One of the reasons we traveled to Kanazawa was to see Kenrokuen Garden. It is officially designated as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. Why aren’t there officially Three Great Gardens of the United States? (Although if they were designated now, strings would undoubtedly be pulled to make one of them Mar-a-Lago.)
Kotoji Toro, the two-legged stone lantern (above), is an iconic symbol of Kenrokuen. It is very, very famous in Japan.
Here’s a closer look. There is just a touch of autumn color of the tree above. I’ve tried to think of an equivalent to Kotoji Toro in American culture, but I really can’t. Maybe you can think of something?
Judy skillfully excludes people from almost all of her garden shots, but this picture shows a line of folks waiting to have their picture taken in front of Kotoji Toro. All kinds of people were in line – school kids (many on field trips), young couples, old folks.
One of the things we saw on both our trips to Japan was people wearing kimonos and other traditional garb while strolling in gardens and other scenic spots. The clothes are rentals, and generally not cheap.
It turns out that this is a thing, kind of like going to Colorado and getting dressed up in cowboy clothes. It’s popular with the Japanese to some extent, but reportedly more popular with Chinese and Korean tourists. A Japanese person we talked to was very disapproving because the foreign tourists tended to wear the wrong kind of kimonos for the occasion. Judy and I were not tempted to give it a try.
Back to the garden. Kenrokuen dates back to the 17th Century. It was built by the Maeda clan, the same people who built Kanazawa Castle after subduing the Kingdom of Peasants. In fact, Kenrokuen started as the outer garden for the castle.
Kenrokuen covers about 25 acres, and an amazing number of features are packed into this space. Still, the garden feels very spacious. The many water features, like Kasumigaike Pond, above, are wonderful. Look how that Miscanthus grass catches the light.
This picture was taken from the top of an artificial hill created with excavated soil. There are arborists working on the ancient pine tree across the water.
We loved the naturalistic but man-made streams that wander throughout Kenrokuen.
To the left is the Midori waterfall, with a centuries-old stone pagoda to the right.
We spent a good deal of time watching this Swallowtail Butterfly (anyone know the species?) nectaring on Hosta flowers.
This is called Flying Geese Bridge, because its shape is similar to a formation of migrating geese.
This scene makes me wish desperately that we had been able to visit in the spring. There are thousands of irises planted on either side of the water, along with plum and cherry trees.
This is another one of the venerable pine trees to be found at Kenrokuen.
Kenrokuen is one those Japanese gardens that are covered in places with carpets of cool green moss. There is something magical about the dappled light on the moss.
Sadly, maintaining a perfect carpet of moss is not something that happens without effort. We saw groups of gardeners painstakingly pulling up grass and weeds. I wonder if they also have a misting system – if so, it was well hidden.
There’s a great deal at Kenrokuen that we have left out of this post. I enjoyed visiting this garden, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I suspect a visit in spring or later in fall would have been much more overwhelming.