Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa prefecture and takes only two and a half hours from Tokyo station by the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line. Kanazawa was the home of the wealthy Maeda clan in the Edo period and became one of the most important cultural centers, where artisans and craftsmen gathered. Kanazawa was fortunate to escape destruction from the great air raids in WWII so the city is well preserved. Today it offers one of the nation’s best traditional gardens, several great museums, beautifully kept neighborhoods and a fine array of artistic craftsmanship.
People refer to Kanazawa as “little Kyoto,” and when you visit there you’ll immediately understand why. The literal meaning of Kanazawa is a marsh of gold, and still today the city supplies 99 percent of Japan’s gold leaf. Hokuriku Bus offers a very convenient Kanazawa Loop day pass. You can check the details from here. Here are the best places to visit in Kanazawa.
Kenrokuen Garden is located in the center of the city and used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa castle. It represented the power of Maeda clan from 1587 to the end of the Edo period. This extraordinary garden is listed as one of the top three national gardens. Kenrokuen translates as the “garden of six attributes” a term that originated from the Chinese landscape book that describes the six attributes of the perfect garden. The garden offers a different landscape in each season.
7:00am-6:00pm (Mar-15 Oct), 8:00am-5:00pm (16 Oct-Feb)
Access: 1 min walk from Hirosaka bus stop (Kanazawa Loop Bus)
Entrance fee: ¥310
2. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art has been exhibiting contemporary art from all over the world since 2004, mainly installations, video arts, and mix media. The building itself is unique as a permanent installation. The museum hosts seasonal exhibitions, and has free public spaces , including a library, lecture halls and children’s workshops.
10:00am-6:00pm (Sun-Thu), 10:00am-8:00pm (Fri and Sat), 9:00am-10:00pm (Public Zone)
Access: Hirosaka 21st Century Museum bus stop (Kanazawa Loop Bus)
Entrance fee: varies by exhibition, free (public zone)
3. Kanazawa Castle
Kanazawa Castle was the home of the prosperous Maeda clan who ruled Kaga province from its confines. This gorgeous castle burnt down several times over the centuries, and later the location was used as a military barracks, public tennis courts and in modern times, a University campus. At last, the local government took control and reconstructed the original buildings and restored the moat, opening the castle to the public in 1996. Nowadays, the castle has become one of the symbols of Kanazawa city. You can walk around the castle grounds for free but buy a ticket to explore the interior of the buildings, and enjoy the view from the castle windows.
Inside 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Ground 7:00 am – 6:00 pm (March 1st – Oct 15th) 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Oct 15-Mar 1st)
Access: same as Kenrokuen
Entrance fee: ¥320 (the grounds are free)
4. Higashi Chayagai / Higashi Chaya District
The photogenic streetscapes in Higashi Chayagai is another must-see site in Kanazawa. The street flourished as chaya-gai, geisha entertainment district, from the late Edo period through the early Meiji periods. Even now, you can sometimes hear the sounds of the shamisen (Japanese three stringed instrument) and Japanese drums. Some kimono-wearing tourists explore this street. There is an array of interesting stores, craft shops, a little traditional fusion cafe, and a sweet shop.
Access: 5 min walk from Hashiba machi bus stop (Kanazawa Loop Bus)
5. Omicho Market
Omicho Market is located in the center of Kanazawa. About 170 fresh food stalls are set up here in a small space. This lively colorful market sells mainly fresh local fish, but also vegetables, meat, dried food, sake, pickles, flower and ceramics. You can takeaway a packet of fresh local seafood and eat right on the spot. You will be surprised how super fresh seafood tastes so different. A variety of other shops offer an array of dishes you can eat on the street. Be careful not to plan this market trip on Wednesday as many of them closed.
9:00am-5:00pm (varies by shop, closed New Years holidays)
Access: 1 min walk from Omicho market bus stop (Kanazawa Loop Bus)
Entrance fee: free
*You can explore both the Omicho market and Higashi chayagai district together with this tour.
We definitely recommend booking this interesting tour with a local guide, in order to understand the local foods, history and background, and special hidden spots.
