Translated by Takuya Erik Watanabe
Japanese-English Translator from OC California.
Kanazawa, home to incredibly well preserved historical buildings and to one of the three most beautiful Japanese gardens in the world, is a highly recommended destination for any visitor seeking true Japanese culture.
Kanazawa is a popular sightseeing destination located in the center of Ishikawa prefecture, known for its impressive Edo period-style townscape. Kanazawa used to be a large city, rivaling Edo, Osaka, and Kyoto in size. A city was formed around Kanazawa Castle, and many temples were built here.
A town built around a castle is called a jokamachi (castle town). Kanazawa is a city that has preserved the cityscape and atmosphere of a traditional Japanese jokamachi.
There are many appealing tourist attractions in Kanazawa, such as the Kenrokuen Garden, which is said to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, as well as Nagamachi Buke Yashiki in Nagamachi, and the Musashigatsuji area, known for its great shopping areas.
First we'll explain how to get to Kanazawa from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
To reach Kanazawa from Tokyo, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, which opened for the area from Nagano to Kanazawa on March 14th of 2015, is very convenient. You will reach Kanazawa in two or three hours without any transfers.
The fare is about 14,320 yen for a one-way trip.
Other than that, you can also use an express bus. Get on a bus headed to Kanazawa departing from major stations like Tokyo or Shinjuku, and you will be in Kanazawa in about eight hours. The fare is around 5000-9000 yen for a one-way ride.
From Osaka or Kyoto, we recommend using the JR Thunderbird Limited Express.
From Osaka, the ride should take approximately three hours. A one-way ride for an adult is 4750 yen. For a reserved seat you will need to pay an extra 3100 yen for a total of 7850 yen. From Kyoto, the ride is about two hours and 20 minutes. The fare is 4000 yen for an adult, plus 3100 yen for a total of 7100 yen for a reserved seat.
Kenrokuen is known as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. It is also designated as a protected Cultural Property. Within the garden there is a pond, an artificial hill, a dining room, and a tea house. Visitors can stop by the many attractions while enjoying the magnificent garden view.
Seasonal flowers decorate the garden throughout the year. You will see cherry blossoms in the spring, irises in the summer, and autumn leaves in the fall.
Kanazawa Castle is a symbolic building of the old castle town of Kanazawa. The main castle has gone, but the gates of the castle are still in existence and convey the history of their time.
Korinbo is located in the center of Kanazawa. It's known as one of the greatest commercial areas of the Hokuriku region, where various department stores, fashion shops, and restaurants line the streets.
Not only can you enjoy shopping here, but you can also check out historic spots like the Ishikawa Prefectural Government Memorial Shiiki Guesthouse, which is a multipurpose facility renovated from the old Ishikawa prefectural government building. Also, the Ishikawa Shiko Kinen Bunka Koryukan building, an Important Cultural Property, is also found in Korinbo.
Nagamachi is an area where samurai used to live. The residences where the samurai spent their days are preserved, creating a unique atmosphere. The mud walls and stone paved alleys in this city are worth seeing. Just walking around, you'll be able to feel what it might've been like in the Edo period.
Musashigatsuji is an area where many traders ran their shops in the Edo period. With traces of that time, the area is a well-known shopping spot with various shopping streets to choose from.
Some of the best-known shopping streets are the Musashi Shotengai, the Owaricho Shotengai, and the Yokoyasuecho Shotengai. The Omicho Market is full of fresh fish shops, and is crowded with both locals and visitors.
Owaricho is a city where visitors can learn about and experience the culture of Kanazawa. Attractions like the Owaricho Chomin Bunkakan, which was built in the Meiji period, and the Izumi Kyoka Kinenkan Museum, which has exhibitions themed on achievements of the author Izumi Kyoka, who was from Kanazawa.
There are also many Japanese-style restaurants and kimono stores here, so if you want to experience some high-quality Japanese culture, this is a must-visit spot.
Kanazawa station was chosen by the online American travel magazine Travel + Leisure as the 6th in a ranking of the World's Most Beautiful Train Stations. Especially famous are the glass Motenashi Dome (Hospitality Dome), which is themed after an umbrella, and the Tsuzumimon Gate, which is modeled after a traditional Japanese drum called a tsuzumi.
The Nomachi and Teramachi area is known for its charming temples and Japanese-style restaurants.
The Teramachi Jiingun (Temple District) boasts famous temples such as Myoryuji, also known as Ninjadera, and Shogetsuji, which is well-known for its sakura blossoms. It has been chosen by the Ministry of the Environment as one of the "100 Soundscapes of Japan to be Preserved".
Visitors will find various Japanese-style restaurants lining the Nishichayagai (Nishi Chaya District). Here there are many latticed chaya-style houses, and geisha entertain the guests with songs and dances in the evening.
An elegant townscape in the area called Higashichayagai (East Chaya District) can be found in Higashiyama and Utatsuyama. The whole mountain of Mount Utatsuyama itself is a park, and from the observatory on the summit visitors can enjoy a view of the city of Kanazawa and the Sea of Japan.
We recommend using the Hokuriku Rail Road Bus One Day Pass when sightseeing in Kanazawa. For a great price of 500 yen for adults or 250 yen for elementary school children and younger, you will have access to unlimited rides on the Hokuriku Rail Road Group's buses.
The Hokuriku Rail Road Bus is convenient when stopping by at major sightseeing spots such as Kanazawa station, Musashigatsuji, Omicho Market, Kenrokuen, Kanazawa Castle, and Korinbo.
As we shared today, Kanazawa is a city that has preserved a traditional Japanese townscape. Seeing the latest culture and technology in Tokyo is fun, but we also highly recommend experiencing the history and traditional Japanese culture in Kanazawa.