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Travel in Japan

Exploring Kanazawa

John Rayner

John Rayner
In Japan since 1999, this Englishman has travelled the length and breadth of the country by car, train and plane.




Kanazawa is at the heart of Ishikawa Prefecture and has a long history that came to fruition during the rise of Toshiie Maeda, one of the powerful warlords during the Sengoku Jidai (feudal era).

Although located on the west coast by the sea of Japan, Kanazawa is becoming gradually more accessible due to the expansion of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, with direct access from Tokyo expected to begin operations in around spring 2015.

Below are some of the main attractions recommended to be included in a 1 night, 2 day sightseeing plan:

Kenrokuen Gardens
One of the "Top 3 Scenic Gardens of Japan", Kenrokuen literally means the garden with six sublimities (spaciousness, artiface, antiquity, water-courses, and panoramas), and visitors will be able to enjoy them all in magnificent spendor throughout the year.

The garden grounds feature wonderful views of the tea house across the lake, the oldest fountain in Japan, grand old pine trees, cherry trees, ireses, azaleas and meandering streams with artful stepping stones. Visitors can also enjoy green tea and tradional sweets in the tea house overlooking the lake.

Kenrokuen Gardens

Kanazawa Castle and Grounds
In 1580, Oda Nobunaga ordered his retainer to build a castle on this site and in 1583 the Lord Maeda Toshiie moved in as a base from which to rule the Kaga Domain.

The castle site was used a part of the University campus until 1995 and is currently being transformed into a park where visitors can learn more about its history.

While visitors shouldn't expect a picture perfect castle like Himeji or Matsumoto, the restoration work now offers a glimpse into how the towering gates and walls would have dominated the view from the plains in feudal times.

Omi-cho Fish Market
Ishikawa prefecture is home to some wonderful seafood, and the crab is a regional speciality. All manner of fish at reasonable prices can be picked up from the fish market, and a visit in the evening time to one of the sushi bars or sashimi restaurants is definitely recommended for a value-for-money seafood experience.


Higashi Chaya District
Strolling around the mazy streets with their rows of old buildings allows one to imagine how citizens of Japan lived in the past. A chaya district was a designated area for tea houses where geisha performances and entertainment could be enjoyed by the guests. The Higashi Chaya district is the largest of the 4 designated districts in Kanazawa and features traditional tea houses, tasteful souvenir shops, sweet shops and old guest houses.

Kanazawa City Tourism Association holds a geisha performance show in the three chaya districts of the city every Saturday.


"Ninja" Temple (Myoryuji)
Not actually a home to ninjas as its nickname implies, Myoryuji Temple was in fact designed to protect against shogunate spies and surprise attacks from enemies. Its current name derives from the fact that the temple has many tricks and traps, and is architectually complex and misleading.

Some of the highlights include a trapdoor offertory box, shoji stairs (allowing defenders to spear enemies feet as they ascended), hidden rooms and stairs, and a tunnel that may have led all the way to Kanazawa Castle (and at the very least offered escape to the river).

Visitors beware: the temple doesn't offer English guides or even a friendly welcome. Visitors need to ring the intercom and then explain in broken Japanese or simple English that they woud like to tour the temple. These days an advanced reservation is highly recommended: please visit their home-page for more details.

Myoryuji Temple in Kanazawa

The building is old so large tour groups are forbidden and visitors should remain quiet and respectful throughout the tour. An English pamphlet will be provided to guests who agree to the terms of the temple.


More information about Kanazawa

Please visit the Kanazawa City Tourism Association website. map of Ishikawa area

Click here for a map of Chubu and more information on the region.


The old tea house at Kenrokuen Gardens



Grand Matsu Pine Trees at Kenrokuen Gardens


pine needles

Removing old pine needles by hand


kanazawa castle

Kanazawa Castle grounds


higashi chaya

Higashi Chaya District of Kanazawa


Kanazawa Highlights:

  • Kenrokuen Gardens
  • Myoryuji Temple (Ninja Temple)
  • Higashi Chaya District
  • Omi-cho Fish Market
  • 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art


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