Six Attributes Garden – Kenrokuen Garden (兼六園) in Japan

As part of our trip to Shirakawa-go, we passed through Kanazawa city and dropped by the Castle and the beautiful Six Attributes Garden, Kenroku-en. It was Autumn and the leaves have changed their colors.

Kenroku-en (兼六園, Six Attributes Garden), located in Kanazawa, Japan, is an old private garden. Along with Kairaku-en in Mito, Ibaragi and Koraku-en in Okayama , Kenroku-en is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.

Kenroku-en was developed from the 1620s to the 1840s by the Maeda clan. The garden is located outside the gates of Kanazawa Castle where it originally formed the outer garden, and covers 114,436 m² (over 25 acres). It began in 1676, the garden was, however, destroyed by fire in 1759.  Restoration begun in 1774, improvements continued in 1822, adding more streams and ponds. The garden was opened to the public on May 7, 1874.

We first passed by the Kotoji Lantern. Kotoji Lantern has two legs, which resembles the Kotoji bridge  in Koto. The lantern is for lighting up the  surface of the pond at night. The sun was setting and this photo taken against the light and  including this lantern, the surrounding old  trees with their colorful autumn foliage was the most  impressive in Kenrokuen.

There are four tea houses in Kenrokuen. We strolled around the Kasumiga-ike Pond and were impressed by the Uchihashi-tei Tea House which is supported on stone piers but looked as if it was floating out of the pond.

The garden’s name was derived from the “Chronicles of the Famous Luoyang Gardens” (洛陽名園記), an ancient book by the Chinese poet Li Gefei (李格非), and stands for the six attributes of a perfect landscape. Kenrokuen is worth visiting because the garden has balanced all six scenic attributes.

According to the chronicles:

兼六”的意思,好的園林要具備的六種特質:

「宏大・幽邃・人力・蒼古・水泉・眺望」

出自中國 詩人李格非 的《洛陽名園記》

「洛人云,園圃之勝,不能相兼者六:

宏大者少幽邃人力勝者少蒼古;多水泉者難眺望

兼此六者,唯湖園而已。予嘗游之,信然」)。

The attributes are grouped into three complementary pairs: Spaciousness & Seclusion;  Artifice & Antiquity;  Water-courses & Panoramas. As the specialists say “it is difficult enough to find a garden that is blessed with any three or four of these desirable attributes, let alone five, or even more rarely, all six”.  A delicate balance between all the pairs, for instance, between “spaciousness” and “seclusion” is required.

Kenrokuen is a monument to art, engineering, and nature.  The garden combines winding paths, meandering streams, landscaped mounds,  placid ponds,  stones, plants, and structures to create a distinctive harmony.  Every  step and turn in the garden brings a new view to stop and admire. We were particularly impressed with the tall old pine trees and the pruned round shrubs.

For centuries Japanese gardens were developed under the influence of the Chinese Gardens, but gradually Japanese garden designers began to evolve their own style, based on Japanese materials and Japanese culture.

We strolled by secluded areas with streams and finally reached the Miyoshian Restaurant on Hisago-ike Pond, which we at first couldn’t make out that it was in fact a restaurant.

Japanese gardens are places of tranquil beauty where man and nature come together as one,  places that ease the transition between the  outside and inside world. The aesthetic qualities are evident even to the most casual observer, but the gardens also provide spaces for reflection ……….. they are also for the minds . We certainly found peace and joy in this garden.