Kenrokuen resides in the center of one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. Kanazawa, also known as 'Little Kyoto' is perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. It is filled with tasty restaurants serving kaiseki ryori, Kanazawa Castle, Myoryuji Temple, streetscapes straight from the pre-modern period, a samurai quarter, Gyokusen-en garden, and, of course, Kenrokuen.
When thinking of this garden, the average Japanese person will immediately call to mind the supporting ropes, known as 'yukitsuri', that hold up the branches of the vegetation during the heavy winter snows that are common along the Noto Pennisula, but the garden has many other attributes to recommend it including: wide open spaces, spectacular architecture, and outstanding examples of native trees.
The name Kenrokuen has a particular meaning. The roku, literally 'six', refers to the six important attributes for gardens as set out in 11th century Chinese literature: vastness, solemnity, coolness (water and rocks), careful arrangement, age (strength) and beautiful views. Kenrokuen has all of these in abundance.
Two chunks of gray-green stone,
their shapes grotesque and unsightly,
wholly unfit for practical uses --
ordinary people despise them, leave them untouched.
Formed in the time of primal chaos,
they took their place at the mouth of Lake Taihu,
ten thousand ages resting by the lakeshore,
in one morning coming into my hands!
Pole-bearers have brought them to my prefectural office
where I wash and scrub away mud and stains.
The hollows are black, deeply scarred in mist,
crevices green with the rich hue of moss.
Aged dragons coiled to form their feet,
old swords stuck in for the crown,
I suddenly wonder if they didn't plummet from Heaven,
so different from anything in this human realm!
One will do to prop up my lute,
one to be a reservoir for my wine.
The tip of one shoots up several yards,
the other has a hollow, will hold a gallon of liquid!
My five-stringed instrument leaning on the left one,
my single wine cup set on the right,
I'll dip from the hollowed cask and it will never go dry,
though drunkenness long since has toppled me over.
Every person has something he loves,
and things all yearn for a companion.
More and more I fear that gatherings of the young
no longer will welcome a white-haired gentleman.
I turn my head, ask this pair of stones
if they'd consent to keep an old man company.
And though the stones are powerless to speak,
they agree that we three should be friends.