Beginning of a Legacy
When asking what the most beautiful garden in Japan is, there’s actually three. These gardens have actually earned titles of “most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan.” These gardens consist of Mito’s Kairakuen, Okayama’s Korakuen, and Kanasawa’s Kenroku-en. It took nearly two centuries to construct these stunning landscapes. Their origins stem from the Kanazawa castle it surrounds. Kanazawa castle was constructed by the Maeda family in the 1580s and the landscape was the castles private gardens. In 1871 the castle and it’s gardens opened to the public.
The Perfect Garden
History is always fun, but Let’s get to the good stuff. The name given to the gardens “Kenroku-en” translates into “Garden of the Six Sublimes.” This relates to a Chinese landscape theory which states to create the perfect garden it must have six important elements; spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and broad views. These elements are all apparent in the good deal of water fetchers, bridges, flowers, viewpoints, trees, flowers and even hidden areas with viewpoints to gaze out at the stunning gardens.
One of the amazing thing about the streams and lakes is that they were actually constructed in 1632. Pathways were constructed from a distant river to supply flowing water to the castle gardens. On of the iconic symbols of Kenroku-en is a unique lantern placed at one of two of the gardens two ponds, Kenroku-en. This lantern is built with two legs instead of one and is over two meters tall. Also in Kenroku-en pond is one of Japan’s oldest water fountains. This fountain is powered by the lower elevation from the pond. This pushes the water forcing it to shoot 3.5 meters into high. The other pond nearby, Hisagoike pond, features a small waterfall.
Kenroku-en in the Seasons
To be expected from a garden, the spring offers a fast amount of flowers and beauty. Around mid February until the end of march visitors will be able to see the plum blossoms at the southern end of the garden. Once you hit about mid April the cherry blossom trees will come into bloom. To find the cherry blossom trees you’re going to want to head toward the streams in the northeastern side of the gardens. In the summer there will be plenty of other varieties of flowers that grow throughout the garden, also expect to see a lot of greenery.
In Autumn the garden takes on a new palette of colors. You’ll be able to see the maple and cherry trees start to turn around November up to early December. To find the red and orange maples you’re going to want to head to the garden’s eastern side near Yamazakiyama and the Kodatsuno Gate. There’s also a large bronze statue in that area of a legendary prince Yamato Takeru, referred to as the Meiji Monument. This statue is dedicated to the soldiers who were killed in the Seinan War which was a civil war whom followed the Meiji Restoration.
Lets face it, if you go to a garden in the winder there’s going to be a LOT less nature than the other seasons. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to see. In the winter Kenroku-en turns into a beautiful wonderland. Gently powdered snow will dust the landscape. You will see some trees covered in traditional seasonal protection to prevent damage from snow. After all, you want to make sure they’re still there for the following year. You will still be able to see the Karasaki Pine, one of the garden’s most prominent trees. It was planted as a seed and grows next to Kasamigaike Pond with some of its branches reaching far past the edge of the pong, hanging over the surface.
What to do at Kenroku-en
So, going to the garden is great, but I’m sure you’re also looking for some things to do while you’re there. Of course the keepers are Kenroku-en are going to have you covered. As to be expected in a garden you’re going to find walking trails. Some favored trails of visitors are the ones that go to a bit higher ground than the rest of the park. This is going to give you a stunning overview of Kenroku-en that you can’t miss. You will also find tea houses inside the gardens. Here you can drink tea and eat traditional Japanese sweets while enjoying the surrounding scenery.
And don’t forget, souvenirs are important! So, just outside the paid area of the grounds you’ll find a lovely walkway lined with cherry trees, shops, and restaurants between the Katsurazaka and Renchimon gates. This is a highly recommended rest spot in the spring when the cherry blossoms have come into bloom.
I’m of course not local to the area, but I did find directions to the location so you know how to get there.
Kenroku-en is also a stop along the tourist oriented Kanazawa Loop Bus (stop numbers LL9 and RL8) and the Kenroku-en Shuttle Bus (stop number S8). The one way ride from Kanazawa Station takes about 20 minutes and costs 200 yen (100 yen on weekends/holidays in the case of the Kenroku-en Shuttle Bus).
Alternatively, frequent Hokutetsu buses run between Kanazawa Station (East Exit bus stop number 3) and Kenroku-en (15 minutes, 200 yen one way). Get off at Kenroku-en-shita bus stop, which is a short walk from the castle park. Furthermore, there are 1-3 JR buses per hour from Kanazawa Station (East Exit bus stop number 4), which are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Hours of Operation
- 7:00 – 18:00 (from March until October 15th)
- 8:00 – 17:00 (from October 16th until February)
Early Admission Hours:
- From 5:00 (From April to August from 4:00, November to February from 6:00)
- Early admission visitors must exit the garden before the start of regular hours
There are no closing days for Kenroku-en
- 310 yen ($2.82 based on 1/19 conversion rate)
- Free during early admission hours
- Included in the Kenroku-en Plus One Ticket