Amongst The Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kenrokuen Garden (兼六園) in Kanazawa is probably the most famous (with the other two being the Kōrakuen (後樂園) in Okayama Prefecture and the Kairakuen (偕樂園) in Ibaraki Prefecture). This National Place of Scenery Beauty is practically the symbol of the city, if not the entire Ishikawa Prefecture!
No matter what season, the garden will still be able to charm and attract tourists from Japan as well as the rest of the world. So if you are visiting Kanazawa just for its beautiful gardens, we can guarantee that you won’t be the only person who steps foot in Kanazawa for that reason!
Click HERE to skip to Kenrokuen’s access information.
A list of Attractions in Kenrokuen
- Kotoji Stone Lantern (徽軫灯籠)
- Shichi-Fukujin-Yama (七福神山) – Seven Lucky Gods Hill
- Neagari-no-Matsu (根上松) – Raised Roots Pine
- The Meiji Monument (明治紀念之標)
- Hanami-Bashi (花見橋) – The Flower Viewing Bridge
- Yamazakiyama Hill (山崎山)
- Yugao-Tei (夕顔亭) – The Gourd Tea House
- The Shigure-Tei Tea House (時雨亭)
- Restaurant – Kenrokutei (兼六亭) and Miyoshian (三芳庵)
☛ Avoid the crowd and visit Kenrokuen as early as possible by staying in a hotel close to the garden, such as Toyoko Inn Kanazawa Kenrokuen Korimbo. If you get up early enough, you might be able to explore the garden for free!
☛ You can also make a reservation HERE to be dressed up in kimono before exploring Kenrokuen and the rest of Kanazawa!
Explore Kenrokuen and Kanazawa With a Guided Tour
If you prefer a guide to introduce you to Kenrokuen or a photographer to take professional photos for you, how about joining one of the below tours?
- Kanazawa Highlights Tour, including Kenrokuen Garden
- Kanazawa Half-Day Tour (Private Guide)
- Kanazawa Full-Day Tour (Private Guide)
- Kanazawa private half-day tour + Photoshoot session by professional photographer
- Kanazawa private 1-day tour + Photoshoot session by professional photographer
- Photoshoot session by a professional photographer in Kanazawa
It Took 180 Years to Complete the Kenrokuen Garden
The origin of the Kenrokuen was said to be the garden of the new villa built for the fifth lord of the Kaga Domain (加賀藩), Maeda Tsunanori (前田綱紀). From then on, 14 successive lords of the Kaga Domain spent another 180 years perfecting the garden to the point that it has all six important characteristics of a garden landscape! To find out what those six characteristics are, refer to Ishikawa Prefecture’s website HERE for a detailed explanation.
As the world of samurais ended, the garden was opened to the general public in 1874, with many tea houses (where the Geishas serve their clients) opened around the same time.
In 2009, the garden earned itself the highest honor of travel destinations worldwide, a Michelin Three-Star! From this point on, the garden has attracted more and more international admirers every year.
Where to Start and the Best Spots in Kenrokuen Garden
Kenrokuen is a garden with a size of around 11 hectares. With a garden of this size, where should you start your exploration?
According to our guide, as it was known as your typical strolling garden during the Edo period, there are really no set sequences as to where you should go first. But if you are coming from Kanazawa Castle, the easiest way to get into the garden is by crossing the Ishikawa Bridge (石川橋), located at the front of the Ichikawa Gate (石川門) of the castle. One of the seven entry points of the garden, Katsurazaka Gate (桂坂口), will be right in front of you in no time.
Kenrokuen is a place for visitors to walk around at their own pace, just as the feudal lord would have done back then. Whilst there are certainly far more stunning spots in the garden, which we will introduce below, the spot that you personally feel is the most beautiful is likely to be the best spot for you.
Kotoji Stone Lantern (徽軫灯籠)
The most popular spot is the Kasumiga-ike Pond (霞ヶ池). However, getting the right angle is very important! To get the best photo, stand in front of the garden’s famous Kotoji Stone Lantern, where you will then see the Karasaki Pine Tree covered by umbrella-like ropes in the background. This view is THE SYMBOL of Kenrokuen!
Just note that the ropes that surround the pine trees will only be there from November to March each year. It is seasonal as the purpose of the ropes is to protect the hundreds of years old pine trees from the heavy snow.
Shichi-Fukujin-Yama (七福神山) – Seven Lucky Gods Hill
Amongst the 8,000 + trees in the garden, the pine trees here at Shichi-Fukujin Yama are said to be one of the most beautiful-looking trees.
The pine trees are just gorgeously shaped that they look like a gigantic version of the Japanese Bonsai!
But remember to pay close attention to the seven black stones under the tree to see if you can spot seven gods out of them. Lacking imagination and creativity, we just couldn’t figure out how the stones would look like the seven lucky gods to the samurais back then…(´▽｀*) You probably will have better luck than us!
Neagari-no-Matsu (根上松) – Raised Roots Pine
Another pine tree that is certainly worth your attention is the 15 meters tall Neagari-no-Matsu. Whilst it might not look as clear in the photo, with part of the tree’s roots separating around two meters from the ground, it almost looks as if the tree is standing up!
