If you haven’t been to Shukkeien Garden in central Hiroshima City then do yourself a favour and go during autumn. Although beautiful in any season, the night autumn foliage illumination is the perfect opportunity to explore the garden.
The original garden was built in 1620 by Ueda Soko, master of the tea ceremony and Asano Nagaakira, the feudal lord of Hiroshima’s main retainer. The name, ‘Shukkeien,’ literally means, ‘shrink scenery garden,’ and refers to the Japanese concept of recreating miniature landscapes to enjoy. This garden is in fact a tiny version of Xihu (West Lake) in Hangzhou, China. Although Shukkeien was almost totally destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945, it was restored to its former glory and is now a popular place for both tourists and locals to visit. You will often see wedding photos being taken or young women in traditional kimono posing for professional photos.
During late November, the garden is open until 9PM with the autumn leaves illuminated for visitors to enjoy. Many people take the opportunity to go a bit earlier and eat a home-cooked or store-bought bento in the grounds of the garden before exploring. The cooler weather usually makes for clear skies and gives you the chance to break-out and wear some of your warmer clothes. Sure, it’s a popular place for a date for couples, but don’t let that put you off if you’re single or if you want to bring your young kids and family. Anyone and everyone will enjoy the autumn foliage. The garden is only 260 yen for adults, 150 for high school and college students and 100 yen for kids, making it a cheap outing for the whole family.
If the traditional Japanese tea ceremony is also your thing, the annual Momiji Maple Viewing Tea Ceremony is on November 12 between 9:30AM-3PM. For 1500 yen, plus the garden entrance fee, it doesn’t come cheap, but it is a chance to learn more about Japanese culture.
It can be difficult to predict exactly when the autumn leaves will be at their best, so I suggest keeping a close eye on the leaves around downtown Hiroshima area (Peace Park etc.) to determine when you should make a trip to Shukkeien Garden. Then again, you can always go multiple times to enjoy the garden at different stages of autumn.
You don’t have to leave the city to find autumn leaves in Hiroshima area and for a bit of peace and quiet, Shukkeien Garden is always a nice place to visit. In fact, you may just fall for it…
Picture by Fg2 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons