Kanazawa became the capital city of the Kaga-Han (feudal clan) in the middle of the 16th century. As the name indicates, “Kanazawa” means “marsh of gold”. Thanks to the policy of the Maeda lords, a great number of high quality crafts developed in this city, for example gold and silver leaf, silk dyeing, foods like Japanese sweets and traditional cultural activities such as tea ceremony and Geisha (traditional Japanese female entertainers). These techniques and activities are well preserved here and tourists can have a pleasant and unique experience. Modern culture and architecture fuses with traditional style. Kanazawa-style design and modern crafts are highly rated both in Japan and abroad. Today Kanazawa is the biggest city in the Hokuriku region with a population of about 450,000.
Bus 90 min
Kenrokuen Garden is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. Its name means ""six benefits"", after the six attributes that make up the garden’s perfect landscape: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and a magnificent view. Kenrokuen Garden has several big artificial ponds, hills and many plants.
The symbol of Kenrokuen garden is the Kotoji-Touro stone lantern near the pond, which was designed in the image of a Japanese harp. Besides the four season’s natural beauty, Kenrokuen is an important public space for the citizens of Kanazawa. Ladies wearing traditional Japanese kimono hold tea ceremonies periodically and families with babies enjoy a peaceful time at weekends. Local shops and restaurants can be found just outside the Katsurazaka Gate.
Walk 5 min
Sometimes people say that they have seen similar scenery in other traditional small towns around Japan. However, the Higashi Chaya District of Kanazawa is far more than you might expect. The people who live inside the old houses keep changing and innovating things, encouraging creative work and activities. For example, the traditional Japanese female entertainers called Geisha welcome tourists in Kanazawa. A variety of local tours in foreign languages make it possible for even first-time visitors to gain detailed knowledge and enjoy live performances. Until recently, Geisha’s performances had not been open to the public. Another tip for tourists: the rest station house in the Higashi Chaya District shows how innovation can be done in a town house from the 19th century. Free volunteer guides and free Wi-Fi services are available here.
Walk 5 min
Kanazawa castle burnt down several times over the centuries. Kanazawa city reconstructed the two famous turrets Hishiyagura and Tsuzukiyagura, the long storehouse Gojukken Nagaya, the Kahoku-mon Gate, the Hashizume-mon Gate and the Gyokuseninmaru Garden. These new parts are worth visiting and offer information about the castle. The two storehouses and the Ishikawa-mon Gate, old parts that survived the most recent fires, are open to the public for free.
During the reconstruction in 2015, the Gyokuseninmaru Garden was rebuilt in its originals form. It had been cherished by the Maeda-Clan and has become a new must-see spot in Kanazawa now. Entrance is free from sunset to closing time on weekends and public holidays.
Walk 5 min
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art opened in October 2004 in downtown Kanazawa. It is only a few minutes away from Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa Castle Park. The museum itself and some of the permanent exhibitions are open to the public, but visitors have to pay for special collections. The architecture of the 21st Century Museum is famous for its circular structure, 112.5m in diameter without façade or main entrance. The design concept encourages people to see pieces of art without looking from a specific angle or only in one direction.
An important function of the 21st Century Museum is to bring together individuals from all over the city and the world and provide a spot where they can gather. Therefore people can touch and sit on some of the art here and families and visitors can enjoy the pleasure of feeling the art.
Bus 10 min
The Omicho market has been the kitchen of Kanazawa city for 300 years and has continued operations without interruption. Over 200 shops and overflowing stalls provide visitors with ingredients such as fresh seafood and Kaga-Yasai, traditional vegetables grown in the Kaga region. Even people who do not have much knowledge about Japanese cuisine can learn from the shopkeepers’ professional advice.
Omicho market is proud to provide unbeatable freshness, homemade products, and face-to-face services. It is widely known for the variety of seasonal food. Don’t be shy to ask if you are curios about something. Especially seafood caught on the day like deep-water shrimp and rock oysters can be purchased and cooked on site. The market gets most crowded in the morning. Visit later and you can choose a seafood lunch course in a restaurant inside.
Walk 10 min
Gold leaf is one of the most famous traditional handicrafts of Kanazawa. A piece of gold leaf is made by beating gold into an extremely thin sheet with a thickness of 0.1 to 0.125 millionths of a meter. Nowadays Kanazawa produces an overwhelming 99% in the domestic market. Kinkaku-ji Temple, UNESCO world heritage in Kyoto, is covered with gold leaf from Kanazawa.
You can experience working with gold leaf and make an original souvenir to bring back to your country. It is recommended to make a reservation in advance since ateliers need to prepare. Small items such as a hand mirror, an accessory box, or a comb do not take long time to finish. Visitors chose their favorite design gold leaf sheets and then receive instruction on how to create their masterpiece.