One of the most important centers for culture and art during the Edo period, Kanazawa is the prefectural capital of Ishikawa, a narrow stretch of land on Japan's main island of Honshu along the Sea of Japan. A haven for art enthusiasts and culture vultures, this city contains museums and workshops on everything from gold leaf to samurai.
Kanazawa can be accessed from several major cities in Japan, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya.
From Tokyo, Kanazawa is approximately 2 hours 35 minutes on the Hokuriku Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station on the Kagayaki and Hakutaka trains, which stop at Nagano and Toyama stations. There are also flights from Haneda to Komatsu airport (an hour's drive from Kanazawa).
From Osaka and Kyoto, take the JR limited express Thunderbird. It takes approximately 2 hours 25 minutes and also stops at Fukui and Kaga Onsen.
From Nagoya, the JR Limited Express Shirasagi directly connects to Kanazawa in about 3 hours.
Home of the wealthy Kaga clan (Maeda family) during the Edo period (1603-1867), the second-most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa shogunate
The name Kanazawa literally means marsh of gold, and the city today supplies 99 percent of Japan's gold-leaf
Located between the Sea of Japan and the mountains on Japan's main island Honshu
During the prosperous and relatively peaceful Edo period (1603-1867), a rich culture of fine arts and craftsmanship evolved, and Kanazawa became the cultural capital of the West Coast of Japan. Artists and craftsman from all over Japan came to settle in Kanazawa, perfecting a culture unique to Kanazawa over the centuries.
In Kanazawa today, you will find traditional and modern art and architecture, a huge range of Japanese crafts, perfected over time, such as maki-e lacquerware, kutaniyaki ceramics, swordsmithing, as well as geisha and samurai districts, and one of the most beautiful and acclaimed traditional landscape gardens in Japan.
Any visit to Kanazawa should include a visit to Kanazawa castle and Kenrokuen garden, located in the heart of the city. The site of the castle park and garden was the center of power of the Kaga domain from 1583 until the end of the Edo period in 1867 when Kanazawa flourished as a city of art and culture.
Immerse yourself in the lifestyle of the samurai with a stroll through narrow streets lined with old earthen walls in the Nagamachi Samurai district, located near Kanazawa castle park, where you can glimpse inside the life a samurai at the Casa Samurai Nomura, a restored home with a beautiful small garden.
Gold leaf, or kinpaku, is gold that has been rolled flat by a machine and then beaten into a very thin square sheet.
Today you can find all manner of crafts made with kinpaku in Kanazawa, including ceramics, woodwork, beauty products and food, notably in the Higashichayagai district, the Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum nearby, and at Kanazawa station's shopping complex. Try a hands-on experience and take a piece of Kanazawa home with you.
The city's 21st Century Museum of Contemporary art showcases contemporary pieces from all over the world, and the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum focuses on traditional and modern art by artists from Ishikawa. There is also the D.T. Suzuki Museum, a museum dedicated to the life of D.T. Suzuki where you can take a moment to relax in the Zen-like atmosphere. In addition, there are several small museums where you can gain an understanding about Kaga Yuzen kimono and Noh plays.
In Kanazawa there are hundreds of restaurants and venues in all budget ranges where you can try the area's local specialties. There are sushi restaurants which serve fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan, Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurants where you can try small dishes of the freshest seasonal heirloom vegetables in a stylish setting, and Omicho market, where you can browse through the many shops for all kinds of products, including local miso and shoyu. For dinner, try Korinbo, Katamachi, or Kazuemachi, where you may stumble upon a hidden bar or restaurant.
The city is also often visited in combination with the other two main areas of Ishikawa, the hot-spring town of Kaga Onsen to the south, and the rugged and picturesque Noto Peninsula extending into the Sea of Japan to the north, home to the lacquer center of Wajima. The UNESCO World Heritage village of Shirakawago in Gifu prefecture can also be visited from Kanazawa via the convenient Nohi bus.