The cozy city of Kanazawa in southern Japan is known for its rich geisha and samurai culture, its iconic Kenrokuen promenade garden, its special architecture and an impressive gastronomic cuisine consisting mainly of seafood.
The Kenroku is something out of the ordinary. Enchanting, magical and fairytale-like at the same time, this consummate Japanese-style garden ranks as one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens. The name Kenrokuen means “Garden of the Six Magnificences” which aims to make the garden meet the requirements for a perfect garden. The requirements? Spacious, secluded, artistic, classic, open and watery. Here, it is literally teeming with small streams, bridges, Japanese teahouses, trees, flowers and stones. Be sure to check out Japan’s oldest fountain and the towering Kotojitoro lantern.
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, or Kanazawa Nijuichiseiki Bijutsukan as the museum is called in Japanese, is one of the country’s most prominent art museums. Here you can find celebrated works from Japanese artists as well as other parts of the world. What makes the museum so special is its unique architecture. Namely, the building is designed without entry or exit, with the aim of discouraging visitors from entering. Good marketing? It might be debatable. In any case, the museum functions both as a cultural center and art gallery. The most interesting installations are “Swimming Pool”, where people seem to be able to live underwater and “Blue Planet Sky”, an exhibition that explores light.
The Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art, which is also known as the IPMA, was founded in the 50s and acts as the younger sibling of the 21st Century Museum. Here there is a large collection of arts and crafts of cultural importance, but also a number of works from local artists. Among other things, there are several works of art from the famous Maeda family’s collection. The museum contains seven galleries that display everything from kutanoyaki pottery, swords, kimonos and Buddhist religious artifacts. The most famous object housed in the museum is a pair of colorful censers from the 17th century, shaped like pheasants.
If you’re a fan of seafood, head to Omicho Market. The market has been Kanazawa’s largest fresh produce market since the Edo period and is home to more than 200 small stalls selling everything from local seafood, delicacies and fine fish to clothes, flowers and kitchen utensils. The market is best visited in the early morning if you want to feel the local and genuine atmosphere. In the morning it is the most lively because everyone wants to buy freshly caught and fresh fish for the evening’s dinner. Don’t miss tasting zuwaigani – a local crab or a Korokke – a fried fish croquette. It is difficult to avoid which restaurants have the most popularity, because the queues wind meters long.
Myouryuji Ninja Temple is also known as Ninjadera and was built by the Maeda clan, a samurai clan that ruled Japan during the Edo period. Actually, no ninja arts were practiced in the area, but the temple got its name because the temple’s samurai warriors had a very elaborate and deceptive defense. During that time, there were a lot of hidden tunnels, secret rooms, traps and labyrinths that tricked the enemy in the wrong direction. Go here and feel the beat of history’s wings like wine in the wind.
Chaya means “tea house” and is an exclusive type of restaurant where guests are entertained by singing and dancing geishas. During the Edo period, Chaya was designated as a form of entertainment district, where people went for entertainment and good food. Nowadays, there are not many districts of this type left. Here in the Higashi Chaya District there are two Chayas that are open to the public. Go here, have a bite to eat and admire the geishas beautiful makeup and colorful clothes. Here in the area there are also lots of shops, cafes and restaurants. In one of the shops, you can even drink tea completely covered in gold leaf. Not bad! Don’t forget to check out the other two chaya districts, Nisi and Kazuemach.
Ever since the 16th century and until the end of the Edo period, Kanazawa Castle was home to the powerful Maeda clan. The castle, which today only consists of two warehouses and a mighty gate, burned down several times during its lifetime. Nowadays, they have tried to construct parts of the castle such as a storeroom, a number of gates and two towers. However, the Ishikawamon Gate remains in its former glory with a beautiful view of the Kenrokuen Garden. Be sure to check out the reconstructed Hashizume-mon Gate, which has a high cultural value and is an important attraction in Kanazawa.
Nagamachi’s samurai district is located at the foot of the site of the former Kanazawa Castle, the castle where ancient Japanese samurai and their families used to stay. The area has a very special, historical atmosphere with its well-preserved samurai residences, earthen walls, narrow alleys and water channels. One of the area’s most well-visited attractions is a samurai residence called Nomakurare, where several artifacts from the samurai’s lifetime still remain. The area also has a number of different small museums, including one that is set up as an old-fashioned pharmacy. There are also lots of cozy restaurants, cafes and small shopping stalls here.
The DT Suzuki museum is dedicated to one man’s entire life’s work. The man’s name was Suzuki Daisets Teitaros and during his lifetime he was a prominent Buddhist philosopher. Visiting the museum is almost like stepping into Suzuki’s world. The architecture and interior design function as a kind of interpretation of the philosopher’s life and his Zen Buddhist beliefs. Here, clean, simple lines and open spaces mix with Suzuki’s writings and create a philosophical calm. A fine architectural feature is the pond around which the museum is built, which is called the “Water Mirror Garden”. And the room called “The contemplative room” that opens up to time for meditation and inner peace.
Oyama Shrine is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first “lord” of the Maeda clan and was originally built on Mount Utatsu, but has now been moved to ground level. The shrine is known for its unusual gate which was designed by a Dutch architect and has elements of both Asian and European themes. Here, apart from the beautiful gate, there is also a statue representing Maeda Toshiie, a very pleasant walking path, rippling small ponds and a number of bridges designed to resemble the musical instruments harps and lutes.