▶Kanazawa Omicho Market and Higashichayagai District Food Tour
6. Nomura Clan Samurai House
The Nomura Samurai House is a historical house surrounded by a stunning garden. The Nomura clan was a powerful samurai family in the Kaga province who served the Maeda clan for centuries. The house was ruined at one point, but wealthy businessman bought it in early 20th century. The city owns it today and has restored it beautifully. You can walk form Kanazawa station in 25 minutes and the paths on the way are through a well preserved beautiful residential area. The old walled-in houses, small canals, and stone paved streets bring you back to the time of the powerful samurai families who lived in the area in the Edo period.
8:30 am – 5:30 pm (Apr-Sep) 8:30 am – 4:30 pm (Oct-March) closed New Year’s holiday
Access: 25 min walk from Kanazawa station or 5 min walk from Korinbo bus stop (Kanazawa Loop Bus)
Entrance fee: ¥550
7. D.T. Suzuki Museum
D.T. Suzuki Museum is a small museum opened in 2011. It is dedicated to the works and life of Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro (1870-1966) and reflects his values and beliefs. He was a prominent Buddhist philosopher and his lifework contributed tremendously to the spread of Zen in the West. The museum is located in the area where he was born. The museum itself is a very modern and magnificent work of architecture, designed by one of the most famous Japanese architects, Yoshio Taniguchi, also from Kanazawa.
9:00- 5:00 pm closed on Mondays and New Year’s holidays
Access: 5 min walk from Hondamachi bus stop (Kanazawa Loop Bus)
Entrance fee: ¥310
8. Myoryuji Temple
Myoryuji is commonly known as “Ninja temple”, although the temple has never been historically related with any ninja. The temple was built with many deceptive defense and escape routes as a secret outpost for the Media lords. There are trap doors, secret passage ways, pitfalls, watchtowers and more. From outside, the temple looks like two story building, adhering to the strict building code in the Edo period, but there are actually four stories inside with 23 rooms and 29 staircases. The visit and tours (in Japanese) have to be booked ahead of time by phone; 076-241-0888.
9:00 – 4:00 pm (weekends until 4:30 pm) closed January 1st and other irregular days
Access: A few minutes’ walk from Hirokoji bus stop (Kanazawa Loop Bus)
Entrance fee: ¥1,000 (adult), ¥700 (children) *booking required
9. Kanazawa Station
Kanazawa station experienced a major overhaul in 2005, and was re-designed with an Omotenashi, or Japanese theme of hospitality. Because the Kanazawa area has many rainy and snowy days, the front gate is constructed as an enormous umbrella to protect those entering and leaving the station. The glass steel-domed ceiling is very impressive, as is the huge wooden gate resembling a torii Shinto gate. The gate was inspired by the Japanese drum, and lit up until midnight, it makes for a great photo opportunity.
10. Kazuemachi Chayagai
Traditional restaurants and tea houses line this street along the asanogawa river in Kazuemachi Chayagai. The small pathways are always a bit dark, but it adds a romantic atmospheric to the evening. The area is 5 minutes walking distance from Higashi Chayagai, so you can walk through two geisha districts at once!
Where to stay
Kanazawa Sainoniwa Hotel – Surrounded by four different gardens, you can spend relaxing time in the clean room. Also they offer the great breakfast to help you start your day well.
UAN kanazawa – Walking distance from Omicho Market, Uan means rainy hotel and the concept of this hotel is to enjoy a rainy day in Kanazawa. There are many hints to make the rainy day on your trip better.
THE SHARE HOTELS HATCHi Kanazawa – This modern and stylish hotel is 8-minute walk from Kenrokuen and Kanazawa Castle, only 100 meters away from Kazuemachi Chayagai. They have a cafe serving good coffee and cozy rooms to sleep in.
Popular tours in Kanazawa
- Kanazawa 1–Day Highlight Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
- Kanazawa Omicho Market and Higashichayagai District Food Tour
Kanazawa offers traditional nostalgic streets, interesting museums, some magnificently restored buildings and gardens, and great local food. Many of the interesting sites we have listed above are located in a relatively small area. The tour below offers a discount with “Go To Campaign”, an economic stimulus plan for the tourist industry. You can inquire in English here. This tour includes round-trip transportation from Shin-Yokohama station, and a one-night hotel stay in Kanazawa city. The two-day trip will allow you to explore most of what we have listed above, if not all. This is a great and low-cost opportunity to travel around the beautiful city of Kanazawa!
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