National

Okayama Korakuen Garden enjoys rebound in tourism

Kyodo

Visitors to Korakuen Garden in Okayama, one of the nation’s top three Japanese gardens, exceeded 800,000 for the first time in 15 years, thanks to a surge in tourism and events to lure young people.

Attendance hit 817,260 in fiscal 2015 ended in March. The last time it passed the 800,000 line was in fiscal 2000, on the 300th anniversary of its foundation.

Korakuen was created by Ikeda Tsunamasa, the feudal lord of the Okayama clan, about 300 years ago. It is widely known as one of Japan’s three beautiful gardens, along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, and Kairakuen in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Visitors peaked in fiscal 1972, when shinkansen runs began to Okayama. The number has hovered between 600,000 and 800,000 since dropping below 1 million in fiscal 1994. In fiscal 2014, the prefecture crafted an action plan to push it back up to 750,000 by fiscal 2016.

“It was a pleasant miscalculation that we reached the goal one year earlier,” said an Okayama prefectural official in charge of the plans.

What the prefecture first targeted was young people. Tying up with Okayama Castle, which is next to the garden and managed by the city of Okayama, the prefecture’s night illumination events last fall proved popular with young couples. This year, it did the same thing in spring.

Okayama is also focusing on reeling in foreign tourists.

The prefecture began increasing the number of information boards written in English and Chinese after the Japan edition of the Michelin Guide travel book rated the garden as a three star destination in 2009, along with Mount Fuji and other places.

The city then increased the number of Wi-Fi hot spots to meet tourist demand.

As a result, the number of foreign tourists stood 98,415 in fiscal 2015, about 12 percent of its yearly total and up 32.8 percent from the previous fiscal year.

“We will continue to let people know about the attraction of Korakuen that Okayama has long cherished and protected, and will help further increase the number of visitors,” said Masashi Nozaki, head of the garden’s office.

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