Kanazawa Prepares for Winter: Traditional Techniques from Japan’s Snowiest Gardens
JapanIn videoGuide to Japan Travel
As the colors of autumn foliage deepen in November, the city of Kanazawa bustles with preparations for the coming winter. The trees in Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s three most celebrated gardens, are suspended from ropes attached to tall bamboo poles to protect the branches from heavy snow. Known as yukizuri, the conical forms of the ropes add a surprisingly elegant touch to the garden’s winter scenery.
Work commences on November 1, with the Karasaki Pine, widely admired for its spreading branches. Around 800 ropes are suspended from five supporting poles and tied to the outspread branches of the venerable pine. Gardeners atop the supporting poles throw out the ropes one by one until perfect cones of ropes is formed. Work continues to mid-December; the yukizuri ropes are left in place until March, when the heaviest snows finally stop falling.
In the Nagamachi district, workers are busy placing straw mats called komo along the earthen walls surrounding the samurai mansions. The mats protect the walls from frost that would cause them to crack and snow that could cause them to peel away in clumps. The work, known as komogake, is carried out over a period of three days in December. The straw mats are left in place until early spring, when no more serious snowfall is expected.
Yukizuri and komogake are traditions developed over centuries in the yukiguni, the “snow country” along the Sea of Japan coast, which sees some of the deepest annual snowpacks anywhere on the planet. To this day, they herald the approach of winter in Kanazawa.
(Originally written in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television. Banner photo: Trees covered with yukizuri ropes in Kenrokuen Garden.)