Six Features as a Synonym for an Excellent Landscape Garden
According to the ancient Chinese book of gardens, there should be six different sublime qualities to which a garden can aspire. Grouped in their traditional complementary pairs, they are spaciousness & seclusion, artifice & antiquity, water-courses & panoramas. As might be imagined, it is difficult enough to find a garden that is blessed with any three or four of these desirable attributes, let along five, or even more rarely, all six. Yet that is just the case here, where as the name “Kenroku-en” literally means “garden that combines six characteristics”.
The garden combines these two conflicting characteristics naturally. It is laid out on a wide scale, with its many open areas offering tranquil, unbroken vistas of bright light and deep space, denying the very possibility of shadows and privacy. Even so, there is still a surfeit of delightful little nooks and crannies scattered around the garden, enough that you might not find them all, even after days of exploration.
The very idea of a formally sculpted garden is such that its form should seemingly break the ancient patterns of nature as a matter of course. Kenroku-en is nothing if not artificial in the extreme, and yet, somehow, all the artifice effaces, the carefully placed weathered rocks and artfully trained aged trees have grown together naturally.
The water-courses include ponds and fountains. To find water you must seek it in the low lands, the hollows and furrows of the earth. To find broad views you must seek it in the high lands, under the wide roof of the sky. How then is this contradiction to be resolved, these two opposites brought together in one spot. It seems the answer is hidden right in front of you, somewhere in the mystery of Kenroku-en where you can view the Uchinada sand dune, the Noto peninsula in the distance, the Utatsu-yama hill, and Mt. Hakusan and Io-zan hill opening out before you.