The Park Adorned With Sakura
Kanazawa Castle is a fortified architectural complex located in Kanazawa city, on the shore of the Sea of Japan in western Honshu. The main keep was destroyed by a fire and never rebuilt. However, the castle’s park still displays some remains and reconstructions of fortifications, towers and gates whose interest is fairly enhanced in spring by the blooming cherry trees.
The Castle 🏯 is often mentioned as a must-see when traveling to Kanazawa, but its interest doesn’t seem so obvious. Conveniently located in the vicinity of Kenroku-en garden and the 21rst Century Museum of Contemporary Art, the visit of the castle is quite fast, as there is not much to see.
Feudal ruins that were partly rebuilt
First built in 1583 by the Maeda (or Kaga) clan, the current castle, dating back to 1881, is only a reconstruction as the original buildings were destroyed a number of times by earthquakes or fires 🔥. The main keep, as a matter of fact, was never rebuilt and Kanazawa City doesn’t show any intent of recreating it.
Of the primary castle only remain stonewalls from the 17th century, the main gate Ishikawa-mon built in 1788 and the warehouse Sanjikken Nagaya built in 1858. As for the other buildings, they were partly reconstructed in the recent years and the visit is now complemented by:
- Yagura turrets Hishi and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki,
- Gojukken Nagaya warehouse,
- Imori moats; and,
- Hashizume-mon, Kahoku-mon and Nezumita-mon gates.
Sakura-viewing spot in Kanazawa
The gate passed, a marked path unfolds, with an unobstructed view. The vast green lawns thus offer flat landscapes, without any characteristic feature.
History and picturesque amateurs might be disappointed, as the castle doesn’t have any hallmark, especially since the university moved out from the castle’s premises in the 1990’s. The wood paneling rooms of the reconstructed building stay desperately empty.
Kanazawa Castle is however a nice visit in the beginning of spring, when the cherry trees 🌸 bloom. They are spread here and there in the park but still offer a beautiful panorama.
Fortunately, the Japanese garden Gyokusen’inmaru, located in the west of the Castle, is a great compensation to visitors. The garden was constructed in 1634, on the order of local daimyo lord Toshitsune Maeda (1594 – 1658). The successive lords ruling over Kaga domain continued to adapt the garden to their taste, until it was abandoned in Meiji Era (1868 -1912). It was even used as a sport facility from 1965 to 2008. Kanazawa City eventually undertook archaeological works to have Gyokusen’inmaru garden faithfully restored to its past appearance. In 2015, the newly restored Japanese garden was finally opened to the public.
Spanning on little less than one hectare superficies, the garden offers a nice promenade around its central pond. Nature was perfectly recreated with man-made islets, a waterfall and Japanese bridges giving a structure to the park, which can be admired from an interesting high viewing point. The neighboring Gyokusen'an tea house is particularly recommended for a break enjoying a matcha green tea and a traditional confectionery. The elegant Gyokusen’inmaru Garden is delightful all year long, with possibilities of night visits on the weekends.