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Kenroku-en Garden

The Kenroku-en "Garden of Six Attributes" or "Garden of Six Sublimity" is an ancient private garden in the city of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. It is considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. The large garden-park, located near the entrance to Kanazawa Castle, is famous for offering its visitors beautiful views in all seasons. Its construction can be traced back to the beginning of the 17th century by the Maeda clan, which ruled the Kaga fiefdom, but it is not easy to give an exact date of its origin. According to some, it can be made to coincide with the construction of the Tatsumi Canal in 1632 by Maeda Toshitsune, the third head of the Maeda clan from 1605 to 1639. The canal was later incorporated into the winding artificial garden river in 1822.

According to others, the garden was created thanks to the fifth daimyo of Kaga, Maeda Tsunanori (r. 1645-1723). He had the building called Renchi-ochin ("lotus pond pavilion") built in 1676 on the slope in front of Kanazawa Castle, and a surrounding garden, initially called Renchi-ochin "lotus pond garden".
Little is known about the structure and characteristics of the Renchi-tei, due to a fire that destroyed it almost entirely in 1759. According to documents dating back to previous years, the garden was often visited by the local nobility, who organized banquets there to contemplate the moon and autumn leaves, and to admire the horses. There is a legend linked to the sacred Fountain of Kenroku-en, according to some the oldest element of the garden remained until today: 1,200 years ago, a farmer named Tōgorō stopped at the Fountain to wash potatoes. Suddenly, fragments of gold began to rise to the surface of the water, which is why the city was called Kanazawa, "Golden Swamp. The water comes from the purification basin at the nearby Shinto shrine, and many people come to collect water for the tea ceremony at this fountain.
The Shigure-tei, a tea house built in 1725 and miraculously survived the fire of 1759, seems to indicate not only the spread of this ritual in the period before the fire, but also the culture traditionally associated with it, which would have influenced the aesthetics of the garden. The Shigure-tei was also used after the fire and then completely restored during the Meiji period.
Another element already present in the period before the fire of 1759 is the Kaiseki-tō pagoda, currently located on a small island in the central area of the Isago-ike pond. According to some sources it was erected by Maeda Toshitsune, third daimyo of Kaga, who lived between 1594 and 1658, and it is therefore possible that it predates the creation of the Renchi-tei garden. According to other sources, the pagoda was initially part of a 13-storey pagoda located in the Gyokusen-in garden of Kanazawa Castle, but a third source reports that it was brought from Korea by Katō Kiyomasa, returning from the military campaigns started at the behest of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to whom it would be donated, who in turn would give it to Maeda Toshiie. If the theory is true, the pagoda arrived in the hands of the Maeda clan between 1592 and 1598, the years of Hideyoshi's attempts to conquer Korea and China. The above theories are not mutually exclusive, so it is possible that Maeda Toshiie received a 13-storey pagoda from Hideyoshi, placing it in the Gyokusen-in garden, and that subsequent daimyo would have moved to its current position, reducing the number of floors.
In 1774, Maeda Harunaga, Kaga's eleventh daimyo, began restoration work on the garden, also building the Midori-taki ("Green Waterfall") and the Yūgao-tei, a tea house. Other improvements were made in 1822 when the twelfth daimyo Narinaga had the winding streams of the garden built with water from the Tatsumi canal. The thirteenth daimyo Nariyasu had more streams added and expanded Lake Kasumi, giving the garden its present shape. The garden was opened to the public on May 7, 1874.
The name Kenroku-en was given to it by Matsudaira Sadanobu at Narinaga's request, and is a reference to the six attributes of the perfect landscape mentioned in the book Luòyáng míngyuán jì ("Chronicles of Famous Luoyang Gardens"), written by the Chinese poet Li Gefei. The six attributes are: spaciousness and intimacy, artifice and antiquity, waterways and landscapes.


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