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Kunenan is a former private residence with a splendid 6800 m² garden located in Kanzaki, Saga Prefecture, in the north of Kyushu Island. Since 1982, it has been ranked among the most picturesque places in the country by the Japanese government since 1995, it attracts numerous visitors during its rare – and short – opening periods.
Open only twice a year, in the autumn and spring seasons (at the time of Golden Week, early May). Two most beautiful seasons to admire nature in Japan, the time of year when we can enjoy the blushing of the leaves or the subtle moment when the vegetation comes back to life, when the azaleas are in full bloom.
Kunenan, a Thatched House
The entire Kunenan was built in 1892 for Yataro Itami, one of the most prosperous traders in the region, as a secondary and retirement home. The term kunenan (九年庵), used to refer to this set, literally means “the nine-year-old house”, referring to the length of time needed to complete the garden, however, the name was originally that of the tea house 46,2 m2 which was north west of the current residence, now dismantled.
The house is designed by sukiya zukuri (数 寄 屋 造 り), rare in this region. Indeed, this type of traditional construction with thatched roof is more common in the city of Kyoto or in central Japan.
Originally, the term referred to the appearance of tea houses, but by extension it applies to any construction close to this aesthetic that combines rusticity and refinement. It is characterized in particular by the use of natural materials. Thus, the walls of the Kunenan house are earthen and cedar planks in the lower parts. Shōji (障 子) walls are made of washi paper mounted on a bamboo lattice.
Refined Fusion between the Garden and its Environment
The highly meditative garden design is the work of Hotori Osho, the high priest of Seigyo-ji Temple in Teramachi, in nearby Kurume. The man already gained a great reputation in the area thanks to his previous achievements of tea house and landscaping.
The creator of the Kunenan has implemented the technique of shakkei 借 景 (“landscape borrowing”, a concept borrowed from Chinese gardens) which gives the illusion of a much larger space by integrating the garden with its environment. The location of each stone, each tree is duly reflected to create harmony and blur the boundaries with the outside world. In fact, of the 28,000 m2 of the estate, 22,000 m2 are occupied by mountains and forests.
When and How to Go to Kunenan?
In the fall, the site is open to the public for nine days, from November 15 to 23 as of 2017, the ideal time to enjoy the changing colors of the maple tree leaves in the garden. The spring opening is a recent initiative with irregular dates.
By train: From Hakata Station, take the JR Kyushu Shinkansen bound for Kumamoto to Shintosu. Then change to the JR Nagasaki Line towards Hizen Kashima and get off at Kanzaki Station. A bus service is specially set up from Kanzaki Station (South Exit) to Niiyamajinja (仁比山神社) during the public opening periods of the Kunenan. You will only have to walk five to ten minutes to reach the site.
By car: Kunenan is about 50 minutes from Fukuoka (Tenjin). Temporary parking is offered.
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|Address||1688 Kanzakimachiikuha, Kanzaki-shi, Saga-ken 842-0123, Japan|
|Access||[map]1688 Kanzakimachiikuha, Kanzaki-shi, Saga-ken 842-0123, Japan[/map]|
|Opening Hours||(08:30 - 16:000 Nov 15-23, 2017|
|Price Range||300 yen|
Original article by Alix Durantou