Kanazawa in Autumn

Three Great Gardens of Japan

Happy New Year to you all!  

It is 2023 already! We hope you had a lovely festive season and we are already looking forward to what this new year brings for us!  Some of you may know that we have been holding a pop-up shop at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate every year, usually around this time, for the last 5 years.  Harlow Carr is one of five public gardens run by the Royal Horticultural Society and is one of the most popular destinations in Harrogate (North Yorkshire) near to where we are based. There are so many beautiful gardens in the UK, many visited not only by local people but also by tourists from all around the world. A lot of Japanese people love nature and enjoy visiting beautifully designed gardens, and of course there are many stunning gardens in Japan too. In fact, some of these Japanese gardens have actually been influenced by English style gardens, such as Yokohama English Garden, Barakura English Garden etc.  However, today, I would like to introduce to you Three Great Gardens in Japan. 

Kairakuen (偕楽園) 

Kairakuen is in Mito city, Ibaraki which is located in north of Tokyo, less than 2-hour drive away. Kairakuen was created by Nariaki Tokugawa, one of the feudal lords of the Mito domain in 1824 (Edo period). ‘Kairaku (偕楽)’ means to have enjoyable time with a crowd and ‘en ()’ means garden. As the name suggests, it was Nariaki Tokugawa’s wish that he and his people have an enjoyable time together. It was designated a National Historic Site and also a National Place of Scenic Beauty. The other notable thing about this garden is its beautiful plum trees, they actually hold a plum blossom festival every year from late February to late March. Being in the Kanto area, this garden is the closest to Tokyo. 

Plum trees in bloom in Kairakuen

Kenrokuen (兼六園) 

Kenrokuen is in Kanazawa city, Ishikawa, which is on Sea of Japan coast of central Japan. It was outer garden of nearby Kanazawa castle. ‘Kenrokuen (兼六園) ’ means ‘garden that combines six characteristics.’ These six characteristics are spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, abundant water and magnificent views. Like other gardens, it offers beautiful seasonal sites. However, I would say the most impressive view of Kenrokuen is in winter. Yukitsuri – a traditional Japanese technique for preserving trees and shrubs from heavy snow, is such an amazing view. The branches are held in place with ropes to prevent them from breaking under the weight of the heavy snow and the precision work done by professional gardeners is definitely worth seeing. You can also find a unique well-known symbol which is Kotojitoro lantern, a two-legged stone lantern standing by Kasumigaike Pond. 

Pine trees with Yukitsuri and Kotojitoro lantern by Kasumigaike pond in Kenrokuen

Korakuen (後楽園) 

Korakuen is located in Okayama, which is actually where I’m from and I have visited there so many times! This garden is the furthest from the capital of Japan, Tokyo, as it is in down south towards Hiroshima on Honshu main island. a colleague of mine visited there and wrote a blog, so check this as well if you are interested. It is, like Kenrokuen, created as outer garden of Okayama castle. It was initially called 'Kōen(後園)', which means ‘later garden’ because it was built after Okayama Castle. However, since the garden was built in the spirit of an old Chinese proverb: ‘worry earlier than others, enjoy later than others’ or ’sen-yu-koraku (先憂後楽)’ the name was changed to Korakuen. The garden was used as a place for entertaining important guests and as a retreat for feudal lords, although common people could also visit on certain days. I particularly like the fact that they have the majestic crane birds there!  

A view of Korakuen and Okayama castle  

I hope after reading this information about these gardens, you will have gained not only some knowledge about these wonderful places, but perhaps, feel like visiting such places too! Whether here in the UK or taking the amazing trip to Japan!  But until then..  We are now back at RHS Garden Harlow Carr  again this year from 7th January to 19th March. We have all our products PLUS exclusives to the pop-up shop including vintage Kimonos. It is a great opportunity for you to look around and purchase from our fantastic selection of authentic Japanese goods at this pop-up shop. We are looking forward to having you there and meeting you in person! 

Harlow Carr pop-up shop

Harlow Carr pop-up shop                      

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