Because the root in Japanese pronouncing as “ne” has the same meaning as income, and “agari” means going up, you might see some Japanese people joining their hands together as they pray to the tree. Although you won’t be able to hear what they are praying about, it is no doubt that they are praying for fortune or a higher salary (≧▽≦).
But if it is a student doing so, rather than income, they might be praying for better grades, just like what our guide’s primary school teaching had taught him to!
The Meiji Monument (明治紀念之標)
Very close to Neagari-no-Matsu, there is this 5 meters tall bronze statue of a legendary hero called Yamatotakeru-no-Mikoto (ヤマトタケルノミコト). Being the oldest bronze statue in Japan, it was made to honor the soldiers who died in the Seinan battle (西南戦争) in 1877.
Hanami-Bashi (花見橋) – The Flower Viewing Bridge
There are 33 bridges in Kenrokuen, with the most famous probably being this left bridge which is surrounded by different kinds of flowers from spring to summer.
If you intend to visit the garden during spring, when you get to the Meiji Monument, your attention might be drawn to the cherry blossoms by the Hanami Bridge instead of the gigantic statue!
From late March, cherry blossoms, Azaleas, Japanese Iris, and many more will bloom one after another, making this spot the perfect place to admire the beauty of these flowers. This is why the bridge is called “Hanami”.
Yamazakiyama Hill (山崎山)
If you come to Kenrokuen in autumn, the beautiful fall foliage scenery at Yamazakiyama Hill will be right there soon after you cross the Hinami Bridge.
Close to the Kotatsuno Gate (小立野口) at the north of the garden, this small hill is known as the best place for anyone who wants to enjoy the fall color. That is why it was a nickname, Momijiyama (紅葉山), which means maple tree mountain.
At the top of the hill, there is a small pavilion for you to take a nap or rest. It is also the perfect place to admire the vibrant foliage color (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Yugao-Tei (夕顔亭) – The Gourd Tea House
On the other side of the garden, close to the Renchi-mon Gate (蓮池門口), there is a smaller pond known as Hisago-ike Pond (瓢池). Apparently, the entire Kenrokuen started from here!
On one side of the pond, you will find an old tea house built in 1774. The tea house is the only architecture in the entire garden that has retained its original form at the time of contraction.
For those who have been to a traditional Japanese tea house, you might notice that the entrance of a tea house is usually really small, just a little bit bigger than a square meter. As one can hardly enter the tea house, this type of entrance is called Nijiriguchi (躙口), which translates to Squeak Entrance.
If you are wondering what the purpose is of having such a small entrance, it is so that the samurais cannot enter the tea room with their swords at their waist, ready to attack or kill anyone.
The special thing about Yugao-Tei is its standard-size entrance. The lord of the Kaga Clan didn’t need a Nijiriguchi back then, as he was the only one that was permitted inside the tea house. He wouldn’t need to worry about being attacked by his guests as no one else was allowed in.
The Shigure-Tei Tea House (時雨亭)
Speaking of tea houses, does anyone feel like a bowl of freshly made matcha green tea?
If your answer is “YES!”, come to Shigure-Tei for a bowl of matcha with a premium Japanese sweet!
The Japanese sweets served at Shigurei-Tei change their color and shape, reflecting the season. The taste may differ depending on whether there are any special fillings inside.
If matcha isn’t your thing, the tea house also serves sencha with a different kind of sweet.
- Shigure-Tei is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm daily except the 29th of December to the 3rd of January
- The last admission is at 4 pm
- A bowl of matcha that comes with a premium Japanese sweet will cost you 730 yen
- A cup of sencha that comes with a Japanese sweet will cost you 310 yen
Note between 12 pm and 1 pm, no tea or sweets will be served.
Restaurant – Kenrokutei (兼六亭) and Miyoshian (三芳庵)
There are two restaurants in the garden that are very popular amongst the visitors. So if you don’t book in advance, there won’t be a seat for you.
Unfortunately, neither of the restaurants has a vegetarian menu. At Kenrokutei, the closest menu is their soba or udon noodle soup, which still contains fish broth. But if you still want to have some sort of dining experience in Kenrokuen, both restaurants serve traditional Japanese desserts, which are vegan, should you wish to snack or consume something (^_-)-☆.
For the restaurants’ menu, please refer to their website:
How Long Will It Take to Explore Kenrokuen
We recommend you allocate at least 90 minutes at Kenrokuen, especially if you want to enjoy a hot cup of tea at Shigure-Tei. But if your itinerary is really tight, 40 minutes should be enough for you to stroll through the main spots of the garden, which consists of all six characteristics of a great landscape.
On Ishikawa Prefecture’s website, their 40 minutes course labeled as the “Barrier-Free Course” can be accessed HERE.
For a detailed explanation of each of the spots in the garden, please visit the Ishikawa Prefecture website HERE.
Click HERE to skip to Kenrokuen’s access information.
Kenrokuen’s Opening Hours
Apart from the normal opening hours, Kenrokuen also opens up in the early morning, with 4 am being the earliest (free of entry). So if you want to enjoy the garden without many others while saving on the admission fee, wake up early and head to the garden!
