Monday, July 1, 2013

Kenrokuen Garden

Hubby and I visited Kenrokuen Garden on April 29th. Kenrokuen Garden is located in the central part of Kanazawa City in Ishikawa prefecture. Kenrokuen Garden is one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, along with Kairakuen Garden in Mito City and Korakuen Garden in Okayama City. The garden has an area of 114000 square meters, and is filled with a variety of trees, ponds, waterfalls, rocks, and flowers. In fact, the garden contains about 8750 trees and 183 species of plants in total. The garden is located next to Kanazawa Castle, and used to be the outer garden of the castle. The garden is designed as a stroller’s garden. The name Kenrokuen means ‘garden of six sublimities’, which refers to spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, abundant water courses, and panoramic views. According to Chinese landscape theory, these six essential attributes make up a perfect garden.

Kenrokuen Garden was constructed by Maeda Clan of Kaga Domain from the 1620s to the 1840s. The garden was gradually developed over a period of nearly two centuries. It was originally the garden of the outer residence of Kanazawa Castle. In 1620s and 1630s some of the water canals of the garden were constructed. Tsunanori, the fifth lord of Maeda Clan, began the actual development of the garden in 1676. A fire outside the castle area destroyed the garden and some of the buildings in the garden in 1759. The garden was reconstructed and enlarged in 1774 by the eleventh Maeda Clan lord Harunaga, and was finally completed in 1822 by the twelfth lord Narinaga. The garden was opened to the public in 1874 after the Meiji Restoration. It was designated as a special place of scenic beauty in 1985.

On 29th April, hubby and I visited Kenrokuen Garden in the morning at about 8 am. We parked our car at a parking area located near the hotel in Kanazawa City where we had stayed the previous night, and walked up to the garden. The garden is located about one kilometer southeast of the hotel, and it took us about 20 minutes of leisurely walk to reach the garden. On our way, we passed Modern Literature Museum in Chuo Garden. In front of the museum building, we saw a monument with three statues of students of the former Fourth Upper High School (preparatory schools for the Imperial Universities). This is because the museum is housed in the former school building.
Hubby standing next to a pyramid structure near a building named ATRIO in Kanazawa City

I am standing next to the monument with three statues of students located in the grounds of Modern Literature Museum

We entered Kenrokuen Garden from a gate named Mayumisakaguchi Gate located on the west side of the garden. Just after crossing the gate, we saw a ticket booth where we paid 300 Yen per person as admission fee to enter the garden premises. Several Ume (plum) trees that were at an advanced stage of blooming, welcomed us into the garden. There are several walking trails in the garden and we were initially a bit confused as to which trail to follow, so we looked up a map on an information board located near the gate.
I am standing in front of Mayumisakaguchi Gate outside Kenrokuen Garden

Blooming plum trees near the gate inside the garden premises

Hubby standing next to the information board

Right in front of us at the west-northwest area of the garden we saw a pond named Hisago-ike Pond. Its name comes from the gourd-like shape with the center of the pond narrowed. There is a pair of big and small islands on the pond that symbolizes youth and longevity. The pond is connected by the ground to Yugao-tei Tea House. This tea house was built in 1774 and is the oldest building in the garden.
Hisago-ike Pond along with Yugao-tei Tea House at the far end

Next we walked towards the plum grove located in the southwest-central area of the garden. The plum grove was landscaped from 1968 to 1969 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Meiji period. The saplings for the plum grove were gathered from different places all over Japan that are famous for plum trees. The grove now has 200 plum trees of 20 varieties. We loved the landscape architecture of this area of the garden. The beauty of the plum trees along with various other varieties of trees, rocks, flowing water, and paved pathway was really perfect and enjoyable. We saw a boat shaped arbor named Funa-no-ochin located next to the plum grove. This arbor is used for relaxing and enjoying the plum flowers. We did not go near the arbor as it was very crowded with visitors. We also saw a pine tree with a heart shaped scar wound on its trunk. During World War II, turpentine was gathered from this tree trunk that was used as fuel for military planes in June 1945.
I am walking towards the plum grove

