Kanazawa Japan

Kanazawa Japan

As my family and lots of friends live in Japan, I try to go back at least once a year. Whenever we are in Japan, we try to visit places we have not been to before. Last year we visited Kanazawa city where we really enjoyed spending time. So I wanted to write about this beautiful city and recommend what to see and do.

Kanazawa city is in Ishikawa prefecture in the northern part of Japan, located on the Japan seaside. It takes 2hrs and 15mins from Kyoto and from Tokyo you can reach it with the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) in 2hrs and a half. Kanazawa is known as a compact version of Kyoto and famous for its traditional crafts. But more recently it has been noted as a popular place to visit where the old meets new. Here are some of my recommendations:


1. Kanazawa station

When you go to the east entrance of the station, you are greeted by a huge beautiful wooden gate. The original design inspiration of this gate comes from a hand drum called Tsuzumi hence it is named Tuzumi mon (gate). It has a mixture of a traditional and modern feel and is very iconic in design. After passing through the gate you go inside a completely modern glass dome. As Kanazawa is known for its traditional crafts, you will see the use of many traditional crafts inside of this modern and traditional station.

2. 21st Century Museum

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa was opened in 2004. The unique circle and low museum building create an immediate modern and minimal impression. It takes about 20 mins by bus from Kanazawa station. The collections focuse on works produced since 1980 that “propose new values”. One of the memorable art objects is the swimming pool by Argentinian artist Leandro Erich. This pool creates an illusion by 10cm of water being housed between two sheets of transparent glass on top of the pool. If you are a big fan of contemporary art, this museum (including the building) is a nice place to stop by.

3. The Higashi Chaya District

Chaya (teahouse) is a special type of restaurant where guests are entertained by Geisha who perform traditional dance and songs. During the Edo period (1603-1868), Chaya was established and Kanazawa has 3 Chaya areas; Nishi Chayagai, Kazuemachi and Higashi Chaya. Higashi Chaya is the largest and the most interesting among three areas. Even now 2 Chaya; Kaikaro Teahouse and the Shima Teahouse are open for the public to explore  during the day time. As most of the Chaya decline the first time visitor, it is a great opportunity to see what it really looks like inside. The whole area is well preserved with many traditional teahouse-style houses. It is nice to walk around to soak up the atmosphere while enjoying cafés and shops in the area.

4. Kenrokuen

Kenrokuen is a Japanese landscape garden and classified as one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens alongside Kairakuen in Mito and Korakuen in Okayama. Kenrokuen is located right next to Kanazawa castle and very near to the 21st Century Museum. This beautiful garden used to be the outer garden of the castle and was created by the ruling Maeda family who came to the area in 16th century. It was opened to the public in 1871, since then this garden has been attracting many people from all over the world, showing the various types of beautiful landscapes for each season.

5. Craft

Kanazawa is known for all sorts of beautiful traditional craft such as Gold leaf, Makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold powder for decoration) and Pottery. These beautiful art works and products can be found in the local shops but when you walk around the area there are several places you can actually try making these traditional crafts. If you are interested in experiencing this, you can get detailed information at Kanazawa station information centre where they explain both in English and Japanese. Some experiences may need an advance booking but for a special experience to remember it is a really nice thing to try.

You can enjoy Kanazawa in just a few days and it is becoming a very popular weekend trip from Tokyo. We stayed there for a few nights but have so many nice memories. Amazingly good food, very friendly people and so many beautiful sites. If you visit Japan and have time to explore more, this is one of the top places I recommend for creatives.

Rieko Vining