Kanazawa was the city we visited after Kyoto. I was so sad of leaving Kyoto that I was convinced I would not like Kanazawa. It’s hard to come right after Kyoto. Instead, I am happy to say that Kanazawa is actually very beautiful! It’s not a huge city, yet there are plenty of interesting sites to see and the seafood is impressive. I highly recommend you visit it and I hope you find this Kanazawa guide useful!
During WWII, Kanazawa escaped destruction by air raids. For this reason, parts of the old castle town, like the Nagamachi samurai district and chaya entertainment districts, have survived in very good condition. But Kanazawa’s main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens”.
We started our visit from the Higashi Chaya district, Kanazawa’s largest and most interesting entertainment district.
A chaya is an exclusive type of restaurant where guests are entertained by geisha who perform song and dance.
There are 2 chaya, the Shima Teahouse and Kaikaro Teahouse, open to the public.
We visited the Kaikaro Teahouse and loved it. It is still in operation and geishas continue to perform in this teahouse which is 180 years old.
Inside there are many highlights to see like the glossy vermillion staircase or the Golden Tea Room!
It was very interesting to see the house of geisha and we also got a chance to talk to one of them. The girls were thrilled!
Other buildings now house cafes and shops.
One of the shops, Hakuza, sells gold leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa, and displays a tea ceremony room which is completely covered in gold leaf (one of Kanazawa speciality!). It was AMAZING!
Then we went to the magnificent Kenrokuen garden. It was an amazing sight, as the cherry blossoms were at their peak (unlike in Kyoto where we missed the peak for a few days!). Being Sunday and sakura season, the garden is packed!
Kenrokuen used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and it features a variety of flowering trees which provide the garden with a different look for each season.
I loved the water features too!
The most photographed spot of the garden is definitely the Kotojitoro Lantern, uniquely built with two legs instead of one.
It stands at the northern bank of Kasumigaike Pond
From the garden, you also get a spectacular view of parts of the city!
There were hundreds of locals enjoying the sakura and doing hanami/picnics under the flowers.
We joined them and had some delicious Chicken Karaage while sitting down under a sakura tree in front of the castle. It was just so pretty!
We also visited the Samurai area, called Nagamachi. It was originally located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, and it was the district where samurai and their families used to live.
The area still has a beautiful historic atmosphere with its remaining samurai residences, narrow lanes, earthen walls and water canals.
We visited Nomura-ke, a restored samurai residence that displays the lifestyle of the era when samurai were prosperous.
It also has a beautiful little garden.
My husband and eldest daughter also visited the Ninja-dera (Myoryuji Temple). While not actually associated with ninja, the temple earned its nickname because of its many deceptive defenses and it was designed to serve as a disguised military outpost. It was built with great escape routes, so that its defenders could alert the castle in case of an attack.
The temple has plenty of hidden tunnels, secret rooms, traps etc… It can be viewed by guided tours only (reservations by phone are required – 076-241-0888) in Japanese, although English guidebooks are available upon request. Also note that children under 6 are not allowed inside the temple – that’s why my 5 year old daughter and I could not visit it. And… no pictures allowed inside.
Another great attraction of Kanazawa is Omicho Market.
It is a busy and colourful network of covered streets with about 200 shops and stalls.
While most shops specialize in the excellent local seafood, you can also find more on sale.
Kanazawa is famous for its crabs… and you can find many at Omicho!
I loved all the miniature food. These eggplant were about 5 cm – 2 inches!
And these were tiny too!
We also saw how korokke are made!
I highly recommend to try sushi here… it is amazing (more about it in the Food section of this post).
Kanazawa is famous for its rice, vegetables and above all for its amazing seafood. I had heard about this before going there, but the actual quality really blew me away. In fact, at Omicho Market we had sushi that was easily just as good as the sushi we had at Tsukiji market in Tokyo (at almost half the price!).
Making Sushi at Omicho Market!
We ate at 2 different sushi bars inside Omicho Markets and loved them both.
In the first one, we had salmon nigiri, tuna rolls and some amazing toro nigiri.
In the second one, we had more salmon nigiri and probably the best tuna nigiri and rolls of the whole trip! We bought it to take away and had it on the train on our way to Takayama (sorry no pictures of the food).
If you like street food, try the stalls between Kenrokuen and the Kanazawa Castle. We had some delicious Karaage, but you can find almost all Japanese street food… including sweet potato fries, okonomiyaki, tokoyaki, dango, gohei mochi etc.
We also had a very nice dinner in an izakaya called Paparoku, not too far from our ryokan (see map below). The kids had some sausages and chips.
While my husband and I had some yakitori and fried chicken.
The place was very nice and the people serving were really kind and attentive. They could barely speak English, but we still managed to communicate. I highly recommend this friendly place!
In Kanazawa, we stayed in a very nice ryokan called Ryokan Sumiyoshiya.
The ryokan is in a fantastic spot. It’s basically in front of Omicho Market and less than a 5 minute walk from the main bus stop. Really unbeatable as base to explore the city!
It is a family business, so it’s not a huge hotel. We loved how cozy it was and the room was HUGE. We actually had 2 bedrooms, a big entrance and a rather big toilet and bathroom.
It was lovely… look at that red colour!
When we arrived, we used the room as “day room”, so we had a table and we could sit around it on the tatami mat to enjoy tea and pastries provided by the ryokan management. After dinner, the rooms were prepared for the night and the futons were laid down for us to sleep in.
We also had a Yukata each to wear for the night and all the usual toiletry sets you find in Japanese hotels, like toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors etc…
There was also a little reading room in the hotel and the lady who runs it speaks good English and is quite knowledgeable about the city.
I highly recommend Ryokan Sumiyoshiya for the comfort of the room and the amazing location. This is definitely the place where we will be staying at on our next visit to Kanazawa.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN KANAZAWA
The best way to explore Kanazawa is by bus (and on foot). The buses connect the station with the city centre and all of Kanazawa’s main tourist attractions. Regular city buses cost a flat fare of 200 yen per ride.
A useful bus line for tourists is the Kanazawa Loop Bus, which connects Kanazawa Station with most sights of interests. Buses travel the loop in both directions, a clockwise Right Loop and counter-clockwise Left Loop. It costs 200 yen per ride or 500 yen for a 1-day pass.
Another useful bus line is the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus, which departs Kanazawa Station every 20 minutes bound for Kenrokuen. It costs 100 yen per ride on weekends and national holidays or 200 yen per ride on weekdays.
RESOURCES ON MSM
TRAVEL IN JAPAN:
HOW TO GET THERE
You can easily reach Kanazawa by Shinkansen. It takes about 2.5 to 3 hours from Tokyo and Osaka, and a little over 2 hours from Kyoto.