During the Edo Period, Kanazawa was home to the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa shogunate. Thanks to this wealth and influence, the city’s art and cultural industries flourished. Later, during World War II, Kanazawa escaped air raids, leaving it as one of Japan’s best preserved historical cities. Immerse yourself in the one of a kind environment, and feel the alluring powers of the past.
A must see-destination in Kanazawa is the renowned Kenrokuen Garden. This 17th century park and former outer garden of Kanazawa castle is listed as one of Japan’s top three landscaped gardens. Leisurely explore the 28-acre expanse of greenery and relax among its ponds, streams, teahouse, plum tree grove, small shrine, and more. For a truly memorable experience, visit Kenrokuen during spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom or autumn when bright foliage emblaze the area.
A short walk from Kenrokuen is Kanazawa Castle. This partially restored 16th century castle exemplifies feudal Japan with its moat, high elevation, and traditional design, and features reconstructed turrets, gates, and a long storehouse. During springtime, the historic grounds bloom with cherry blossoms, making for picturesque views.
Northeast of Kanazawa Castle is the historic Higashi Chaya District, or teahouse and geisha district. Walk along cobblestone streets lined with traditional wooden homes and shops and envelop yourself in the old time aura. Stop by Shima or Kaikaro Teahouse to experience tea ceremonies and geisha performances or peruse the gold leaf wares of Hakuza, which are specialities of Kanazawa.
Continue your historic adventure in the Nagamachi District, also known as the samurai district. This area is located near Kanazawa castle, the city’s center, and was home to middle and high ranking samurai. Today, the samurai’s lifestyle is preserved in the district’s narrow streets lined with earthen walls and traditional residences.
In addition to the preserved history of the area, Kanazawa is also home to modern museums such as the 21st Century Museum and D.T. Suzuki Museum.
For more lively fun, stop by Omicho Market! This large fresh food market was established during the Edo period and is packed with roughly 200 shops selling local seafood, produce, flowers, and more. Stop by one of the small restaurants, and start your day with luscious sushi or sashimi.
The simplest and fastest way to reach Kanazawa from Tokyo Station is via the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen line. This trip takes about 2.5 (Kagayaki Shinkansen) to 3 (Hakutaka Shinkansen) hours depending on the train service you ride and is fully covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. Another option, if you are departing from Kyoto or Osaka Station, is to take the JR Thunderbird Limited Express train to Kanazawa. This route takes between 2 hours and 30 minutes to 2 hours and 50 minutes and is also covered by the JR Pass.
Other notable discount passes are the JR East Pass, a cheaper alternative to the JR Pass that covers travel on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen, but not the Thunderbird Limited Express, and the Hokuriku Arch Pass, which covers train services from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Osaka, including the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen and the Thunderbird Limited Express.
You can also reach Kanazawa via air travel. Flights from Tokyo’s Haneda or Narita airport to Komatsu airport take a little over an hour. From Komatsu airport, catch a 40-minute airport express bus to Kanazawa Station.