The last time I set my feet upon the winding paths of Kenrokuen, it was – if memory serves – a dreary, dim, cloudy day, with barely enough sunlight to see by and cold droplets of rain pelting my head at odd intervals.
It was also – if memory serves – a uniquely peaceful and invigorating experience, wandering across the rambling expanse of one of the finest traditional gardens in Japan.
That was six years ago, more or less. I’m glad to see that some things haven’t changed since then.
For starters, the dreariness was still there, along with the dimness and the clouds and the poor sunlight and occasional splatters of rain and all the rest. Bearing in mind that this was one of the wettest corners of Japan, one really couldn’t hope for something altogether different.
But for all that, the peace remained. And with it the sense of invigoration, the invitation to wander, and the rambling expanse of this superbly beautiful garden.
Like many of Japan’s best traditional gardens, Kenrokuen (兼六園) was initially laid out not as a public park, but as a private retreat – in this case for the Maeda lords who ruled over Kaga Domain from neighbouring Kanazawa Castle. In fact, if one were to zoom out a wee bit…
…the garden’s very close proximity to the castle, which even today is almost directly accessible to it by way of a wide pedestrian bridge, stresses its former role as an element of the broader castle compound. For hundreds of years, Kenrokuen was a place where the Lords of Kaga (and those whom they saw fit to entertain) could take refuge in, where acres of tree-covered terrain would shield them from the pressures of administrative duties as they engaged in such refined pursuits as tea ceremonies and poetry readings.
Now then, enough with the boring commentary … it’ll just make the dreariness seem all that much heavier. The prefectural government’s Kenrokuen website will supply more details for those who desire them. For the moment, let’s cease all idle chatter and go for a stroll.
Afterwards, I returned to my own private retreat … namely my budget hotel room.
The bus from the garden brought me to Kanazawa Station, where I quickly stole a shot of the iconic wooden gateway after a long succession of other visitors had snapped their own commemorative photographs and slunk quietly out of view. (Yes, my friends: if there’s one thing that completely ruins great scenery, it’s people. Myself included. Hence my seething hatred of selfies.)
With the building nicely spruced up for the newly opened Hokuriku Shinkansen, it’s actually not a bad place to wander through briefly – but right now I’ve got just one more image to share, taken within the soaring glass-roofed plaza past the monumental gateway.
That large banner says that if we’re talking about coming to Kanazawa, spring would be a good time. And summer. And autumn. And winter.
So basically, just come. Whatever season it happens to be.
With all that I’d seen thus far, all I was about to see, and the many things that I’ve yet to see and look forward to encountering in a future visit, I’m more than inclined to agree.