A Garden Tour in Japan

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A view of the Kotojitoro Lantern overlooking the Kasumigaike Pond at Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Japan

Opposite of Tokyo, on the west coast of Japan, sits the city of Kanazawa, in the Ishikawa Prefecture. Just like our own west coast, here in Canada, it is known for its rainy days. In fact, there is a local proverb: “Even if you forget your packed lunch, don’t forget your umbrella.”

Water is central here, with two rivers, the Saigawa and the Asanogawa, making their way through the city. But it is the rain that also delivers the lush green that is integral to Kanazawa, making one feel as if they are in a forest garden. Of course, in spring, it is awash in cherry blossoms, but when we visited, it was aflame with the intensity of fall.

In Kanazawa, to be lost in the woods takes on a completely polar opposite meaning. Like a silk obi belt ties together the most exquisite kimono, in Kanazawa, form, function and beauty come together, and come alive. I’m standing in Kenrokuen, what is considered by experts the third most beautiful garden in Japan.

If this is third, then all I can say is the first and second must be mind-blowing. It’s autumn here and, although the trees lack the sheer colour explosion of our Canadian varieties, there is colour, nonetheless. Burnt orange leaves, fern green pines, near black ponds and pools provide striking contrast.

Everything is mapped out, meaningful. The gardeners and nature’s caregivers have meditated on this piece of land, all 11.4 hectares of it, wrapping the plants, flowers, trees and sculptures around the soft curves of the ponds and lakes and along the harder edges of the river that runs through it. Tree branches are held up by golden strings, some, upwards of 80 years old, need the leg up of protection against the weight of rain and snow. But it is beautiful, artful, the strings a pyramid-like extension of branches, all in harmony and balance with the earth tones and pale-sky backdrop. And, if you’re really lucky, you may not need your umbrella. www.ilovejapan.ca

Click through for a photo garden tour of Kenrokuen.


The Fountain, near the entrance, welcomes garden goers.

The Kotojitoro Lantern and its Kasumigaike Pond view.

The Karasakinomatsu Pine, more than 80-years-old is protected from the weight of rain and snow with artful, golden chords called yukitsuri.

Taking a stroll through the garden dressed in their finest.

The Gankobashi Bridge.

One of the many caretaker/gardeners at Kenrokuen, dressed in blue uniform, with one of the many sculptures dotted throughout the garden.

The Meijikinen Monument, featuring a statue of Prince Yamato Takeru.

A landscape that mixes hard and soft elements with water.

Another view of the pines, with yukitsuri supports. www.ilovejapan.ca