Kenrokuen: A Garden For All Seasons

This is yet another post about the changing seasons. I realize that this has become something of an obsession with me. I’ve been in Kanazawa for 10 months now, so I’ve really gotten to experience the full spectrum of the seasons here. Everyday, I walk along the tiny Asano river to work, and I’ve observed the sudden bursting into bloom in the spring, the lush greenery and twinkle of fireflies in the summer, followed by the deafening sound of the cicadas. Recently, the river has taken on an icey, blue-grey hue, with tall dead golden grass and bare skeleton trees along its banks and the view of snowy mountains in the distance.

On of the most famous attractions in Kanazawa, and something I really recommend taking the time to see for those that come and visit, is Kenrokuen Garden, one of the most famous gardens in Japan. I’m not exactly sure what its claim to fame is, but it is exceptionally beautiful, and a ramble through it makes for a nice outing in every season. At ¥310 (about $2.75), it’s a cheap date, and I’ve visited a handful of times in the past 10 months, in spring, autumn, and winter. I missed summer- it was just too damn hot to go to any outdoor attraction!

Spring is easily the most popular and most crowded time to visit Kenrokuen. It seems that every tree is in bloom and covered in delicate blossoms, and strolling through the garden is like a magical Japanese daydream. Getting photos without tourists in them is near impossible, but it’s hard to be grumpy when everyone’s faces are filled with awe and wonder. Also, the admission is free during cherry-blossom time, so everyone can have a chance to marvel at this brief wonder (peak blossoms only last about two weeks).

A pond in Kenrokuen Garden in springtime. Shot on iphone.

Just as the cherry blossoms are fleeting, so are the colorful maple leaves in the autumn season. My autumnal visits were poorly timed, so I actually missed the leaves! But the garden has amazing cypress trees and pines that have green leaves year-round, as well as lovely ponds, fountains, and a few different tea houses, so there is always something to see.

A teahouse overlooking a small pond in autumn. Shot on film.

My favorite season though, has got to be winter. So far, December has been more wet than white, but a few weeks ago, we woke up to a winter wonderland, with a constant flurry of snowflakes that fell all day long. Not sure how long it would last, my friends and I decided to make the most of the snowy day and take in the beauty of Kenrokuen. We were not disappointed.

One of my favorite features of Kanazawa in the winter are the iconic rope tree “tents” that you can see around the city and in Kenrokuen garden. These tents are to protect the trees from the snow, as a heavy snow can weigh down and damage the branches. I love this tradition so much. It shows how much the Japanese live in harmony with and care for nature, and they look so enchanting – especially when reflected in the glassy water of the ponds in the garden.

The same pond with the same teahouse, under a blanket of snow. Shot on iphone.

As much as I am enjoying winter, it’s pretty damn cold here! For the next week and a half I’m escaping to Thailand for some sunshine and New Year’s fun. Much on that to come.

Until then,

Happy Travels and Happy New Year,


A nighttime illumination at Kenrokuen Garden. Shot on iphone.