IDEAS

The Side of Kenroku-en Garden You Haven’t Seen

23.06.2019

How to Enjoy Kenroku-en Anytime of the Year

In almost every article, blog post and tourist brochure of Kenroku-en, the colorful seasonal “highs” are always featured. But Kenroku-en’s subtle “off-season” beauty is what ranks it among the Three Great Gardens of Japan.

Grab a garden map with your ticket and follow this route anytime of the year.

What Almost Everyone Misses…

The sloped entrance of Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

1. Mayumizaka Entrance

Avoid the worst of Kenroku-en’s high traffic by taking any other entrance than Katsura-zaka! Mayumi-zaka is especially close, directly diagonal of the 21st Century Museum.

That the garden is on a hill isn’t simply a result of natural geography or strategic planning near the castle. The slopes that rise up to the garden proper are part of its design. Visitors’ views are blocked by the path in front of them, hiding the garden from their view. This builds anticipation for what’s to come and what’s to be seen.

ON THE MAP
Mayumizaka Entrance(真弓坂)

MORE NEARBY…

Higaso Ike Pond in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

2. Hisago-ike Pond, Sea Stone Pagoda, & Midori Waterfall

Once called “The Lotus Pond Garden,” this pond and the surrounding area were the beginnings of what has become Kenroku-en Garden Park today. The pond itself is often remarked for its gourd-like shape.

The uniquely shaped stone pagoda is believed to be a gift from Toyotomi Hideyoshi to Kanazawa’s local lord, Toshiie Maeda.

The moderately sized Midori Waterfall is a rarity among Japanese gardens, making it one of the more appealing aspects for Japanese visitors. The branches of a maple hang deliberately in front of the waterfall, adding depth and character to the view.

ON THE MAP
Hisagoike Pond(瓢池)
Keisekito Pagoda(海石搭)
Midoritaki Waterfall(翠滝)

MORE ON KANAZAWA HISTORY…

Fountain in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

3. Fountain

This fountain has no special name, being the very first in Japan. It runs entirely on the pressure created by the higher level of the nearby Sai River. The fountain’s location is directly across from the garden’s birthplace, where it began as a significantly smaller private garden for the local ruling lords.

ON THE MAP
Fountain(噴水)

Kamon Bridge in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

4. Komon-bashi Bridge

Take this bridge to the west, but before crossing, also take a look. The design of this single slab of stone looks like two, one larger slab stacked on one smaller. This gives the illusion of an even smaller bridge, making it appear more delicate and appropriate to the garden surroundings.

The garden shares one other bridge like this one near the Kotoji-toro Lantern, further along our path.

ON THE MAP
Komonbashi Bridge(黄門橋)

Kasumi ga Ike Pond at Kenrokuen Kanazawa

5. Sazae-yama and the view of Kasumi-ga-ike Pond

Spiral up the stairs of the tiny but tall hill called Sazaeyama. At the top is an enclosed stone shrine and wooden parasol, as well as a lovely view of the Kasumi-ga-ike Pond below. Coming back down on the south side, the koi fish gather near the water’s edge. You can often spot turtles and waterfowl here as well.

ON THE MAP
Sazaeyama(栄螺山)
Kasumigaike Pond(霞が池)

MORE VIEWS OF NATURE…

Turtle Island in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

6. Kasumi-ga-ike Pond East Bank: View of Horai-jima “Turtle” Island

This spot is not on the garden map, but can be easily found walking along Kasumi-ga-ike’s east side. The bench below the Japanese maple affords a view of Horai-jima. This island in the middle of the pond is often called “Turtle Island” for its round shape. The giant rock on the south side is its head, and the small pagoda on the north, its tail.

ON THE MAP
Horaijima Island(蓬萊島)

MORE VIEWS WITH WATER…

Kotoji Toro Lantern in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

7. Kotoji-toro Lantern

This is the one spot on our list that everyone has definitely seen in one way or another. This iconic stone lantern is the symbol of Kenroku-en Garden Park and is also often a symbol of Kanazawa. It’s remarkable for it’s distinct shape, especially its uneven legs.

Have you ever seen a koto, also called the “Japanese harp”? Its strings are held up tightly on specially shaped bridges. It’s these bridges that the Kotoji-toro Lantern is named after, as its legs are shaped the same way. When one of its legs broke, it was left unrepaired in a state of “imperfect beauty.”

ON THE MAP
Kotojitoro Lantern(徽軫灯籠)

Panoramic Point in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

8. Panoramic Viewpoint

Over the southern side of Kenroku-en is a wide view of the city and sprawling green mountains. In the distance, a brilliantly white Buddhist stupa can be seen against the green mountain side along the Utatsu Mountain Range. This is one of only ten throughout Japan that were donated by India’s first prime minister in the mid-20th Century.

