Stand outside the Seison-kaku villa for just a few moments and you will see sightseers stop for a moment, have a look through the gate, take a look at the entrance fee on the sign outside and then walk away. Maybe they think the outside of the building doesn’t look so impressive, or that 700 yen is too expensive. They are making a big mistake. Viewing the gorgeous interior and garden of the Seison-kaku villa is one of the highlights of a visit to Kanazawa and it is totally worth the cost.
The villa, which stands inside Kenrokuen Garden, was built in 1863 by Nariyasu Maeda, the 13th lord of the Kaga clan who ruled Kanazawa. He built it as a retirement home for his mother, Takako who was later called Shinryuin. Because she was going to spend a lot of time in this house, a lot of effort was put into decorating the interior. Around the house you will find delicate paintings on screens and walls, stained glass which was specially imported from Europe, and finely carved latticework. Every detail is dedicated to the appreciation of beauty. Ornate family heirlooms, dolls and kimonos are also on display. Because both the house and its furnishings are so well preserved it is today a nationally designated Important Cultural Property.
One of the highlights of this house is the long covered deck that runs along the garden. The deck is unusual because the roof has no supporting pillars. It was specially made this way so that the whole garden could be enjoyed without any pillars getting in the way of the view.
Upstairs there is a startling tea room painted in vivid purple and ultramarine, and in another tatami floored tea room there is a specially made window in one of the sliding screens that is fitted with Dutch glass. This was made so that Takako could enjoy the view of the garden outside even in the wintertime. In every part of the building you can see that Nariyasu Maeda really cared about his mother!
Seison-kaku is located inside the south west corner of Kenrokuen Garden. From Kanazawa Station’s East Exit take the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus from bus stop 6 and get off at the Prefectural Museum of Art & Seisonkaku bus stop. The bus costs 200 yen and takes 15 minutes. From there the bus stop it is a 1 minute walk.
Adults: 700 yen
Junior High & Senior High Students: 300 yen
Children: 250 yen
Open: 9.00 – 17.00 (Last entry at 16.30)
Closed: Wednesdays and December 29th – January 2nd. Closed on Thursdays if Wednesday is a National Holiday.
Photography of the garden is allowed but it is not allowed in the interior rooms. Foreign visitors will receive information pamphlets in English.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.