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Viewing the Autumn leaves at Kunen an

Designated a national place of scenic beauty, Kunen an (九年庵) offers the beauty and tranquility of a traditional Japanese garden and a Sukiya style landscape. It is only open to the public for a short time twice a year, in spring and autumn. We recommend visiting when the leaves change colour in the autumn between the 15th and 23rd of November.

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Kunen an is situated at the base of the hills just north of Kanzaki. During the open period, there is a reception tent near the entrance to Niiyama shrine where you will receive a numbered ticket.

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It has become a popular tourist site so you may have to wait to get in if there are too many visitors. It wasn’t too busy when we visited though. There are guards to direct you up the hill to the entrance. On the way up, you’ll pass the former residence of Ito Genkaku, often referred to as the father of modern medicine in Japan. On reaching the entrance to the garden you give your numbered ticket and pay an admission fee.

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The garden covers an extensive area, but you must keep to the path so as not to destroy the moss that carpets almost the entire garden. The contrast between the luscious green moss and the vivid red leaves of the maple trees is quite breathtaking.

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Add to this the charming thatched house built by Sukiya. This house was the second home of Itami Yutaro, a successful Saga merchant during the Meiji period. It took nine years to build from 1892, hence the name kunen an (meaning nine years retreat).

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When you exit the garden you can continue up the hill to the Niiyama shrine, which is also well worth visiting. During the open season there are a number of stalls along the paths up to the garden and shrine, giving it a festival atmosphere.

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There are no public parking lots near the garden but there are a number of temporary private parking spots along the road which charge a fee of around 500 yen. Alternatively you can park at the Yoshinogari historical park near the Sefuri Interchange of the Nagasaki highway which also costs 500 yen and take the free shuttle bus up.

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