The Nishida Family Garden in Kanazawa
Gyokusen-en is a Japanese garden located close to the famous Kenroku-en in Kanazawa. This little green haven of peace was built in the 17th century. It is now maintained by the Nishida Family since the beginning of the 20th century, who also offers the experience of the tea ceremony in the purest Japanese tradition.
Gyokusen-en garden was created in the middle of the 17th century by Wakita Naokata (1585 – 1660), a Korea-born samurai retainer of the Maeda clan ruling the Kaga province. It became Nishida Family’s property at the end of the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912). It spreads on a 2,370 m² superficies in Kanazawa’s historical and feudal downtown. Open to the public since 1971, the garden shelters a tea house where traditional tea ceremonies are still performed.
An elegant little Japanese stroll garden
Amateurs of Japanese gardens will find 3 different spaces in the Gyokusen-en : the center, the west and the east. Depending on where the eyes fall, Kenroku-en’s tall trees are the background canvas of Gyokusen-en’s landscapes.
The majestic, several centuries-old trees are Korean pines and maple 🍁 trees, and the ubiquitous moss covers the ground, offering a very relaxing vegetal universe of various shades of green. The mineral part shows in the paved paths and the stone lanterns 🏮 highlighting the vegetation.
The main pond’s shape recreates the layout of the kanji character 水 mizu, meaning water. The perspective was built on the small hills and the cliff from which spring 🌸 2 waterfalls. The melodious sound of the cascading water nicely complements the scenery.
Gyokusen-en perfectly sums up the enjoyment of a present moment which is both lively and eternal. Each season is highlighted thanks to the choice of specific plants and flowers changing color throughout the year. The garden’s most remarkable tree is called Gyomatsu: it is a more than 350 years old Korean pine tree that was supposedly planted by Naokata himself as a tribute to his country of birth.
Tea ceremony in the Saisetsu-tei pavilion
Saisetsu-tei tea house dominates the garden, nestled in the lush vegetation. Its apparently simple architecture follows the tradition of the chashitsu pavilions designed for the wabi-cha style tea ceremony. Thus its tatami floor is precisely laid out so that each participants (host and guests) know exactly were to sit.
Madame Nishida herself, clad in an appropriate kimono 👘, is the tea master in the historical style of the Urasenke school. The traditional matcha tea ceremony is open to every one upon reservation. Nishida-san explains the good practices, that are to be put into action later when preparing a cup of green tea. A seasonal wagashi Japanese sweet is served in a perfect combination with the beverage.
The session starts in a solemn ambiance, but gradually shifts to a friendly conversation. The hosts presents the importance of some aspects of the tea ceremony as well as the family history in connection to the Gyokusen-en, while the splendid view on the Japanese garden fills with serenity.
This travel back in time with the Nishida Family soothes the mind before continuing the exploration of Kanazawa’s historical heritage.