Things to Do in Kanazawa: 8 Great Ideas for Your Japan Trip
Kanazawa is a historic city filled with things to do and places to see. We've narrowed it down to 8 so you don't have to do the hard work yourself.
Interested in seeing a traditional side of Japan that’s easier to walk around than Kyoto? Want a glimpse of original housing for geiko (geisha), samurai, and feudal lords? Then Kanazawa should be on the top of your list!
Kanazawa reached its cultural height during the Edo period. Due to its rich cultural inheritance, Kanazawa, like Kyoto, escaped being part of the air raids during World War II. So don't worry about not knowing where to start, that's what we're here for.
Kenroku-en is one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan and its means combined six. It’s a reference to the Chinese six features of perfection: spacious, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, water-courses, and panoramas. You are meant to walk through the garden and enjoy it from every angle rather than sitting at a specific location. The garden was built and expanded upon for over 250 years by the Kaga feudal lords. Within the garden are various natural and manmade sceneries to view. There is also Seison-kaku, a retirement home for the mother of Nariyasu Maeda, at the . Visitors can pay an extra fee to enter the house and see the mother’s personal effects while admiring the daimyo’s opulence. Visitors may not be allowed to take pictures.
Omicho Market is several blocks north of the Kanazawa-eki (train station). There’s about 170 stores within Omicho and the merchandise ranges from seafood to fruit to clothes to tea and sake. There are also numerous restaurants where you can try the specialty, rice bowls topped with delicious, fresh seafood. Visitors should arrive around 9 am so they can see the market before the lunch rush.
Kanazawa-jo is usually under reconstruction since the city wants to bring their castle back to its form from the 1800s. There isn’t a main keep, however the Kahoko-mon, Sanjikken Storehouse, Gojikken Storehouse and Ishikawa-mon are open to visitors for a small fee. The Ishikawa-mon is an original gate, however Kahoko-mon was destroyed in 1880 and then rebuilt in 2001. There is also a guided walk around the stonewalls that explains the different types used for the castle. Everything within the castle grounds is labeled in English and Japanese.
21st Century Museum
A recent addition to this historical city that had over 1 million visitors within its first year. The 21st Century Museum is home to several Japanese and foreign contemporary artists such as Atsuko Tanaka, James Turrell, Isa Genzken, and Giuseppe Penone. In the museum’s acquisition policy, artists are asked to produce installations that are specific to the museum and Kanazawa so they become “closely associated with the Kanazawa area.” There are also special, temporary exhibits which is an additional fee.
Address: 1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa-shi
Museum Hours: Public Zone: 9:00 – 22:00
Exhibition Zone: 10:00 – 18:00 *Open until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays
Higashi Chaya is the largest geiko (geisha) district in Kanazawa. Two of the tea houses, Kaikaro and Shima, were restored and are open to the public, for a small fee. Visitors can see how guests were entertained by geiko, the geiko’s instruments, and the opportunity to drink tea. Occasionally Kaikaro will have a geiko in attendance, but if you’re seeking the real experience, you’ll need to find a travel group or celebrity who is already established with one of the chaya. Chaya will only serve current patrons and their guests due to Japanese customs. Higashi Chaya also has a gold leaf museum, gold leaf is a major export of Kanazawa, where you can watch workers apply gold leaf and try it yourself!
Located several blocks before Higashi Chaya and to the east of Kenroku-en and Kanazawa-jo, Kazue-machi is a smaller geiko district. Kazue-machi faces the Asano river; which is lined with cherry blossoms. So if you’re visiting when the cherry blossoms bloom, you should not miss coming to this district for hanami (flower viewing). Naka-no Hashi is a wooden footbridge that offers a wonderful view of the Asano.
The samurai street of Kanazawa! Here you’ll find Nomura-ke and several museums and shops. Nomura-ke was the residence of a prominent samurai family who held successive executive positions during the Maeda rule. The house has been restored so visitors can view how high class samurai lived. There’s a museum dedicated to the Maeda family that features family relics and samurai armor and the Shinise Kinenkan Museum, a pharmacy that was restored and now houses local crafts. If you’re feeling artistic, try Kaga Yuzenkan, a silk painting workshop that is open to the public.
If you’re looking to collect goshuin, located on the southern side of Kanazawa is Tera-machi. Tera-machi is the largest temple district in the city and is where the Ninja-dera (Myoryuji/Ninja Temple) can be found. Ninja-dera didn’t house ninjas or train them, but it does have hidden defenses such as was a military outpost. Most of the temples in Teramachi were built before the 18th century, so even if Ninja-dera doesn’t interest you, there may be other historical sites that will capture your attention such as Kokutai-ji and Korin-ji.
Image Credit: Kanazawa, Japan Love by Quim Pagans https://www.flickr.com/photos/tempus7/5676122826/
This article was written by: