I’m big in Japan: A ghost story & Kōko-en (2005 May 17)

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Amazing how the brain works sometimes; just sitting here editing the photos for this post and suddenly remembered I left out an interesting tidbit about Himeji Castle. Himeji has at least one ghost haunting about its grounds. Okiku, a servant long ago, was falsely accused of stealing a plate from a set of ten, killed, and her body thrown into a well. Her voice can still be heard at times counting the plates and wailing about the missing tenth plate. The well is there for all to strain to hear her tortured cries if they can. Turns out though that the story may just be there to add a bit of spice to the tour; seems to be an adaptation of an old folk tale called Banchō Sarayashiki.

But there were no ghosts at our next stop, only a large, beautiful garden. Kōko-en boasts nine separate gardens showing off various facets of the Edo period. If memory serves me, the garden complex was one time a part of Himeji Castle, serving as a barracks for guards and servants. Quite the impressive garden; all of our tour books mentioned it but didn’t really serve up an impressive summary. If you go to Himeji Castle, this is one side trip not to be missed. It has a tranquil flow to it as you walk about; each garden flows seamlessly into each other. There is no jarring realization that you’ve walked from one area to another. Harmony… a distinct Japanese concept beautifully realized in cultivated nature. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.