Yukizuri – 雪吊り


Hamarikyu garden

When visiting Japanese gardens in winter, one will recognize some strange ropes and mats around the pine trees and some other plants.
These are called Yukizuri 雪吊り and Fuyugakui 冬囲い. Both are meant to protect the trees from the weight of snow.

In Tokyo there is seldom so much snow, that the trees need this protection, but it is done nonetheless as an ornamental feature in the winterly garden.

I haven’t done Yukizuri or Fuyugakui by myself, but I thought it might be interesting to write about it and explain it as far as I can.

My research shows that Yukizuri came to Japan together with appletrees. When the apples got too heavy for the branches, they tied the branches up to a pole.
This method, called Ringozuri リンゴ吊り, was transfered to pines and the protection from snow.

There are three main styles of Yukizuri: Hokubushiki 北部式, Nanbushiki 南部式 and Kenrokuenshiki 兼六園式. As the name says, the last one is famous for Kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa prefecture.
However, there are still some more used today.

Every year at the 1st of November the gardeners of Kenrokuen start to built Yukizuri.
They start with the huge pine, called Karasakimatsu, which is around 9 m of height. The gardeners use one pillar for each branch, which are about 16 m high. The ropes they use (Aranawa, Waranawa – two different kinds of strawropes) have a diameter of 6 or 8mm and they use up to 200 at each tree. Overall there are about 800 ropes used for this famous pine.
The five gardeners are working at Yukizuri until the middle of December.
All snow protection will be removed until the 15th of March. This marks the end of the snow season.

You can find the other two methods, Hokubushiki and Nanbushiki in Kyu-Furukawa teien in Tokyo.
They are written with the Kanji for North (hoku) and South (nan) and can be roughly translated to “northern method” and “southern method”.


For Hokubushiki, ropes are tied to a ring of bamboo, which sits at the lowest branches of the pine. The branches are connected to the bamboo ring through bamboo culms.
At the top of the construction you will find a decoration of “wara” straw.
This method is used in the North, because it is the most supportive version of Yukizuri.

The Kansenen, a by no means special garden in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, provides a step-by-step guide for their Yukizuri on their website. It is very informative.
klick here (japanese only)
They use a mixture of Hokubushiki and Nanbushiki style. The decoration on the top is Nanbushiki-style.


The main difference between Nanbushiki and Hokubushiki is, that instead of a bamboo ring, Shuronawa is used. Shuronawa is the famous Japanese black rope, which is used to decorate bamboo fences.
While the bamboo ring runs around the pine on its outside, the Shuranawa is “inside” the lowest branches.
At the top of Nanbushiki is a decoration of weaved rope, which is also used for the actual Yukizuri. It’s the same material used for making Tatami.


Kenrokuen-style is again very different Here, the straw ropes are tied directly to the branches. This is possible, because there is not much snow expected in those areas where it is used. It’s more a decorative style.





Here is a list, which style can be found in which garden in Tokyo.

Hokubushiki: Koishikawa Korakuen, Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa teien, Tonogayato teien.
Nanbushiki: Hamarikyu, Kyu-Shibarikyu, Kiyosumi teien, Mukojima Hyakkaen.
Kenrokuenshiki: Kyu-Shibarikyu, Rikugien.

Hokubushiki in Koishikawa Korakuen
Nanbushiki in Kyu-Furukawa teien
Hokubushiki in Kyu-Furukawa teien
Nanbushiki in Hamarikyu
Kenrokuenshiki in Kyu-Shibarikyu

Thanks to J-Gardens for providing the pictures and the base of the text.

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