Kanazawa – 金沢市
In Ishikawa Prefecture, located in the Hokuriku region, there are many things to see, such as gardens, castles and historic districts.
This time we will talk about Kanazawa city, in Ishikawa Prefecture!
What’s special about Kanazawa?
Kanazawa is a city with a long history: especially, Kanazawa area developed under the domain of the Kaga clan in the Edo period. Escaped from WW2 raids, Kanazawa’s places maintain the ancient features.
We will now introduce Kanazawa city’s main spots:
・Kenroku-en Gardens (兼六園)
The Kenroku-en garden is one of the Three Famous Gardens of Japan and the undiscussed symbol of Kanazawa.
Completed in about 200 years, the charm of this garden is deep in every season, and it shows well the expression of each one.
The Kasumi pond, located in the centre of the garden represents its main landscape.
Moreover, the garden fountain seems to be the oldest fountain of Japan.
The Kairaku-en Garden in Mito and the Kōraku-en Garden in Okayama are by the way the other two of the Three Famous Gardens of Japan.
・Kanazawa Castle (金沢城)
Nowadays, the castle of Kanazawa city is under restoration.
Kanazawa castle was built by the Kaga Clan in the Edo Period, however it was repeatedly half destroyed several times during its long history. The gorgeous Ishikawa gate exteriors remain from the original construction.
Kanazawa castle is provided with many turrets (yagura): light, safe lead roof tiles are used to resist the winter snow on the roofs.
There are three “Chaya” districts in Kanazawa city: Higashi Chayamachi, Nishi Chayamachi, and Waemachi.
In the old times, Chaya districts were the places where geishas entertained their customers who came to drink tea. In Kanazawa city’s Chaya districts you can taste the atmosphere of Edo Period: there are wooden buildings and stone-paved streets.
In Higashi Chayamachi you can even try the golden leaf sushi, a speciality of Kanazawa. The slice of fish is covered by a thin leaf of pure gold, and you can eat it with no worry: gold, as a mineral, is very ductile, so actually in this quantity it doesn’t affect our body at all. You should try this king-like experience!
Nagamachi is right westward from Kanazawa castle: the buildings are ancient and the streets are narrow, several samurai residences and old shops are gathered here.
The samurai residence called Nomura-ka with its museum and a stunning garden is a must-see place.
Besides samurai residences, you can visit pharmacies and shops that flourished long time ago.
The official name of the Ninja Temple is Myōryū-ji. This temple has actually nothing to do with ninjas, but there are rumors saying that it has been used as a cover for military installations in the Edo period.
The temple looks normal but there is plenty of hidden paths and doors.
You can’t explore it freely, there are prescription based guided tours.
How to reach Kanazawa
To read more about how to reach Kanazawa, read here!
I went to Kanazawa from Ōsaka by the “Thunderbird” Limited Express train.
It was summer, and when I left Kyōto on the Kosei Line I could see the awesome contrast between Biwa Lake’s blue and the ricefields which had turned yellow, even though it was a bit cloudy.
I arrived in the modern Kanazawa Station with the comfortable express train.
Kanazawa Station’s architecture was very grand and modern. By exiting the eastern gate (the main one), you will be able to see the “motenashi dome”, a huge dome shaped ceiling.
However, the most prominent element of this station, is the Tsutsumi Gate, a giant wooden arch completed in 2005 and representing a torii, the traditional element which indicates the entrance to shrines’ precincts.
I stepped out the station and went towards the Higashichaya district: I didn’t have a planned route so I wandered around the old town.
I couldn’t find any geisha but the atmosphere was just great: the shop signs seemed to belong to the Shōwa period, and many willow trees were close to the wooden buildings.
A bit out of the Chaya district the ground starts to lift slightly, and temples and shrines scatter around the area, and among them I visited the Utasu Shrine. This little shrine is not particularly famous, and probably neither mentioned on guide books, but I appreciated the tranquil atmosphere.
I walked forward and went towards the castle.
I had previously seen the Koraku-en garden in Okayama, so I wanted to visit the Kenroku-en garden as well.
During this day, later the weather turned nice, and the garden’s green felt fresh, saving me from the mid-summer heat.
The garden is very big, so I spent a long time here. The pond, located in the middle, is especially huge, while tea houses and other buildings are located by its banks.
An old, lonely pine tree on the soft moss in the forest really impressed me.
After I visited the garden I went to castle, which is right close.
Unfortunately, Kanazawa castle lacks of its main tower, which was destroyed a long time ago.
Nowadays you can see the castle walls and the many turrets.
I visited the castle museum, which is also under restoration, and beholded the landscape from the castle area.
Finally, I went to the close shrine of Oyama, which has a particular gate. This gate was designed by a Dutch architect, so you can see the both European and Japanese styles combined together.
I went back to Ōsaka on the same day, arriving home in the evening.
If I have the chance to visit Kanazawa city again, I would like to visit more fully the Ninja Temple and Nagamachi.
Kanazawa, and all the Ishikawa area, since 2015 March is better connected to Tokyo thanks to the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension. Before this line was extended, to visit Kanazawa in a day, probably most of the people had to take an airplane… So now, also considering that you can reach it easily with the Japan Rail Pass, why not inserting Kanazawa in your travel itinerary?