During the Edo period (1603-1868), Kanazawa earned a justified reputation for the quality of its craftsmen. Their talent not only applied to gold and metal work, but to the creation of sumptuous kimono for the city's upper classes. Their special dying technique, known as Kaga Yuzen, is still considered a valued art form today and Kaga Yuzen kimonos - all created by hand - are a valuable addition to any woman's wardrobe.
You can learn about the entire process of Kaga Yuzen at the Nagamachi Yuzenkan, a nondescript building on the edge of Kanazawa's samurai district. Explanatory panels on the third floor provide an excellent introduction to the laborious process, from the creation of the design (most feature some sort of seasonal flower) to the application of the paste that protects the design during the dying process to the actual dying itself. The entire process can involve up to a dozen craftsmen working on one single kimono and that sole garment might not be completed for at least three or four months.
The third floor of the Yuzenkan also boasts the artisans' workshop where you can see them at work on various designs and then transferring those creations to the actual cloth. Even when the artists are not working (sadly, they weren't on the day I visited), you are more than free to wander the studio and take pictures of the works in progress.
Visitors can also try their own hand at the Kaga Yuzen technique. The shortest course available is 1-2 hours, and must be reserved in advance. For ¥4000, you'll receive a 15x15cm square that you than design and paint according to a selection of patterns. Longer courses are available on larger swatches of fabric - the next step up is a 2-6 hour workshop for ¥18000.
If you prefer to simply wear a kimono rather than take part in creating one, the center also offers the chance to be kitted out in full traditional kimono for a very affordable ¥1000. You could also take a stroll in one of their traditional kimono - a one-day rental is ¥4000. A great idea to combine with photo ops at nearby Kanazawa Castle or Kenroku-en!