Plum grove

Rocks and flowing water in the plum grove

Hubby walking along the paved pathway in the grove

Hubby and the beautiful landscape of the plum grove

Another view of the plum grove

Yet another view of the grove

Funa-no-ochin arbor along with many visitors

A heart shaped scar wound on a pine tree trunk

Afterwards, we walked towards the southeast-central area of the garden. On our way we saw carefully tended moss covering a vast area of the grounds in the garden. We continued walking and climbed a few steps along the paved pathway. We also crossed a bridge over a small stream. It was a very simple bridge made of two wooden planks in a zigzag manner. We stood over the planks and admired the views around us.
Moss-covered grounds in the garden

Beautifully landscaped garden

Hubby climbing up a few steps along the paved pathway

Hubby walking along the pathway

Exotic garden to our right side as viewed from the plank bridge over a small stream

The garden to our left side as viewed from the plank bridge

In the southeast-central area of the garden, we saw an unusual pine tree named Neagari-no-matsu, which means raised roots pine. The tree has more than 40 big and small roots raised about two meters on the ground. This tree was raised by Nariyasu, the thirteenth lord of Maeda Clan. He initially planted a young pine sapling on the mounded ground, covering the roots well with soil. When the tree had grown, he removed the soil to show the roots. The tree creates a peaceful aesthetically appealing environment in the garden. We loved this tree.
Raised roots of Neagari-no-matsu pine tree

Neagari-no-matsu pine tree

It is a huge tree

I am standing in front of the tree

In the southeast-central area of the garden, we saw another interesting spot named Hanami-bashi, which means flower viewing bridge. It is a wooden pedestrian bridge over a small stream. The bridge has Giboshi ornaments on the handrails. We can enjoy excellent view of flowers from the bridge. Various flowers like cherry, iris, and azalea bloom in season along the stream, which attracts many visitors. However, we could only see fresh green leaves as it was not flowering season.
I am standing on Hanami-bashi Bridge. Giboshi ornaments are clearly seen on the handrails.

I am standing on the bridge with exotic view of the garden on one side of the bridge

Wonderful view of the stream and a small island on the other side of the bridge

Standing on Hanami-bashi Bridge, towards the east side we saw a tiny island named Sekirei-jima in the middle of the stream. The island has a stone Torii Gate, Yin and Yang stones, a pair of intertwined pine trees, and a five-storied stone pagoda. The Yin stone, the pine trees, and the pagoda represent three major ceremonies of life, namely, birth, marriage, and death, respectively.
Sekirei-jima Island as viewed from the backside. The stone Torii Gate and pagoda are partially seen.

Next, we walked towards the east side of the garden and saw a huge structure named Meiji Monument. The monument has a 5.5 meters tall statue of a legendary prince named Yamatotakeru-no-Mikoto in the center and a monument of the war dead on the left side. The Meiji Monument including the pedestal is 6.5 meters tall, and is dedicated to the soldiers who died in the Seinan Battle of 1877. The monument was erected in 1880 and is believed to be the first bronze statue in Japan.
Meiji Monument

Statue of Yamatotakeru-no-Mikoto

The facial expression of the statue is vivid

Meiji Monument as viewed from the side

Afterwards, we continued walking towards the east side and reached a hill named Shichifukujin-yama located at the easternmost point of the garden. Shichifukujin-yama means Seven Lucky Gods Hill. It is also called Fukuju-yama, which means the hill of happiness and longevity. A unique feature of the hill is seven naturally shaped stones that are arranged modeling the seven lucky gods. It is a built-up hill, and has winding streams and Yukimi stone lanterns. From the hill, we got wonderful views of Kanazawa City and mountains in the background.
We saw an elegantly landscaped area of the garden while walking towards Shichifukujin-yama Hill

Shichifukujin-yama Hill with seven stones (middle of photo) and a Yukimi lantern (left side of photo)

Kanazawa City as viewed from the hill

I am walking along the paved pathway near the hill

Next, we followed the paved pathway along the eastern edge of the garden, and continued our walk towards the south side. On our way, we saw a Monument of Basho located at the northern foot of a hill named Yamazaki-yama. A beautiful Haiku is inscribed on this monument, which reads as follows.
The red summer sun
still blazes, mindless of
the lonely autumn breeze
The Haiku was written by the famous poet Matsuo Basho in July 1689 as he traveled from Kanazawa to Komatsu. This Haiku is one of the poems in Oku no Hosomichi. The Haiku was inscribed on the monument by a local poet Sakurai Baishitsu in 1846.
I am walking along the eastern edge pathway towards the south side of the garden

