10 Places You Must Visit in Kanazawa
Kanazawa has gained popularity as a tourist destination ever since JR West (West Japan Railway Company) has extended the shinkansen route from Tokyo to Kanazawa, making the city much more accessible with a travel time of two and a half hours. Today, it is one of the most visited and unmissable cities in Japan by both local and foreign travelers. There are many reasons to visit Kanazawa such as it's interesting history, fascinating tradition and culture, delectable local cuisine. There's also a lot to explore in Kanazawa, but here's 10 places you definitely shouldn't miss out on your trip to Kanazawa!
1. Kanazawa Castle Park
Kanazawa Castle is a partially-restored Japanese castle which used to be resided by the powerful Maeda family. The castle was burnt down several times over the century, and the current existing buildings are said to be designed based on the how they looked in the 1850s. It was designed as a National Historic Site in 2008, and is one of the most visited place in Kanazawa. It is particularly beautiful when the sakura flowers bloom around the moat at along the streets outside the castle park in spring time. There's also a Gyokusen'inmaru Garden Light-Up event held on certain days.
2. Higashi Chaya District
Kanazawa is known as Little Kyoto and it's not hard to see why. One of the similarity with Kyoto is that Kanazawa also has its own geisha district. Geisha houses are known as chaya, and there are three well preserved chaya districts with Higashi Chaya District being the largest and most famous.
The geisha houses in Higashi Chaya maintains its traditional appearance and most of them are operating as shops and cafes or restaurants. You can also visit the original chaya which are open to public; Shima Teahouse and Kaikaro Teahouse.
Some activities you can enjoy at Higashi Chaya are;
☆ Rent a kimono or yukata and enjoy a walk along the historical street
☆ Try the gold leaf soft serve ice-cream
☆ Shop for gold leaf products as a souvenir
☆ Have some delicious Japanese wagashi and other types of dessert at one of the many cafes
☆ Take a peek inside the Hakuza Hikari Kura Gold House and Sakuda's Golden Bathroom
3. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
Kanazawa's 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is a circular shaped building which showcases unique contemporary artworks by local and foreign artists. The artworks are displayed in 3 different areas; Exhibition Zone (indoor paid area), Public Zone (indoor free area), and the outdoor area. Perhaps the museum's most famous artworks would be The Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich. In recent years the museum has gained popularity not only among contemporary art lovers, but especially among the younger generation as there are many areas within the museum which are Instagram worthy.
4. Kenrokuen Garden
Kenrokuen Garden is Japan's "Three Most Beautiful Landscape Gardens", with the other two being Kairakuen Garden in Mito and Korakuen Garden in Okayama. You could see different types of flowers throughout the whole year and the scenery changes each season that it's simply not enough to just visit it once. Don't miss checking out the Kotojitoro Lantern; an iconic stone lantern standing on two legs instead of one, at the northern bank of Kasumigaike Pond. Another icon of Kenrokuen Garden is the Karasaki pine trees by Kasumigaike Pond covered with yukizuri structure. This structure is made of bamboo poles in a shape of cone with the purpose of protecting the pine trees from the heavy snow in winter.
5. Omicho Market
Omicho Market is a regular fresh food market and Kanazawa's largest with about 200 shops and stalls occupying the market area. It has a history of 300 years, and is very busy all year around being visited by the local shoppers as well as tourists. You can find fresh seafood, vegetables and fruits, dry foods, and some restaurants which are usually lined with people around lunch time. Even with nothing to buy, it is a unique experience to walk through the market and check out the shops.
Website (Japanese): https://ohmicho-ichiba.com/
KAMU is a modern art museum located at 4 different locations in Kanazawa city. The most famous one among all is KAMU kanazawa located close to the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum. It is a very small museum building with different artworks displayed on 3 different floors, and the most famous one is Leandro Erlich's artwork on the first floor titled "The Infinite Staircase 2020". You may also find artworks by Stephanie Quayle and Takuro Kuwata on the second and third floor respectively. Their ticket allows you to enter their other art museums such as; KAMU sky, KAMU BlackBlack and KAMU L.
7. Nagamachi Samurai District
Ever wondered what a samurai's neighborhood would look like in the olden days? Then head to the Nagamachi Samurai District. This historic area preserves the remaining samurai residences, earthen walls, private entrance gates, narrow lanes and water canals. One of the samurai house called Nomura Samurai House has been converted to a museum and welcomes public visitors. Originally belonging to a wealthy samurai family, the Nomura family went bankrupt and had to sell their assets including this house, which was bought by a wealthy businessman who modified part of the property, and it now belongs to the city. You could see an actual samurai armor, the preserved room and interior, as well as a Japanese garden.
8. Ishiura Shrine
Ishiura Shrine was said to be built around 1,500 years ago, making it the oldest shrine in Kanazawa. It has not been widely known, however thanks to the power of social media it is now one of the Instagram worthy spot in Kanazawa. This shrine is mainly popular among women not only as a famous photo spot, but also as a matchmaking shrine. Their ema (wooden plaque to write prayers or wishes), omikuji (fortune telling paper strips) and omamori (amulet) are really cute!
Website (Japanese): https://www.ishiura.jp/
9. Oyama Shrine
Oyama Shrine is a Shinto shrine which was dedicated to the powerful Lord MaedaToshiie and originally built on Mount Utatsu in 1599. It is known for its unusual and unique gate which was built with a mixture of traditional Japanese, Chinese, and European religious architectural elements. The tower is lit up at night, displaying the colorful and beautiful stained glass. The gate was designated an Important Cultural Asset in 1950.
Website (Japanese): http://www.oyama-jinja.or.jp/
10. Myouryuji Temple
Myouryuji Temple is also known as Ninja Temple although it wasn't actually associated with any Ninja clan whatsoever, but because it is full of trap doors, hidden rooms, secret passageways. Just like a ninja house! This Buddhist temple was built by the Maeda clan who ruled the Kaga domain during the Edo period not only as a simple prayer place, but also as a defensive structure against enemy attacks. You can visit Myouryouji Temple by making a booking over the phone for their guided tour. Unfortunately the guided tour is only in Japanese, so perhaps you can read up on it before or after visiting the temple. It is an extremely popular place to visit, so I would recommend you to visit on a weekday when there should be less visitors.