The three Chinese characters that make up its name “Kenrokuen” reveal the philosophy behind the garden. The first character, “ken,” means to hold multiple functions. The middle one, “roku,” is the number six. The final character, “en,” signifies garden. Therefore it literally means “a garden with six functions.” So what are these functions? They are derived from a Chinese poem composed about the nineteen great gardens of China. Kenrokuen has six features in direct contradiction to one another. The closest English equivalent to these pairings would be “spaciousness and profoundness,” “artificialness and antiquity,” and “water fountain landscapes and mountain panoramas.” You should find those features when you visit this garden.
If you luckily stroll through Kenrokuen in the spring, you will forget all of these previous conceptual points. Beautiful cherry blossoms or sakura will not allow you to think about them! The pink sight along the boulevard between Kenrokuen and Kanazawajo castle attracts young and old. It smells of spring beginnings, people smile, and excitement is in the air. It is for this exact reason that so many people want to visit the city during this season. Everyone is admitted free of charge to the garden when the sakura fully bloom. The garden is open at night too. Local people crowd for viewing night sakura after work, and also to eat at food stalls. It’s like an annual carnival. Though beautiful sakura trees are everywhere in the garden, you will especially notice many tourists line up to take pictures of the sakura tree and its reflection in the water at the Hisagoike pond (#21). The view is very remarkable!
On the other hand, Hanamibashi bridge (#8) maintains a lovely view of sakura as well along its winding stream. Just so you know, Kenrokuen Kikuzakura (#5) are quite unique as cherry blossoms go, designated as a precious natural treasure. Each bud has more than 300 petals, so it looks just like a chrysanthemum. These late bloomers come into their own a bit after the viewing chaos. Yet the sakura season is not so long in Kanazawa. Once the rain begins, the petals softly and quietly drop to the ground below. Fortunately, sakura is not the only flower in spring, as the Japanese apricot or ume (3/mid-late), or lysichiton camtschatcensis (4/mid-5/early), are also beautiful. Speaking of ume blossom, our lord Maeda’s family crest is just such a blossom with five petals. No one was allowed to use it.
After sakura season is over, the site is getting greener! In May, irise laevigatas (5/mid-late) around the stream and azaleas are quite lovely. If you are lucky, you’ll see a harvest of Japanese apricots in the garden. When one hears of the region’s impending rainy season from June to July, they might feel miserable. However, the garden is highly photogenic when surrounded by beautiful moss just after a rain, because the rain completely clears out the dust from the air. We can hear fireflies that inhabit the garden. In Japan, they show up and shine their lights only in summer. Unfortunately due to the operating hours, we are not allowed to enter the garden at night. However there are some free tours to enjoy those lightning bugs every summer. So ask your accommodation to find out for you! During July and August, be aware of high temperatures without any shade! Around Japan’s oldest fountain (#18), the water will somewhat bring you coolness. It’s supplied from Kasumigaike pond (#2), with the water pressure a result of the difference in elevation between the surface of the pond and the fountain. The jet is about 3.5 meter high.
Autumn is also one of the best seasons to visit the garden as you might guess. The garden is extraordinary with the colors of red and gold. Kenrokuen’s best spot for enjoying Japanese maple and ginko leaves must be around Yamazakiyama hill (#11). Though it depends on the timing, the hill completely covered with leaves is definitely breathtaking. Walk up to the gazebo for a break, then find the stone tablet by the hill (#10) inscribed with haiku verse from Japan’s most eminent poet, Basho Matsuo! The poem says “Aka-aka-to Hiwa-tsurenakumo Aki-no-kaze: after a long summer walking trip, it still seems the same sunny season; yet the cooler breeze lets me notice the autumn has come.
Probably you have seen a picture of pine trees adorned with snow ropes to protect their branches from the weight of the snow. The rope-hanging-work starts in November. The largest pond in the garden, Kasumigaike (#2) is 5.8 square kilometers around and 1.5 meters at its deepest point. When snow falls in winter, the surface of pond is sometimes covered with frozen ice. Although it’s extremely cold to stand by the water, it’s worth it to see the white Kenrokuen. After a winter stroll there, visit a cafe along the Edomachidori street for something warm to drink! During New Year’s holiday (12/31-1/3), entrance admittance is free. Furthermore, it’s open all night on New Year’s Eve.
3 OTHER THINGS TO DO AT THE SITE
Pray at Kanazawa Jinja shrine
Visit Seisonkaku Villa museum
Breakfast at Edomachidori Street (#22)
1. Kotoji Toro Lantern 徽軫灯籠
2. Kasumigaike Pond 霞ヶ池
3. Karasakimatsu Japanese Black Pines 唐崎松
4. Gankobashi Stone Bridge 雁行橋
5. Kenrokuen Kikuzakura Cherry Tree 兼六園菊桜
6. Neagarimatsu Black Pine 根上松
7. Meiji Kinen-no-hyo Monument 明治紀念之標
8. Hanamibashi Bridge 花見橋
9. Seisonkaku Villa 成巽閣
10. Stone Tablet with Basho Matsuo’s Haiku 芭蕉の句碑
11. Yamazakiyama Miniature Hill 山崎山
12. Kanazawa Jinja shrine 金澤神社
13. Kinjo Reitaku well 金城霊沢
14. Ume (Japanese apricot) Glove 梅林
15. Funano-ochin Arbor 舟之御亭
16. Uchihashitei Tea House 内橋亭
17. Sazaeyama Hill 栄螺山
18. Japan’s Oldest Fountain 噴水
19. Yugaotei Teahouse 夕顔亭
20. Shiguretei Teahouse 時雨亭
21. Hisagoike Pond 瓢池
22. Edomachidori Street 江戸町通り