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Travel Guide to Kanazawa, Japan

By: Swena Kalra

Edited By: Scott Sidders

Updated on November 5, 2023

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Kanazawa is located on the northwest coast of Honshu, Japan, on the Sea of Japan. It is the gateway to the rugged Noto Peninsula and is one of Japan's leading cultural and economic hubs. Kanazawa has been awarded a commendation as a "Creative City of Art and Culture" by the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs, making it an ideal destination for travelers interested in exploring Japanese culture.

Kanazawa is home to many traditional crafts, including Kutaniyaki porcelain, gold leaf art, lacquerware, and Kaga Yuzen dyeing. The city also offers a variety of attractions, such as Kenroku-en Garden, Kanazawa Castle Park, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Visitors can experience traditional Japanese cuisines such as seafood from the Sea of Japan or local specialties like Kaga Cuisine.

It is a fantastic destination for travelers looking to explore Japanese culture and experience its unique attractions. From its beautiful gardens to its traditional crafts and cuisine, there are plenty of things to do in this vibrant city that will make your trip unforgettable.

Top 10 Attractions & Things to Do in Kanazawa, Japan

When visiting Kanazawa, make sure to check out the following attractions and activities:

1. Visit Kenroku-en Garden

Kenroku-en Garden Kanazawa Japan

This beautiful park is one of Japan's three most famous gardens and has a long and celebrated history. It is often referred to as the "Garden of the Combined Six" due to its combination of six elements: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, watercourses, and broad views.

The garden covers almost 25 acres and features a variety of attractions such as ponds, streams, bridges, tea houses, pagodas, and more. The park also features several cultural artifacts, including stone lanterns and sculptures that date back hundreds of years. Visitors can also enjoy seasonal blooms throughout the year, such as cherry blossoms in spring and colorful autumn leaves in fall.


2. Explore the Nagamachi Samurai District

Tourists is traveling in the Samurai District in Kanazawa

Kanazawa, Japan, is home to the Nagamachi Samurai District, a beautiful and historic area where samurai and their families used to reside. Located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, this district is full of cobblestone streets, tiled earthen walls, and canals that create a peaceful atmosphere. Visitors can explore the area on foot or rent a kimono for an even more authentic experience.

While walking through the district, visitors will be able to appreciate the architecture of traditional samurai houses as well as learn about the history of the powerful Maeda clan who ruled Kanazawa. Several shops in the area also sell traditional Japanese souvenirs such as pottery, lacquerware, and textiles.

3. Appreciate the Exhibits at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, is a must-see for any art enthusiast. Located in the city's heart, this museum was designed by architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa and opened its doors in 2004. It's a great place to appreciate contemporary art with both children and adults alike.

The museum offers an art appreciation program that aims to introduce children to the world of contemporary art and help them understand it better. The entire building is also a unique piece of architecture that will delight any architecture lover. In addition to appreciating art, visitors can take a break at one of the museum's cafes or restaurants.

4. Take a Stroll through Higashi Chaya District

Higashi Chaya Districts, a Historic Streets of Kanazawa, Japan

Take a stroll through Higashi Chaya District in Kanazawa, Japan, and you'll be transported back in time. This historic district is home to many traditional wooden buildings, some dating back to the Edo period. It's also known for its exclusive teahouses, where guests can enjoy performances by geisha who sing and dance.

You can also participate in traditional activities like tea ceremonies and kimono-wearing experiences. Higashi Chaya District is a great place to explore on foot. As you wander around, you'll appreciate the beauty of the well-preserved architecture and learn about its rich history. Be sure to bring your camera – this area is full of photo opportunities!

5. Shop for Fresh Produce and Seafood at Omicho Market

Tourists and local people shop at famous Omicho market in Kanazawa Japan.

Established during the Edo period, this vibrant market has been around for more than 300 years and is home to over 170 shops. It's known as "Kanazawa's kitchen" and provides visitors with an array of delicious food items. The market is located just 15 minutes away from the JR Kanazawa Station, making it easily accessible by foot. Here you can find a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and other local delicacies.

There are also many restaurants where you can enjoy freshly prepared meals made with ingredients bought from the market. Omicho Market is a great place to experience the culture of Kanazawa and its people.

