some orange, some orange and black, some white, orange and blue. I begin to understand why collectors are so fascinated, and so soothed, by fish that together blend in a pattern recalling a Jackson Pollack. Why not more koi collections in luxury hotels? Koi at St Regis Doha and Kempinski in Sanya spring to mind. I must think of some others.