Okayama’s star attraction, Kōrakuen (後楽園) was founded in 1686 by Lord Ikeda Tsunamasa. This landscaped garden is notable for its wide, lush lawns, which are highly unusual in Japanese garden design. Otherwise, all the traditional elements, including teahouses, artificial lakes, islands and hills, are present, and the black keep of Okayama-jō has been nicely incorporated into the scenery. The strange bleating sound you’ll hear on entering the garden comes from a flock of caged red-crested cranes. Fortunately, Kōrakuen is large enough to soak up the kinds of crowds that deluge other famous gardens, such as Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Ritsurin-kōen in Takamatsu.