Spotlight: Kenrokuen (Kanazawa)

Back in the summer, I managed to get in a trip to the first (for me) of Japan’s top three gardens – Korakuen, in Okayama City. While I enjoyed the visit and thought the garden was lovely, I wasn’t sure if it really deserved the moniker of “top 3”. (There was a bit too much … lawn … for me). So I was a little hesitant when I walked through the gates of Kenrokuen, the second of the best gardens in Japan, and prepared myself with some low expectations.

Happily, I was proven wrong. This garden blew me away.

Entrance to Kenrokuen
Entrance to Kenrokuen

Granted, I managed to arrive on the cusp of two unique viewing seasons – autumn, when the leaves were truly at their peak; and early winter, when the garden employees are out in full force preparing the trees for heavy snows. It’s a unique sight to catch the garden’s flora protected by bamboo structures that look a bit like tent poles or Christmas trees.

Autumn leaves
Autumn leaves
Prepping the trees for winter
Prepping the trees for winter

Kenrokuen began its life as the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle, constructed and carefully tended to by the ruling Maeda family. When the end of the Edo Period signified the downfall of the samurai, Kenrokuen was repurposed and opened to the public in 1871.

The Shigure-tei Teahouse makes a nice stop, and surprisingly, you can either pay for a cup of tea and view the tea house’s private garden from a quiet veranda or simply enjoy a beautiful view of the same garden (just a different angle) from the room to the right for no fee whatsoever.

The private garden at the Shigure-tei Tea house
The private garden at the Shigure-tei Tea house
View from the public room of the tea house
View from the public room of the tea house

Kenrokuen is easily reached via the Kanazawa Loop Bus that circles the city’s main sights and it’s only a short walk from Kanazawa Castle (though frankly, it’s not worth entering the few reconstructed castle buildings so give the combination garden/castle ticket for ¥500 a miss). If you see only one sight in all of Kanazawa, make it this one. You won’t be sorry.


Tomorrow my family and I will be winging my our back to the States to celebrate Christmas with our parents and siblings. I’ve managed to write and will auto-post enough posts to keep you all reading through the New Years holiday (a rare bout of productivity amidst the pre-trip craziness these past few days :P) but if I’m a bit absent in the comments, I promise I’ll get to them all at some point. Happy holidays to you all!

3 thoughts on “Spotlight: Kenrokuen (Kanazawa)

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    1. Mustang.Koji, it was amazing. I was already on a “high” from a straight week of experiencing kouyou in Gifu-ken but emotionally I felt like a kid in a candy shop walking around Kenrokuen. Everywhere I turned, I was faced with something incredibly beautiful. My camera got quite the workout there! Autumn is my favorite season anywhere, but a Japanese autumn is truly spectacular.

  1. We visited Kenroku-en in winter and it was still amazingly beautiful. It can be enjoyed during each of the seasons. Spring is best for the plum and cherry blossoms, early summer for the azaleas and irises, summer for the green leaves, autumn for the beautiful red and yellow leaves, and winter for the snow covered landscape.

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