An intriguing city with a fascinating ancient samurai district
Kanazawa boasts many historic attractions such as restored residences and Edo-era districts, as well as modern museums, markets, regional handicrafts and art. The old castle town and adjacent districts such as the Nagamachi samurai district and chaya entertainment districts remain in good condition and are ideally explored on foot. Kanazawa's unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan's "three best landscape gardens". Also well worth a visit are Omicho Market, packed with stalls selling freshly caught seafood, fruit and vegetables and other produce, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art which showcases art produced since 1980.
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Here we have selected a few of the sights and experiences that you really should see on a visit to Kanazawa.
Kenrokuen in Kanazawa is justifiably classified as one of Japan's "three most beautiful landscape gardens". The spacious grounds used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and were constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries. Opened to the public in 1871, Kenrokuen features a variety of flowering trees which provide the garden with a different look for each season.
Nagamachi Samurai District
Nagamachi was a samurai district located at the foot of the old Kanazawa Castle, where samurai and their families used to reside. The area preserves its historic atmosphere with the remaining samurai residences, earthen walls, private entrance gates, narrow lanes and canals. One of the main attractions of the district is the centrally located Nomura-ke, a restored samurai residence from the time when samurai were prosperous. In contrast is the Shinise Kinenkan Museum, a restored pharmacy displaying the lives of the merchant class which rose in prosperity as the samurai declined.
From 1583 to the end of the Edo Period, Kanazawa Castle was the seat of the powerful Maeda Clan, lords of Kaga, a feudal domain ranking second only to the Tokugawa in terms of size and wealth. The castle burnt down several times over the centuries, and the most recent fires of 1881 were survived only by two storehouses and the Ishikawa-mon Gate. The gate dates from 1788 and faces Kenrokuen. For several decades, Kanazawa University occupied the former castle grounds until the campus was moved to the city's outskirts in the early 1990s. Since then, a project is underway to rebuild the castle's former buildings.
Omicho Market has been Kanazawa's largest fresh food market since the Edo Period. Today, it is a busy and colourful network of covered streets lined with 200 shops and stalls, mainly specialising in the excellent local seafood and produce. Although the market is most exciting during the morning hours, it also gets quite busy around noon, when people for lunch at the restaurants inside the market. It is not unusual for queues to form in front of the popular restaurants, many of which specialise in rice bowls topped with fresh Kanazawa seafood.
21st Century Museum
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, in downtown Kanazawa, just a few steps from Kenrokuen, exhibits works by acclaimed contemporary artists from Japan and all over the world, and is among Japan's most popular art museums. The building's unique architecture distinguishes it from other museums and buildings around the city. The circular building, with no facade or main entrance, was designed without a front or back to discourage its patrons from approaching the museum, and its art, from only one direction.
A selection of tours to Kanazawa
Japan Group Tour Rail
Discover Japan by Rail
13 day tour from £2,595
A land only tour discovering this fascinating country's main attractions using iconic bullet trains
Japan Group Tour Nature
Cherry Blossom Tour
13 day tour from £4,449
A 13 day tour that explores the very best of Japan’s culture and nature, during the popular cherry blossom season.
Japan Semi-Escorted Family
Japan Family Tour
15 day tour from £3,299
Explore the history and culture of this amazing country, with fun-filled excursions for all the family.
Japan Semi-Escorted Culture
15 day tour from £4,099
Explore Japan’s classic sights, starting in the exciting capital city of Tokyo, famous for its fresh sushi.
Japan Semi-Escorted Nature
Great Trail of Japan
17 day tour from £4,699
Journey through Japan, taking in some of the most picturesque locations.