As you gaze into the intricate layers of trees, hold tight to your green tea. This park has way more in store than your average green space.
Surround yourself with natural bliss while sipping rich, foamy Japanese green tea at Akasakayama Park in Niigata Prefecture.
This action-packed park is located in Kashiwazaki City, a coastal town famous for its mackerel sandwiches and water polo team. Thanks to its proximity to the Sea of Japan, the weather is mild and trees grow beautifully, making Akasakayama Park the icon of Kashiwazaki. The park is 1.5 kilometers west of the JR Kashiwazaki station and has a size of 13.7 hectares. The main grassy area is great for picnics and for children to run around, yet the Matsukumo Garden part is on a slope and has a pond — perfect for a half-hour tranquil stroll.
In spring, the park showcases the blooming of hundreds of cherry blossom trees; in autumn, the reddening of leaves align the slopes of the park and makes it a picture come alive.
Photo by: Cara Lam
In any other season (when trees are in a lush green or the whole place turns into a winter wonderland), you can relax at the City Museum located right inside of the park. There, exhibitions on the wildlife and mankind of Kashiwazaki, and even a planetarium are available daily except Mondays. On top of that, learn about the legends and history of Mt. Yoneyama — the divine mountain of the area!
Kimura Tea Ceremony Art Museum
In the heart of Akasakayama Park lies an important place for the appreciation of Japanese green tea. Kimura Kankoan established this museum in 1987 with a passion to showcase all the Japanese tea ceremony equipment that he collected in his lifetime.
The museum offers visitors a traditional tea ceremony experience that lasts for 30-40 minutes. All the paintings, flower arrangement and tea bowls of national treasure status in the museum are explained in detail in Japanese at the experience session.
This session comes with a tasting of Japanese sweets (wagashi) and green tea. However, the wagashi and rich green tea (though a bit bitter) have to be enjoyed following a strict set of etiquettes. Also, be prepared to be sitting seiza — or kneeling on the floor while resting your buttocks on the heels — for the entirety of the tea ceremony.
Don’t be too nervous, though, the antique teacup you’re holding may only cost a couple of million yen. 😜