6. Admire Kanazawa Castle Park

Kanazawa Castle, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan

Kanazawa Castle Park is a beautiful spot for travelers to admire in Kanazawa, Japan. It is located in the city's center and easily accessible from many sides. The park features several historic structures, including Hashizume-mon Gate, Gyokusen'inmaru Garden, Imori Moat, and Hishi Yagura Gojukken Nagaya. It also houses Kanazawa Castle, once the Maeda family's home, which governed the Kaga Domain for over 280 years. The expansive park grounds offer plenty of space to explore and appreciate its beauty. There are also several monuments and statues scattered throughout the park that provide insight into its past.

7. Experience the Hyakumangoku Festival

Parade team members participating the Kanazawa Hyakumangoku Festival in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan.

This three-day celebration is held annually at the start of June and commemorates Lord Maeda's entry into Kanazawa Castle in 1583. The festivities include a parade with traditional dancing, taiko drums, and colorful costumes. Visitors can also enjoy food stalls, fireworks displays, and other entertainment throughout the weekend.

The festival's highlight is the grand procession through the city streets on Saturday afternoon. Led by a group of samurai warriors, this parade features floats decorated with intricate designs and hundreds of people dressed in traditional costumes. It's a mesmerizing sight that will captivate you with its beauty and pageantry. The Hyakumangoku Festival is one of Kanazawa's most popular events, attracting thousands of visitors yearly from all over Japan.

8. Visit Oyama Shrine

Oyama Shrine in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan

Located west of Kanazawa Castle Park, it's just a 10-minute walk south of Omicho Ichiba Market. Oyama Shrine is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the powerful local Maeda Clan, and was established in 1599.

The shrine features a beautiful garden with a pond that you can walk over and many ancient trees that give it a mystic atmosphere. It also has an impressive tower designed by a Dutch designer. The shrine is open 365 days a year, and parking is available. There are no large vehicle parking spots, however. Oyama Shrine is worth visiting when in Kanazawa, Japan - not only because of its historical significance but also because of its beauty and unique architecture.

9. Immerse Yourself in All Things Gold Leaf

Close up of Japanese gold leaf wrapped ice-cream in Kanazawa, Japan.

Kanazawa, Japan is renowned for its gold leaf craftsmanship. For centuries, the city has been producing some of the finest gold leaves in the world. If you're looking to immerse yourself in all things gold leaf, Kanazawa is the place to be! At Hakuichi, you can learn about the history and properties of the gold leaf before enjoying a range of activities, from crafting your jewelry to watching a traditional tea ceremony.

You can also participate in workshops and experience first-hand how this precious metal is crafted into beautiful works of art. You can also try edible gold leaf at Kin no Kagayaki, handcrafted by experienced craftsmen with centuries of history behind them. The brilliance of their work will leave you mesmerized! And if that's not enough, you can even find stores selling various products made from gold leaves, such as cosmetics and souvenirs.

10. Stop by Myoryuji Temple

The main building of the Ninja Temple in Kanazawa, Japan.

Also known as the Ninja Temple, this Buddhist temple was built in 1643 by the Maeda lords who ruled over the region. It is filled with secret passages and trap doors designed to protect the Maeda clan from their enemies. The temple is full of hidden rooms, stairwells, and passageways that will take you back to when samurai warriors roamed the land.

The temple also has a beautiful garden with a pond and a waterfall. You can take a peaceful stroll around the grounds and admire the architecture of this ancient structure. Inside, several statues of Buddha and other religious figures will give you an insight into Japanese culture and history.

Top 5 Day Trip Ideas from Kanazawa, Japan

The vibrant city of Kanazawa, Japan, is the perfect place to start a day trip. From historical shrines and temples to majestic mountains and beaches, there's something for everyone in this part of Japan. Here are some ideas for day trips from Kanazawa that will help you get the most out of your time here:

1. Shirakawago and Gokayama Day Trip

Traditional Japanese village of Shirakawa-go

Kanazawa, Japan, is home to two of the world's most beautiful and secluded mountain villages: Shirakawago and Gokayama. These two villages are known for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which are constructed with steeply sloped thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snowfall.

A day trip from Kanazawa to these two villages is a must for any traveler looking to experience the unique beauty of rural Japan. They can take stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys along the way. Once they arrive at Shirakawago, visitors can explore the village's many attractions, including its historic temples, shrines, and museums. They can also visit Ainokura Village in Gokayama, where they can enjoy shopping on an old street lined with traditional buildings.

In both villages, travelers can learn about local culture and history through guided tours or interactive exhibits. They can also sample some of the region's delicious cuisine, such as soba noodles or sake rice wine.