ON THE MAP
Panoramic Viewpoint(眺望台)

MORE SPIRITUAL CONNECTIONS…

Flying Geese Bridge in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

9. Ganko-bashi, “Flying Geese Bridge”

These carefully placed stones make a split bridge in the shape of a flying flock of geese. The bridge is also often remarked for looking like the character 入, meaning “to enter,” giving a feeling of invitation to this area of the garden. It’s also sometimes called the “turtle bridge” for the shell-like shapes of the individual stones.

ON THE MAP
Gankobashi Bridge(雁行橋)

7 Gods Pagoda in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

10. Seven Gods

This area was once a separate, private garden of the Takezawa Palace, the royal guest house for dignitaries and aristocrats visiting Kanazawa Castle. The palace was reconstructed as a portion of the nearby Seisonkaku Villa, and the garden here remains as part of the larger Kenroku-en Garden Park.

The seven largest natural stones represent the Seven Fortune Gods of Japanese mythology.

ON THE MAP
Seven Fortune Gods(七福神山)

MORE ROYAL GARDENS…

Neagarinomatsu Pine in Kenrokuen, Kanazawa

11. The Neagari Pine

This large pine tree’s full name, Neagari-no-matsu, means “raised roots pine,” for obvious reasons. The tree was planted on a high mount of soil. Once grown, much of the soil was removed from the upper areas of the roots, exposing them to the air and allowing them to develop bark. The result looks like the legs of an octopus, suspending the trunk of the tree above the ground.

ON THE MAP
Neagarinomatsu Pine(値上松)

MORE ON FORESTS & TREES…

Meiji Monument at Kenrokuen Kanazawa

12. Meiji Monument

The patina statue is the figure of Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, a legendary figure of Japanese mythology on par with King Arthur. The figure was erected in honor of lives lost during the Satsuma Rebellion (depicted in the Tom Cruise movie, The Last Samurai).

However, it shares some level of fame today as the subject of an Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Kanazawa University Professor Yukio Hirose discovered that a particular metal in the statue prevents birds from defiling it.

Flower Viewing Bridge in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

13. Flower-Viewing Bridge

The ancient wooden “flower-viewing bridge” is one of the most photographed areas of the garden, as is no surprise. In spring, cherry trees frame the gentle slope of light wood, and in summer, the meandering creek bears iris leaves and purple flowers along its banks.

Almost anytime of the year, the water is bordered by verdant grass and inhabited by various water fowl.

ON THE MAP
Hanamibashi Bridge(花見橋)

MORE ABOUT…

Wagtail Island in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

14. Wagtail Island

A stone torii gate prominently marks this small landmass along one of the eastern waterways. The island possesses peculiarly shaped stones, intertwined pine trees, and a pagoda, which represent birth, marriage, and death, respectively. It takes the name Sekirei from the wagtail bird, who is said to have taught the gods, Izanami and Izanagi, how to conceive. (Shake your tailfeather…)

ON THE MAP
Sekireijima Isle(鶺鴒島)

Yamazaki Hill in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

15. Yamazaki Hill

A standing stone engraved with a haiku marks the beginning of the path up Yamazaki-yama, or Yamazaki Hill. At the top, a wooden rest area provides a cool place to rest and a view. And the hill itself is packed with deciduous trees, making this hill one of the most colorful in the garden during autumn, giving it the moniker “Autumn Hill.”

The nearby pagoda is made of local Ishikawa granite. The water from this area eventually makes its way to Kasumi-ga-ike Pond.

ON THE MAP
Yamazakiyama(山崎山)

Koi Fish in Kenrokuen Kanazawa

More nearby…

Kenroku-en Garden Park Information

FROM KANAME INN
700 meters (approx. 9 min. walk)
to the Mayumi-zaka Entrance

HOURS
March to mid-October:
7:00 – 18:00 (until 6:00 p.m.)

Mid-October to March:
8:00 – 17:00 (until 5:00 p.m.)

PRICE
¥310
Free to enter from sunrise to opening. (Please exit before opening hours.)
Free to enter during select holidays and seasonal evening light-up events.

DISCOUNT TICKET
Kenroku-en, plus one (1) additional facility
¥500

MORE ABOUT…

Ryann
Ryann

Half a decade ago Ryann fell off a bus and then fell in love with this traditional-crafts and ice-cream-consuming capital of Japan. Editor and amateur photographer with a penchant for nature and history. Not actually fifty songbirds in a trench coat.