Like so much else in Kanazawa, Nomura Samurai Residence revolves around the history of the ancient samurai. The Nomura house once belonged to a rich samurai family named Nomura who were warriors for the ruling Maeda clan. When the samurai began to lose their power in the city, things also went badly for the Nomura family, who unfortunately went bankrupt and had to move from there. Nowadays, the house is owned by the state and is classified as a culturally important property. Don’t miss a peek into the beautiful garden, which is said to be among Japan’s most beautiful.
On top of the revered and sacred mountain Mt. Hakusan is home to the beautiful Shirayama Hime Jinja Shrine. People have since time immemorial climbed the mountain to show their religious devotion. The shrine has stood on top of the mountain for 2100 years and is said to be the protector of the entire Hokuriku region. During your prayer time, you can advantageously wish for happiness, good relationships, long life and good health. Maybe just your wish comes true? Don’t miss checking out Biwa-Taki falls- a waterfall said to cleanse the mind or Old Sugi Cedar Tree- a sacred tree that is 800 years old. Don’t forget to clean your hands on the river Temizuya before visiting the temple.
The old house Seisonkaku was built at the end of the 19th century by a man who was part of the Maeda samurai clan. The man named Maeda Nariyasu built the house as a gift to his mother, and here in the villa her belongings and artifacts from the past are still on display. The house is one of the most well-preserved samurai villas in Japan and is of great cultural value. A visit inside the house is really recommended. The architecture is something out of the ordinary and the small garden is a nice complement to the massive building.
Gyokusen Garden is also called the Nishida Family Garden and is a garden that runs in the traditional Japanese style. Like so much else in Kanazawa, the garden was created by a member of the Maeda clan, specifically a man named Wakita Naokata. Wakita, who was very wealthy, spared no expense when he decided to build the garden. Here there are both watercourses, flowers and teahouses that run in traditional Japanese style. Don’t miss booking a visit to the tea house where you can enjoy a traditional tea ceremony. This is not for the squeamish. Boiling water and throwing in a tea bag is not for the Japanese. The tea ceremony is a sacred ritual and takes quite a long time to complete.
Ishiura Shrine is the oldest shrine in all of Kanazawa with 1,500 years of history behind it. Here, one prays to the nature-spiritual Shinto gods who are said to protect and bring prosperity to believing Japanese. The place attracts many female visitors in particular because it is said that here you can find your soul mate. In addition to perhaps finding the love of your life, there is also a small exhibition here that shows a traditional Japanese hat and cute little charms from the past. This a great little place to visit.
Don’t worry, we got you covered with the most important information below.
Kanazawa does not have its own airport. The nearest international airport is Komatsu Airport (KMQ) and is about 30 km from Kanazawa.
Address: Japan, 〒923-0993 Ishikawa, Komatsu, Ukiyanagimachi, Yo-50
Telefon: +81 761-21-9803
You don’t have to worry about holding tight to your valuables or walking around with larger sums of cash. Japanese are a very loyal and well-behaved people with very few thieves and the like. Watching younger children ride the subway by themselves home from school alone is not an uncommon sight to see in Japan. Of course, there are everywhere, but Japan has very few of them.
Order a JR pass if you plan to move to other cities. If you are only going to be in Osaka, you can do well to pay for your transport at a time. But most visitors take a week in Tokyo and then move on to Kyoto, Osaka and other popular cities. These train distances are quite expensive without JR passes, we therefeore recommend getting one before your departure to Japan. Getjrpass.com is an official ravel agent and seller of these Japan Rail Passes with no middle man.
The metro is well-functioning and cheap – a recommended means of transport. Tickets are very easily purchased by machine on site before entering or via pre-loaded Suica card. Most distances are combined with JR lines and Metro lines to reach your destination in the city.
Suica card – a fantastic IC card that can be preloaded with money to easily blip beverage machines, subway and other machines for a cashless and fast payment. Alternative to the card is Icoca Card & Pasmo Card.
Taxis are everywhere, but are quite expensive. The metro is so functional that Taxi is not needed.
The city has lots of beautiful parks. Enjoy good food and take it easy, enjoy your visit to Japan.
Japan uses Japanese Yen – JPY.
We recommend a smaller exchange before the trip at Forex or another currency exchanger to be able to pay for transport from the airport if you have decided to activate your Japan Rail Pass at a later date, for food and drink on site upon arrival and so on.
Safe ATMs for cash withdrawals can be found around the city. You don’t have to worry about walking around with larger amounts of cash as the country is very safe. Of course there are jerks in the country, but Japan has extremely few of them.
7-eleven usually has a very good exchange rate at their machines. When withdrawing larger sums such as thousands of euros, it can differ up to hundreds of euros against what you get at Forex if you exchange before the trip. We therefore recommend only bringing a smaller amount and withdrawing more cash on site.
Do not exchange at the airport. Visit a bank or 7-eleven in town.
Tips are not appreciated by the staff and can sometimes be considered disparaging.
If you want to tip, ask the staff beforehand if it is okay. Most likely, you will get a no, as tips are not part of their everyday life.
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