ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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DAY 7 (4/7): A STROLL THROUGH THE HISTORICAL HEART OF KANAZAWA, Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

Since early 20th century, Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園) of Kanazawa (金沢) has appeared in travel literature along with Koraku-en (後楽園) of Okayama (岡山) and Kairaku-en (偕楽園) of Mito (水戸) as the Three Great Gardens in Japan (日本三名園).  Today, Kenroku-en Garden remains as a popular destination in the heart of Kanazawa.  For most visitors, it is not only the crafted beauty of the manmade landscapes that is astonishing, but also the continuous effort and care throughout generations involved in maintaining the beautiful trees that leave many in awe.  Unfortunately we didn’t come at the right season to appreciate the visually stunning yukitsuri (雪つり), which literally means “snow hanging.”  It is a traditional protection of the famous pine trees against potential damages caused by heavy snow, whose delicate limbs would be supported by bamboo poles and ropes arranged in conical arrays.  In winter, a number of pine trees in the garden would appear like suspension bridge structures.

Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園), which literally means Garden of Six Attributes, refers to the six traditional qualities of a perfect Chinese garden.  The six attributes include spaciousness, tranquility, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and broad views.  Next to the ground of Kanazawa Castle, the 11.4 hectare Kenroku-en was built by the Maeda Family (前田氏) in the 17th century.  The garden was established in 1652 when a water system was constructed to divert river water to feed the artificial streams and ponds within the site.  Garden features such as tea houses, fountains, stone lanterns, statues, flower beds, planters, and tree groves dot around the larger Kasumigaike Pond and the smaller Hisagoike Pond.  These artificial ponds could be seen as allegories of the sea, with miniature islands symbolizing mythical isles inhabited by divine deities.  Greenery were planted to offer scenery of distinct seasons: plum and cherry blossoms in spring, irises and azaleas in summer, and red maple foliage in autumn.  Out of the roughly 8750 trees, there are dozens of feature pine trees.  These feature trees, such as the Karasaki Pine, have received years of attentive care in order to maintain their unique visual characteristics.

Kenroku-en Garden was quite crowded during our visit.  It was a day before the city-wide celebrations of Hyakumangoku Festival (百万石まつり).  On the second day of the festival, tea service would be provided in Kenroku-en.  Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for a few more days to fully experience this popular annual event.  We entered the garden via the Mayumizaka Gate (真弓坂口) across from the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.  We wandered aimlessly on the winding paths, hopping from one area to another to check out the picturesque ponds and unique pine trees in the garden.  After strolling around the Hisagoike Pond and Kasumigaike Pond, we decided to leave the busy garden and walked over to the Kanazawa Castle Park (金沢城公園).  On the lawn in front of the reconstructed castle, staff were busy setting up temporary booths for the upcoming event of the Hyakumangoku Festival.  Unlike Matsumoto Castle that we saw a few days earlier, the original Kanazawa Castle (金沢城) was long destroyed by fire in late 19th century.  A reconstructed complex was erected in 2001 at the original site based on the castle’s appearance in 1850s.  The white and grey colour combination of the castle looked smart and delightful, but somehow the reconstructed complex did look a little too clean and new.  We crossed the castle park and walked towards Oyama Shrine (尾山神社), an interesting building that we wanted to check out before leaving the historical heart of Kanazawa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter D. T. Suzuki Museum , we walked north to the Mayumizaka Gate (真弓坂口) of Kenroku-en Garden.

2We soon arrived at the Hisago-ike Pond, where the famous Midori-taki Waterfall and Kaisekito Pagoda featured in the scenery.

4Right by the Hisago-ike Pond, the chouzubachi (手水鉢 or hand wash basin) in front of the Yugao-tei Tea House was made from the trunk of a fossilized palm tree.

3Design features in Japanese and Chinese gardens often represent miniatures of natural landscape: ponds as sea or rocks as islands.  A small rock cluster in the Hisago-ike Pond symbolizes an mythical island in the Eastern Sea.

