Kanazawa is an important city in Japan’s history. It was home to the second largest clan in all of Japan during the Edo period and grew to rival Tokyo & Kyoto for cultural achievements.
Kanazawa was one of the few cities that avoided bombing in the second world war. Therefore Kanazawa castle, Samurai district and entertainment area are very well preserved and great places to visit.
There are many things to see and do in Kanawaza and this list represents the top 6 attractions we visited.
Kanazawa Top 5 Map
Although Kanazawa is fairly large in size staying somewhere central puts all of the main attractions within walking distance. We walked everywhere but it is possible to use local busses and taxis to get around.
1. Higashi Chaya District
Higashi Chaya-gai is a beautifully preserved historical area of Kanazawa with many traditional wooden buildings. It was Established in 1820 as an entertainment district for rich merchants and nobility.
The name Higashi Chaya-gai literally means “Eastern Teahouse District,” because the chaya, or teahouses, where wealthy customers would be entertained by geisha with traditional music, dancing, and drinking games.
Today Higashi Chaya is a nice place to walk around. there are many restaurants, the famous Shima geisha tea house which you can tour, and you will see many people in traditional dress.
2. Nagamachi Samurai district
Nagamachi was a samurai district located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, where samurai and their families used to reside. Here you can walk the winding lanes with canals whilst visiting the samurai houses.
3. Kenrokuen Garden – “the garden of six sublimities”
With an area of 11.4 hectares located next to Kanazawa Castle, this beautiful landscape is rated one of the top Japanese gardens in all of Japan.
Opening to the public in 1874 Kenrokuen Garden was originally a private garden for Maeda family living in the castle in the 1600’s.
This is a big garden with lots of different areas to explore. You can easily spend a few hours here taking in the scenery. By far the nicest Japanese garden we have visited.
There are also lots of vendors selling soft serve ice cream sprinkled with gold leaf, we seemed to be very popular with visitors.
4. Kanazawa castle
Kanazawa Castle was the seat of power of the local Maeda clan. The Maeda family were the hereditary feudal lords of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya, samurai warehouse survive from the original construction.
Kanazawa Castle is an interesting place to explore and it is worthwhile paying to take a tour of the inside. The all wooden castle and its construction techniques are truly ingenious.
The castle is located right across the street from the Kenrokuen Gardens and it is possible to visit both in an afternoon.
5. Omicho Food Market
Omicho Market is Kanazawa’s largest food market and has been around since the 1600’s. It has over 200 stalls varying from seafood, flowers, clothing and fresh fruit.
What a great place to explore, this market is bustling and there are so many different types of food on offer. We particularly enjoyed exploring the sea food stalls, lots of strange and wonderful things for sale you don’t normally see at home.
6. Ninja Temple
Visit the Ninja temple to see its hidden rooms, secret passageways & traps. It is a very popular attraction and you may have to wait a while to join a tour. Getting on a tour is not as straight forward as just buying a ticket, you have to use a little intercom and you will be given a time slot which you can then go buy a ticket for.
While you are waiting for the tour to start you will be given a folder with english translation and explanation so you can read along as your tour guide shows you around this interesting house. It is a strange building and the layout is clever and confusing by design to give the occupants the upper hand should anyone try and invade it.