During the winter months, many Japanese gardens sprout strange conical structures that rise above the trees like a crown. They are called Yukitsuri or “snow suspenders”, and their purpose is to protect the branches of the trees and shrubs from the crushing weight of snow.
There are various ways of constructing yukitsuris, but the most common technique involves erecting long bamboo poles near the trunk of the tree, and then lowering ropes from the top of the pole to be attached to the branches. The ropes prevent the branches from sagging, and eventually breaking, under the weight of the snow that accumulates on top. As many as 800 ropes can be used on a single tree.
Like many Japanese craftsmanship, yukitsuri is a combination of function and beauty. The ropes are splayed out from the top at even intervals, like rays encircling the trees, their lengths harmonizing perfectly with the heights of the branches. At night, some gardens place lamps under the trees that throw light up on the branches and onto the ropes, highlighting the thick strands. With snow falling softly around it creates a particularly beautiful winter scene.
Although the exact origin of yukitsuri is unknown, the practice is believed to have started in the Edo period (1603-1868). It is generally accepted that farmers in Northern Honshu began the practice to protect apple trees weighed down by fruit and late-autumn snowfall. It was not until the Meiji era that yukitsuri arrived in Ishikawa, where aesthetics merged with function to create the now iconic image of trees encased by rays of rope.
Yukitsuri is a common sight in Kanazawa and Kenrokuen Garden during the winter months. Yukitsuri can also be seen in Hibiya Park, Jindai Botanical Garden, Yoyogi Park and Inokashira Park in Tokyo. Although Tokyo no longer receives much snow, yukitsuris are still erected as a symbol for the coming of winter.
The process of attaching yukitsuri ropes begins in early November and takes about one month to complete. The ropes are kept up until early March, when the snow melts.
Subscribe to our Newsletter and get articles like this delieverd straight to your inbox