At the beginning of this year I had the opportunity to visit Kanazawa for the first time. Kanazawa is a city located in the Sea of Japan coast and it is a quite popular tourist destination but considerably less visited than other places like Kyoto or Hiroshima because it can’t be reached by bullet train. From Tokyo it takes between 5 and 6 hours to arrive to Kanazawa, half of the distance in Shinkansen and the rest in a normal train. Even though it is far and it was much colder than Tokyo, it was totally worth it!
Before going to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art where we could go inside the fake pool, on the morning we visited Kenrokuen garden (兼六園). It is one of the “Three most important-beautiful-famous gardens in Japan” (日本三名園) according to the Japanese government, the other two being Koraku-en in Okayama and Kairaku-en in Mito.
The name of the garden “Kenrokuen (兼六園)” could be literally translated as “the garden of the 6 characteristics” and it refers to 6 aspects considered to be important when designing a garden: serenity/isolation, old atmosphere/respect to ancestors, beautiful views from almost every spot, refreshing (it should have water flows), attention to detail, and spacious.
These are my impressions regarding the six different aspects during my visit to the garden:
- Serenity/isolation: even though it is located in the center of the city, while strolling around the garden you feel like you are in a distant and calm place just after entering the garden. You can’t hear the traffic noise and you can only hear the murmur of the water.
- Old atmosphere/respect to ancestors: construction started in the 17th century and after several expansions it reached its present state at the end of the 18th century. It is connected to the Kanazawa castle, in the park you can find several tea houses and the oldest artificial fountain in Japan can be found still working in the garden.
- Beautiful views from almost every spot: you can get beautiful pictures from almost every place in Kenrokuen but there are popular spots to take the best photos. This one is considered the most beautiful view of the garden next to Kasumigaeki lake:
- Refreshing (it should have water flows): it has two main lakes, several water streams that connect them both and a waterfall. I guess in Summer it will be refreshing
- Spacious: all walking paths within the park are wide and the areas with trees are very spacious. Moreover, as the two lakes are on a different level, you have the sensation that the park is bigger than it really is. When you have walked all over the park it seems like you have been to many different places, you have gotten lost and then you realize that you are back at the entrance of the park.
- Attention to detail: the girl that served us tea in one of the rest houses told us that all trees and bushes that we were seeing through the window had been carefully chosen according to their size, proportions, color of the flowers, etc in order to create a unique landscape depending on the season.
The tourou on the right is famous because it only has two legs. They normally have three.
Each different season the garden stands out for something in particular. In winter what grabs your attention are the ropes and bamboo canes arrangements called Yukitsuri (雪つり) that are used when it snows to hold the tree branches and maintain the trees in the same shape.
If you visit the garden make sure to visit one of the tea houses (Shiguretei is the most beautiful) where you can have an excellent matcha for 500 yen.