Another travel day. Shipped my larger bag to the next hotel then pulling the overnighter I walked to the train station. I was going to take a taxi but figured the exercise would be good. Since I made it in 20 minutes it’s probably less than a mile. I arrived at the station earlier than necessary and got the rest of my train reservations, using a newly created list that reflected a few changes. After that five hour train ride last week I decided I couldn’t face another one. Instead of going from Hiroshima to Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, which would involve a long ferry trip and an even longer train trip on a slow train, I am going back to Okayama from Hiroshima and will see the two gardens on Shikoku as day trips from Okayama. Now I am headed for Fukuoka on Kyushu, the other large island of Japan. It’s only about two hours which is good.
Back to Saturday’s gardens. As I visit these gardens I am still questioning what attracts me most about them, why the Japanese designate some a most important and why I don’t always agree. There are three kinds of gardens, zen gardens made almost entirely from rocks and gravel, gardens made to be viewed from inside a structure and gardens made for strolling. I am not so fond of the zen gardens; it is the other two that interest me. Saturday’s gardens, Korakuen and Shurakuen are both stroll gardens. I visited Korakuen, considered one of Japan’s top three, in 2008 and found it somewhat disturbing. The garden was built for the pleasure of a daimyo. There are rice fields, tea fields, a lot of open lawn, an archery space, a place for training horses and a small, ugly aviary where they house half a dozen cranes. The cranes bother me the most and I am not so fond of all the open space.
The second garden, Shurakuen, required an hour train trip inland and through the mountains to Tsuyama. Then I couldn’t figure out where to go from the guide map so I hired a taxi. Originally three times larger than the present site, this garden was created in the 17th C. and is a pond stroll garden, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Each few steps presented a different picture. This is what I look for.
When it was time to leave I wanted another taxi but finally just started walking. It turned out my $10 taxi ride took me less than two kilometers, an easy walk. I think the price was high because of the waiting time at stop lights, not because they were out to get me.
When I arrived back at the hotel I met an English speaker, a Mexican who is working on a PhD in biophysics in Australia and who is a zen priest. He was eating his dinner in the hotel lounge while doing laundry and I sat and talked with him for probably two hours. He was fascinating and the first person I had a real conversation with in more than a week..
I arrived in Fukuoka before 11 am and spent about an hour in the station getting help from the information people and having lunch. I was advised to take a subway to my hotel, but one of the gardens I want to see was not far so I walked there and then walked to the hotel.Totally wiped out I’ve been working on this post and tomorrows plans. Eventually I’ll go out and get something to eat.
The garden, called Rakusuien, is a beautiful, very small pond garden with a waterfall and an attached tea house. I was invited to have tea, but it would have meant sitting on the floor so I demurred. I did go in to look at it and as I entered a small wedding party also came in. The strange part is that I think they were the same party I saw at Korakuen. Maybe I was dreaming.