2. Takayama Day Trip

Tsumago a Traditional Japanese Village in the Mountains in Takayama Region

One of the best ways to experience Kanazawa is by taking a day trip to Takayama. The Takayama area is known for its traditional architecture and stunning natural scenery, making it an ideal destination for those looking to escape city life's hustle and bustle.

Visitors can explore Sannomachi's old merchant streets, Takayama Jinya, and Kokubunji temple or take a tour of Gokayama village to experience its unique atmosphere and traditional thatched-roof houses. There are also plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking in the nearby mountains or enjoying some local delicacies like Hida beef or sake tasting at one of the many breweries in the area.

For those who want to make a more extended trip out of it, there are private day tours available from Kanazawa, which include both Shirakawago and Takayama villages, as well as hotel pickup services, so you don't have to worry about transportation during your stay.

3. Noto Peninsula Tour

Rice terraces at Wajima, Ishikawa

The Noto Peninsula Tour from Kanazawa is a fantastic way to explore the beautiful region of Ishikawa, Japan. Located on the west coast of Japan, the Noto Peninsula is known for its stunning coastline and secluded beaches. On this private day tour from Kanazawa, you will have access to the Wajimi market, Senmaida rice fields, salt farms, and more. You can also take a bus tour to experience the breathtaking scenery and history of the area.

For those looking for a more extended trip, there are many options, such as a one-day mountain tour or a Noto peninsula and Wajima tour that includes home visits to lacquerware workshops. There are also private chauffeur sightseeing tours that include all must-see attractions in the area.

4. Fukui Day Trip

Sunset at the Tojinbo Cliffs in Fukui Prefecture, Japan

One of the best day trips from Kanazawa is a visit to Fukui. Located just over an hour away by train, Fukui offers a variety of attractions for visitors to enjoy. From Tojinbo Cliffs and Maruoka Castle to Eiheiji Temple and the Dinosaur Museum, there's something for everyone.

Travelers can take advantage of the convenient public transportation options in Kanazawa, such as limited express rail or bus services. For those who prefer to drive, renting a car and making the journey in around a couple of hours is possible.

No matter how you choose to get there, Fukui is sure to provide an unforgettable experience. With its stunning natural scenery and rich cultural heritage, it's no wonder that so many people choose to make this day trip from Kanazawa.

5. Shiga Day Trip

Torii floating in Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture

This tour allows visitors to experience some of Japan's most famous sites, including Shirakawa-go and Gokayama's gassho-zukuri villages. Visitors can also enjoy a photoshoot with a professional photographer.

The journey to Shiga from Kanazawa involves taking less traveled paths through Fukui and Shiga prefectures, offering unique experiences. The area is known for its abundant forests, which cover 70% of the region and provide pure water that has been used for centuries.

There are plenty of options for those who want to explore more of Kanazawa. Several suggested full-day walking tours cover all the major attractions in the city, as well as various transportation options such as rail, bus, taxi, and walking tours.

Top 3 Hotels to Stay in Kanazawa, Japan

Cityscape of the Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa has become one of Japan's most popular tourist destinations. Here are three top-rated hotels for visitors looking to stay in Kanazawa:

1. Kinjohro

Kinjohro Hotel in Kanazawa, Japan, is the perfect place to stay for travelers looking to experience first-class hospitality with a touch of delicate beauty. Located steps away from Ohi Pottery Museum and Kanazawa Phonograph Museum, this hotel offers air-conditioned rooms and free private parking.

Guests can enjoy free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel also features traditional gourmet ryokan cuisine with ingredients served on exquisite serving plates and decor. It is conveniently located near Kanazawa Station, making it easy to access all the attractions in the city. The hotel staff is friendly and helpful, ensuring guests have a pleasant stay.

2. Kanazawa Sainoniwa Hotel

Kanazawa Sainoniwa Hotel is a modern spa hotel located in Kanazawa, Japan. With four gardens that change colors throughout the seasons, this hotel offers guests an unforgettable experience. The hotel has excellent facilities and extremely courteous staff, making it the perfect place to stay while exploring the city.

It is conveniently located within walking distance of Kanazawa Railway Station, providing easy access to nearby attractions and amenities. The hotel features a variety of amenities, such as complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, and free parking. Guests can also enjoy spa facilities and an on-site restaurant.

3. Mitsui Garden Hotel Kanazawa

Mitsui Garden Hotel Kanazawa is an excellent choice for travelers exploring the city of Kanazawa, Japan. Located just 17 minutes from Kanazawa Station, this hotel offers guests the opportunity to experience the rich history of this ancient city while enjoying modern amenities. The hotel is conveniently located next to Omicho Market and closes to Kenrokuen, the castle, and Contemporary Art Museum.