6At Kasumiga-ike Pond, larger manmade islands are planted with pine trees and flowers, providing a focal point for spectators from all around the pond.

5Tea houses are common structures in Japanese gardens.  Uchihashi-tei Tea House sits beautifully by the waterfront, overlooking the magnificent scenery of the Kasumiga-ike Pond.

8At Kasumiga-ike Pond, the famous Karasaki Pine is often considered as the most unique tree in the entire garden.

9Around Kasumiga-ike Pond, there are a number of feature pine trees that are painstakingly reinforced with bamboo and wooden posts in order to maintain their unique postures.

10Thanks to the manmade reinforcement, the crown of some feature pine trees spread out to great extent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANeagari-no-Matsu (根上り松) or Raised Root Pine is one of the most handsome feature pines in the garden.

12Neagari-no-Matsu (根上り松) or Raised Root Pine.

7Near the Kasumiga-ike Pond, the Gankou Bashi or Flying Goose Bridge offers a sense of interest to the garden scenery.  There are eleven tomuro stones arranged in the gesture of flying geese.

13In late May, there was no sakura or autumn maples, though the irises were still quite eye-catching.

14In the Plum-Grove Garden, there are about 200 plum trees with over 20 plum varieties.

15After Kenroku-en, we walked over to the Kanazawa Castle Park (金沢城公園).

16The original Kanazawa Castle was destroyed by fire in the late 19th century.  The elegant Kanazawa Castle that we see today was reconstructed in 2001.


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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


After Suzhou Museum, we moved on to next door to visit the Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政園).  Humble Administrator’s Garden is the largest garden in Suzhou, and one of the most popular gardens in Southern China.  This UNESCO heritage site was first built in 1509 and was once the private garden of different poets, scholars and the wealthy and famous individuals in the region. This 5.2-hectare garden is dominated by pavilions, lily ponds, small lakes, small villas, and a extensive network of bridges and covered walkways.

The garden was full of local visitors.  For the first half of the garden, it felt like as if we entered a community park with leisure walkways winding along a small lake.  Spring flowers were in full bloom, while locals were busy taking selfies.  The garden was really crowded and sometimes noisy.  We imagined that it would be pleasant to wander around Humble Administrator’s Garden if we could come at a less crowded time.  Nevertheless, we did find charming moments deeper in the garden at a few tranquil spots.

DSC_0331Once inside, the garden is dominated by a series of lakes and ponds of various sizes.

DSC_0350The garden is full of small sky-wells and courtyards, blurring the boundary between exterior and interior spaces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlying eaves of a pavilion by the water.  An interconnected water system was considered to be a crucial element in a traditional Suzhou garden.

DSC_0359A covered bridge linking pavilions and covered walkways in the garden.

DSC_0361Interior decorations inside a pavilion.

DSC_0374 Window openings in Chinese architecture often serve as picture frames for beautiful scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA tranquil corner of water pond, peach blossom and white washed walls viewed from a small pavilion.

DSC_0383Humble Administrator’s Garden is a perfect place for a leisure stroll when it is not overwhelmed by visitors.

DSC_0391A painter at work attracting the attention of a tourist group.

DSC_0408The undulating tiled roof resembles the back of the dragon.

DSC_0417A zigzag walkway along a water pond and mirror-like reflections.

DSC_0420Vine trellis of different designs could be found in the garden. They provided perfect sun shading to visitors.

DSC_0422The pink peach tree blossom standing out among the garden greenery was often the centre of attention to visitors.

DSC_0433The vine trellis provided pleasant natural shading for visitors.

DSC_0438Pink flowers in full bloom near the exit of the garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStreet vendor selling a wide range of fresh fruits. Bright red, green, yellow and purple, these colourful fruits caught our attention from afar.



Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China

DAY 1 – HANAMI, Mount Yoshino (吉野山) 1 of 2, Japan

After some light sleep on a 4-hour red-eye flight, we landed at Kansai International Airport at 6:30am on a Saturday morning.  Our vacation officially kicked off.  As we stepped out of the plane, we took a deep breath of the cool and refreshing air which reminded us of a familiar smell of the North American spring.  At the airport, it took us over an hour dealing with all the business related to train passes (Haruka & ICOCA, JR West Wide Area Pass, and Hanshin Tourist Pass).  At last, we hopped onto a Haruka Express and headed towards Tennoji Station in Osaka. A promising weather forecast for the afternoon prompted us to make up our mind on our first destination of the trip – a leisure stroll among the famous Mount Yoshino’s (吉野山) cherry blossoms.  After dropping off our luggage at our hotel, we walked over to Abenobashi Station hoping to purchase tickets for a limited express train to Yoshino.  Unfortunately, the staff of Kintetsu, the private corporation that runs exclusive train services to Yoshino, told us that all the morning limited express train tickets for the entire weekend had been sold out.  Not a surprise to us as hanami (flower viewing) is very popular among the locals.  We had no choice but to take the slower express train departing in 20 minutes.  We rushed into a convenient store in the station and grabbed several onigiri (seaweed wrapped rice balls with a variety of salty fillings) and a can of hot coffee. The train ride took about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  We arrived at Yoshino Station at around 12:30pm.  The station and its forecourt were packed with visitors and food vendors.  Two options laid in front of us, either queuing for the short cable car ride or stepping on the paved path that meandered all the way from Shimo Senbon section (Lower Thousand Trees) at the base, to Naka Senbon (Mid Thousand Trees), and up to Kami Senbon (Upper Thousand Trees) and Oku Senbon (Top Thousand Trees) near the top.  We chose to walk.  Along the way, cherry blossoms were everywhere, both along the footpath or upon mountain slopes across the valley.  Despite the peak of blossoms were already over by about a week at Shimo Senbon and Naka Senbon, thanks to the cooler micro-climate, the upper sections of Kami Senbon and Oku Senbon were still at their peak.  Souvenir shops, food vendors, restaurants, and ryokan, along with religious shrines and Buddhist temples lined up the uphill route.  This unique combination of cherry blossoms, historical temples, and handmade local delicacies made Mount Yoshino a worthy destination inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List. 1Loads of visitors arrived at Yoshino Station from cities all over Kansai. 2Mount Yoshino has the country’s oldest surviving aerial lift. 3After a night of rain, much of the remaining cherry blossoms at Shimo Senbon (Lower Thousand Trees) had fallen. 4.1Some cherry blossoms still managed to cling onto the branches at Shimo Senbon (Lower Thousand Trees). 4The gateway signified the entrance into Shimo Senbon’s main street, where vendors lined up along the way uphill. 5Kinpusenji Temple contains Japan’s second largest timber structure.  We were fortunate to enter the main hall and have a glimpse of the three gigantic Zao gongen statues. 7.5Clear sky finally arrived at about 3pm. 7As we approached Kami Senbon (Upper Thousand Trees), more lookouts allowed visitors to enjoy the panoramic views of cherry blossoms across the valley. 8The beauty of Mount Yoshino came from the multi-layering of blossom colours. 11Local Japanese, be it a group of family members, a couple or a solo visitor, usually take their time sitting under the cherry blossom to eat, drink and chat. 12A photographer set up a platform next to a tea pavilion offering free photo shooting for visitors at the top of the Hami Sendon section. When posing, most of the locals invariably made a “V” sign with their fingers. The owner of a tea house set up an outdoor patio in an open area where visitors could dine under tree canopies. This also turned out to be a perfect lookout for an unobstructed view towards the valley.  All visitors were required to take off their shoes before stepping onto the patio’s bamboo mat. There were many small wooden pavilions designed as resting areas on Mount Yoshino. They were thoughtfully designed with low walls and large openings that serve like picture frames, capturing the beauty of mountainous landscape. There were many street vendors selling beverage and snack but this one was the most special among all. The vendor had his little stall set up at an lookout point. The vendor furnished the open area with bright red chairs, floor mats and paper umbrella. We bought a sakura flavored ice-cream and sat down to rest a bit. 16Sun break.  Finally, near sunset.

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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino 
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka