The main attraction in Kanazawa is undoubtedly the garden of Kenrokuen. Kenrokuen attracts thousands of visitors every day from all over Japan and abroad.
Formerly the site of Lord Maeda's mansion (the Maeda family were the hereditary feudal lords of the Kaga area from 1583) the strolling, landscape garden was built and added to from the 17-19th centuries.
At 114,435 square meters, Kenrokuen is the largest of Japan's "Big 3" gardens - the others being Kairakuen in Mito and Korakuen in Okayama.
As Kenrokuen was over 200 years in the making it is not really one complete garden but scores of smaller gardens grouped together to form the overall harmonious effect.
The name, Ken-roku-en, refers to "combined-six-garden", a reference to the six attributes of perfection of Sung-dynasty gardening in Luoyang, China: abundant fresh water, antiquity, artificiality, seclusion, space and pleasing panoramas.
Pools, lakes, streams and waterfalls are certainly a major feature of Kenrokuen, which boasts Japan's first fountain, created using the natural pressure of water flowing from a higher pond to a lower one.
The central pond Kasumigaike is fronted by the Kotojitoro stone lantern, where most visitors pose for a snapshot on the Kotobashi Bridge. The other large lake, Hisagoike Pond, has an ornamental pagoda - Kaisekito - on a small island in its midst.
There are a two main tea house pavilions (Yugaotei and Shiguretei) built in the garden where the elite of Kanazawa could enjoy the tea ceremony and views of the garden. Nowadays more mundane wooden shacks serve the same purpose with beer and soft drinks as well as a bowl of whisked green tea.
With over 180 species of plants and 8,750 trees, Kenrokuen can be enjoyed in any season - there are plum and cherry trees in spring, azaleas and irises in summer and the magnificent pines throughout the year. In winter the pine trees are supported with ropes (yukizuri) to help them withstand the weight of the snow.
Kenrokuen is busy and if possible it is best to make an early start. After your visit warm up or cool off in the splendid 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art across the road or stroll the adjoining Kanazawa Castle.
Tel: 076 234 3800
Admission 300 yen
7am-6pm March 1-October 15
8am-4.30pm October 16-end of February
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Japan Kanazawa Japanese Garden Ishikawa Kenrokuen
Saturday, August 18, 2007