Pathway leading to the south side of the garden

Monument of Basho

Soon we reached the southeast corner of the garden where a secluded small hill named Yamazaki-yama is located. It is a 60-meters-high built-up hill. Many broad leaf deciduous trees such as maples, horse chestnuts, ginkgo, and zelkova are planted on the hill. It is also called ‘autumn color hill’ as the leaves turn to magnificent red and yellow in autumn. Historically, this hill is interesting because the first foreign scholar in Kanazawa was housed here. In 1871, a two-storied residence for a German mining scholar named Von Dekken was built at the foot of Yamazaki-yama Hill. The building is long gone now, replaced by deciduous trees. While walking, we saw fresh green foliage all around us and it was a spectacular sight to behold. We had to climb up several steps along the paved pathway to reach the top of the hill. A thatched pavilion is erected on the hilltop where we took rest for some time. Sitting there, I felt so peaceful and at complete harmony with nature. After about ten minutes, we walked back along the eastern edge paved pathway, and headed towards the north side of the garden.
I am climbing up a few steps along the paved pathway to reach the top of Yamazaki-yama Hill

I am taking rest at the pavilion erected on the hilltop

Deciduous trees on our way back

While walking along the paved pathway, we saw a magnificent pine tree named Karasaki-no-matsu located in the northeast-central area of the garden. It is a black pine tree that was planted by Nariyasu, the thirteenth lord of Maeda Clan. He obtained its seed from one of the most scenic shore spots of Lake Biwa. The tree looks so elegant because of its exquisite sprawling branches.
Karasaki-no-matsu pine tree

In the northeast-central area of the garden, we saw a pond named Kasumiga-ike. It is the biggest pond in the garden and seems to be located almost in the center of Kenrokuen. The pond has an area of 5800 square meters and is 1.5 meters deep at the deepest point. The pond has various beautiful sites arranged around it. One of the beautiful sites is Uchihashi-tei Tea House, which is an elegant tea house located at the southwestern edge of the pond. It is one of the four tea houses in the garden. The tea house is supported by stone legs but looks as if it is floating on the pond. We saw another beautiful site named Horai Island, which is a small island located at the southeast-central area in the pond. We also noted that several branches of Karasaki-no-matsu pine tree sprawl over the northeastern edge of the pond. We missed taking photos of an iconic lantern named Kotoji and a bridge named Niji-bashi, which are located at the north edge of the pond. We loved strolling around this pond and the surrounding area. It is one of the loveliest places in the garden.
Hubby standing in front of Kasumiga-ike Pond

Biggest pond in the garden

We missed taking photo of a beautiful lantern and a bridge located just outside the right side of this photo

Horai Island

Uchihashi-tei Tea House

After viewing Kasumiga-ike Pond, we finished the walking tour of Kenrokuen Garden. Next, we went to a souvenir shop located in the garden premises and bought a cute pair of cat dolls.
A cute pair of cat dolls

Afterwards, we left Kenrokuen Garden premises and walked past Kanazawa Castle. In fact prior to Meiji period, Kenrokuen used to be the outer garden of the castle. The castle was partially under wraps for restoration work, so we skipped entering the castle this time.
Hubby and I standing near the entrance area of Kanazawa Castle

While going back to the car parking area, we walked along a promenade named Hakuchoro linking Ishikawa-mon Gate and Otebori Moat in Kanazawa Castle Park. Hakuchoro walking path stretches for about 300 meters, and is lined with many bronze statues on both sides of the path. We loved the statue of Maeda Toshiie located near Ishikawa-mon Gate entrance to the promenade.
Statue of Maeda Toshiie on a pedestal

Statue of Maeda Toshiie

Hubby and a bronze female statue

Hubby looking at another female statue

Hubby standing next to yet another female statue

Hubby and I loved the landscape architecture of Kenrokuen Garden. It was fun to visit the garden and enjoy the beautiful views. We reached hubby’s home in Ichinomiya City at about 4 pm, and soon went to see a baseball game at Nagoya Stadium about which I will write in the next post.


stone garden ornaments said...

Wonderful pictures of this garden, thanks for the review. It is really a great place for relax.

अनुपमा पाठक said...


Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks 'stone garden ornaments' for your comments. It was a nice place but we were in a bit of hurry and were in the garden only for a couple of hours. I wish we had more time to enjoy.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Anupama!