Just note that only two entrances are accessible for early admission. You will also have to leave the garden 15 minutes before its normal opening hours as visitors will pay for their entry.
For more information, please refer to their official website HERE.
Nighttime Light-up at Kenrokuen
Throughout the year, the garden will light up at night during the four seasons. When the lights are up at night, the entry to the garden for the entire day is FREE!
- Spring: around one week in early April when the cherry blossom is blooming and from late April to early May from sunset to 9:30 pm
- Summer: early June and from late July to mid-August from sunset to 9 pm
- Autumn: from early to late November, from sunset to 9 pm
- Winter: mid to late February
For the exact dates, please refer to Kenrokuen’s website’s event page HERE. If the individual event page isn’t translated, you can translate it by using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
Again, you can also contact us HERE if you are unsure.
Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen Free Guided Tour
To access this service, you will need to drop by Kanazawa Castle first. For more information, please refer to our article about Kanazawa Castle!
Kenrokuen Mobile App
Before you head to the garden, downloading the garden’s introductory app might be worthwhile, giving you an instant and detailed guide to the garden. To download the same, please follow the links below. Although the pages are written in Japanese, once you download the application, it should automatically convert to the set language on your phone.
Four Seasons at Kenrokuen
- From early to mid-March each year, around 20 different species of the 200 plum trees planted close to Shirure-Tei will bloom.
- From early to mid-April each year, around 20 different species of the 420 cherry trees in the garden will bloom.
- Fugenzo Cherry: mid-April to early May
- Azalea: April to June
- Iris: May
- From late June to early July, you might be able to see some fireflies around Hanami Bridge
- Japanese clover: August to September
- Mid to late November is the best time for autumn foliage appreciation.
- Camellia: December to March
How to Get to Kenrokuen
There are a couple of different bus services that you can choose from:
- Kanazawa Loop Bus (城下まち金沢周遊バス)
- There are two types of loop buses, the Right Loop Bus and the Left Loop Bus. Both routes go through exactly the same stops but in different directions.
- Both routes depart from JR Kanazawa Station’s east exit bus stop no. 6 every 15 minutes.
- For the timetable of the services, please refer to the official brochure on Hokutetsu Railroad’s website HERE.
- If you are looking to take the bus more than 3 times a day, consider purchasing the One-Day Pass, which gives you unlimited bus rides for the day and discounts at participating facilities.
- Kanazawa Light-up Bus (金沢ライトアップバス)
- This special bus service only operates every Saturday. Currently, there is no English website for this service, so please refer to Hokutetsu’s Japanese website HERE for the timetable. You can translate it using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.
- Kanazawa Light-up Bus also has Special Service Day (特別運行日) that runs on a few days other than Saturdays.
- The service runs on a 15-minute interval from 7 pm to 9:45 pm departing from JR Kanazawa Station’s east exit’s bus stop no. 6.
- The bus fare is slightly higher for this service
- 300 yen for adults
- 50 yen for elementary school students
- You can also purchase a Kanazawa Light-up Bus Pass for 500 yen (250 yen for elementary school students) from Hokutetsu Ekimae Center / Honkutetsu Bus ticket office (北鉄駅前センター) close to the station’s east exit’s bus stop no. 1.
For the above two types of bus services, please get off at Kenroku-en Shita (兼六園下).
- Machi-Bus (まちバス)
- The service only operates on weekends and public holidays.
- The blue bus is a cheaper option to get to the main attractions in Kanazawa city center. It only costs
- 100 yen per ride for adults
- 50 yen for elementary school students
- If you are accompanying more than one preschool child, the first child will be free, but from the second child, it will be 50 yen per child onwards.
- Instead of paying by cash, you can also use rechargeable transportation cards such as Suica.
- This service departs from JR Kanazawa Station’s east exit bus stop no. 5.
- From 9:40 am to 5:40 pm, the service departs from JR Kanazawa Station at a 20 minutes interval.
- From 6 pm to 8 pm, it departs from JR Kanazawa Station at a 30-minute interval.
- If you can read Japanese, you can refer to their official website HERE.
Chamise-dōri (茶店通り) – Tea House Street
Outside of Katsurazaka Gate (桂坂口), there is a series of traditional housing. Those houses were originally built to accommodate the 300 attendants of Princess Tama, who is the daughter of the second Tokugawa shogunate, Tokugawa Hidetada (徳川秀忠), and married into the Kaga Clan. As they all came from Edo (now Tokyo), this area was nicknamed “Edo-machi” which means Edo town.
There are many stores and cafes on this street, including Kimono rental shops and ice cream shops that sell the Kanagawa specialty, gold leaf ice cream. This is great for those who would love to stroll around Kanazawa in their kimono while eating a shiny golden soft serve cream (^_-)-☆.
Discover Other Fascinating Attractions in Kanazawa City
While Kenrokuen is certainly the symbol of Kanazawa, the city has many other attractions that you won’t want to miss out on.
Refer to our Kanazawa article for more awesome attractions, including where to meet the Geishas and an amazing art museum!