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Claire is a travel consultant in our Bristol office, and spent five years living in Kyoto. She recently headed back to Japan to explore some destinations she’d never visited – including Kanazawa, near the Japan Sea Coast.
Kanazawa may not be one of Japan’s most well known cities but, tucked away on the western coast, this cosmopolitan city offers visitors the chance to tick off some of Japan’s biggest attractions, all in a day or two!
The Nagamachi district of Kanazawa was once home to all of the samurai loyal to the Kaga clan. The area is now beautifully preserved so that you can wander the ancient streets and have a window into daily samurai life.
A ride on the bullet train is a must for any visitor to Japan and Kanazawa is now accessible after the newest shinkansen line opened last March. You can now zip to Kanazawa from Tokyo in just 3 hours.
Kanazawa’s geisha district is much smaller than the more famous Gion district of Kyoto but nowadays there are still around 40 active geisha in the Chaya Gai teahouse area who regularly appear at special Geisha evening events organised in the city.
Very few of Japan’s castles survive intact today and Kanazawa Castle is no exception, having burnt down several times over the years and been taken over by Kanazawa University at one point too. Nowadays plans are underway to bring the castle back to its former glory and the castle and its small garden are a convenient stop opposite Kenrokuen stroll garden.
Japan is famous for countless traditional crafts, but Kanazawa is the home of gold leaf. The city is a great place to see and purchase gold leaf related products or you can even give it a try yourself and create your own gold leaf chopsticks at a local class. The gold leaf extends to Kanazawa’s culinary culture as well with gold leaf ice cream and coffee both on offer.
Sushi is Japan’s most famous food and, located on the coast, Kanazawa has some of the best. You’ll find Omicho market right in the centre of the city and the queues out the door will lead you to one of the many fantastic sushi shops. The market itself is vibrant and you’ll see some of Japan’s finest and most unusual sea life, without the crowds you find at Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market.
Myoryu-ji, commonly known as Ninja-dera or “Ninja Temple”, was never home to any ninjas but got its nickname because of the many hidden escape routes and surprise defences.
Japan has a fantastic selection of contemporary art museums and Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the best. The museum is across the road from Kenrokuen Garden so offers a wonderful contrast to the traditional garden. It houses works by both Japanese and international artists, with Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool” being the most well known.
Kanazawa’s Hyakumangoku lantern festival takes place over 3 days in June. On the first evening hundreds of painted lanterns are placed on the Asano River, followed by a parade of traditional costumes on the second day. The final day features the Chakai or giant tea ceremony.
Kenrokuen is one of Japanese three finest traditional stroll gardens. The gardens used to be the grounds of Kanazawa Castle but is now more famous than the castle itself. The garden is designed to appeal during all seasons but is especially famous for its cherry blossom in spring and foliage in autumn. The garden is also home to a number of bridges, tea houses, ponds and a waterfall.
If you’d like to visit Kanazawa as part of your trip to Japan, perhaps you’d like our Traditional Japan Self-Guided Adventure. Alternatively, our travel consultants can tailor an itinerary to suit your exact requirements. You can contact Claire directly by clicking here.