Guests can enjoy 4-star accommodations with free WiFi, a 24-hour front desk, daily housekeeping, and fully refundable rates with free cancellation. Reviews from real guests are overwhelmingly positive, praising the helpful staff and comfortable rooms. With its convenient location and excellent amenities, Mitsui Garden Hotel Kanazawa is an ideal choice for travelers looking for a unique experience in Kanazawa.

Top 5 Places to Eat in Kanazawa, Japan

Japanese sushi chef in Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa is home to some of Japan's most delicious and unique cuisine. Here are five top-rated restaurants in the area:

1. Fuwari

Fuwari in Kanazawa, Japan, is an izakaya-style restaurant that offers a unique and delicious dining experience. Near Omicho Market, Fuwari serves traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern twist. The menu features a variety of small plates, including grilled fish, tempura vegetables, and other dishes made with fresh seafood from the coastal waters.

The atmosphere is cozy and inviting, perfect for enjoying a meal with friends or family. Locals and tourists have highly rated the restaurant for its excellent food and service. It's also known for its reasonable prices, making it an affordable option for travelers on a budget.

2. Sushi Ippei

This restaurant has been in business for over 75 years and is renowned for its outstanding food and service. The menu features a variety of traditional Japanese dishes such as nigiri zushi sushi, sashimi, and tempura. The atmosphere is cozy and friendly, with an indoor dining area and outdoor seating available.

The chefs at Sushi Ippei are highly skilled and use only the freshest ingredients to create their masterpieces. Their attention to detail ensures that each dish is perfectly prepared and presented. Sushi is especially popular among visitors due to its unique flavor and texture. In addition to the excellent food, Sushi Ippei also offers a range of beverages, including sake, beer, wine, and soft drinks. They also have a selection of desserts available to satisfy any sweet tooth.

3. Aashirwad

Aashirwad in Kanazawa, Japan, is a restaurant that offers a unique dining experience. Located in the city's Nagamachi district, it specializes in Indian and Nepalese cuisine. The restaurant has an inviting atmosphere with beautiful decor and friendly staff. The menu features a variety of dishes, including stuffed eggplants, Nepali potato dishes, Chana Salad, and more.

All of the ingredients are organic and locally sourced. They also offer take-out options for those who don't have time to dine in. Aashirwad is also allergy-friendly and vegan-friendly, so everyone can enjoy their meal without worry. The reviews for Aashirwad are overwhelmingly positive, with many customers praising the food, service, and atmosphere.

4. Los Angeles

Los Angeles in Kanazawa is a vegan restaurant in the city's heart. It offers a small but delicious menu with lovely friendly service. The restaurant is a favorite among locals and visitors and even sells clothes! Los Angeles in Kanazawa serves burgers, salad plates, and other options to satisfy any appetite.

The restaurant is open from 9 am to 1:30 pm Monday through Wednesday, so be sure to plan accordingly if you're looking for a bite to eat. The restaurant is conveniently located near the Hundred Avenue Mall and the gorgeous castle grounds, making it easy to find your way there. Los Angeles in Kanazawa also offers excellent value for money, with items starting from ¥400.

5. Curio Espresso and Vintage Design Café

This unique café offers an array of delicious coffee drinks, food options, and a vintage design aesthetic that will transport you to another era. The menu at Curio Espresso and Vintage Design Café features a variety of espresso drinks, teas, smoothies, and more.

There are also plenty of food options, such as sandwiches, salads, pastries, and other snacks. The café also offers vegan and allergy-friendly dishes so everyone can enjoy their meal. The atmosphere at Curio Espresso and Vintage Design Café is one-of-a-kind. The café has a cozy yet stylish interior with vintage furniture and decorations that give it a unique charm. The staff is friendly and helpful, ensuring you have the best experience possible while visiting the café.

Final Thoughts

Kanazawa Station in Japan

Kanazawa, Japan, is a must-visit destination for those looking to explore the culture and history of this stunning city. With its many temples, shrines, gardens, museums, and other attractions, there's something here for everyone. Whether you're interested in exploring traditional Japanese architecture or getting lost in an old tea house – Kanazawa has it all!

So don't delay - plan your trip today and experience the best this fantastic city offers! We wish you all the best on your travels, have fun and take care!

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