Lia
September 23, 2022

The Ultimate Guide for a First Time To Kanazawa

The capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa CIty lies around 2.5 hours away from Tokyo on a comfortable ride on the Hokuriku shinkansen. Located in the central Chubu region of Japan, the city is one of Japan’s best kept local secrets of a world rich with arts, culture, history and innovation. For those travellers, who may have visited Japan’s popular tourist spots or simply those who love a bit more off the beaten path, you will want to put this charming destination on your list as it’s also one of gateways to the Mitsuboshi Kaido which feature the famed Shirakawa-go & Gokayama villages.

WANDER ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPED GARDENS IN JAPAN

This delightful city is home to one of the “Three Great Landscaped Gardens of Japan”; Kenroku-en. The former outside gardens of Kanazawa Castle, Kenroku-en was created by the eminent Maeda clan who ruled the Kaga domain (the old name for Kanazawa) until the Meiji Restoration. Every generation of the family has preserved, protected and expanded the grounds for the people.

WEAR A TRADITIONAL KIMONO & MEET THE GEISHA OF KANAZAWA

One can have the opportunity to wear a traditional kimono or yukata at Kanazawa Kirara, enjoy strolling the smooth cobblestone streets of the historic Higashi-Chaya (teahouse) district and perhaps spend some time with the geisha of Kanazawa.

If you know who to call, one can have the rare chance to meet, chat, laugh, have some tea, watch a music performance and play some games with the geiko (term used more commonly in the area for geisha) In my adventures throughout Japan, I have been able to have several interactions with geisha (though oddly not Kyoto) and for this particular adventure, the team of Kizuna Travel organised this experience.

STROLL DOWN NAGAMACHI, THE SAMURAI DISTRICT

Nagamachi is a wonderfully preserved historic area showcasing traditional samurai houses: Bukeyashiki  surrounded by earthen walls. They line the picturesque cobblestone streets whilst narrow lanes and small canals weave in and out of the neighbourhood. There are several samurai houses intact and open for viewing, whilst others have been converted into boutique accommodation or shops selling local treasure like Kutani-ware (Kutani porcelain).

EXPLORE KANAZAWA’S MODERN CONTEMPORARY ART SCENE

A gatekeeper to many of Japan’s ancient traditional kogei (arts and crafts), the city is determined to not only ensure these techniques last into the future but also be a beacon for an ever evolving modern contemporary art scene. The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Modern Art is just one example and now there’s Kamu Kanazawa, an interactive journey of permanent and pop up installations across the city, in buildings and out in the open.

HAVE A BREAK AT ORIENTAL BREWING

Craft beer has become quite popular in Japan over the recent years, due to its advantageous climate and clear waters. Oriental Brewing has its brewery in the Yuwaku Onsen area of Kanazawa, but has four shopfronts throughout the city, one of them being in Higashi-Chaya. Stop in for a quick drink and some tasty bites to eat to break up your day exploring.

LEARN TO COOK HEALTHY TRADITIONAL JAPANESE FOOD (WITH A LOT OF SAKE!)

The Japanese have been lauded for years for their healthy traditional diet with lots of vegetables, low sugars, and fish over red meat. At Cooking Studio Kanazawa located on a quiet side street, in a beautifully renovated machiya, Chikakao and Moe will teach you (in English - they both lived in New Zealand for a time) how to incorporate the use of Koji; the cornerstone of many traditional Japanese cooking ingredients to make healthy delicious Japanese meals. Along with a lot of laughs, and drinking of their favourite local sake and beers, you will have a fabulous time! Vegetarian and vegan cooking courses are available too.

ENJOY SOME DELICIOUS FRESH SUSHI

It’s pretty hard to find a disappointing meal in Japan, it's infinitely more difficult to decide where you want to eat with so many delicious options and Kanazawa will have you wishing for more time. Home to one of the most famous local fresh fish markets Omicho, Kanazawa’s location in Japan results in the area having some of the most delectable seafood imaginable. Hoshozushi is a great option to experience some divine fresh sushi whether it be at the table or at the counter watching the sushi chefs create their magic, and if you’re there in the winter make sure to have a taste of the famed seasonal delicacy kobako-gani (the female snow crab) of which only limited numbers are allowed to be caught for consumption.

BAR HOPPING THE NIGHT AWAY WITH LOCALS

For a taste of the local night scene, you will want to spend a night trawling the bar scene with Kana of @kanaza.wow where after learning your type of style, she will take you to a few of her favourites that fit the bill, whether it be an upmarket cocktail bar, or independent small run enterprises by local entrepreneurs or dropping by her favourite Okaa-chan in the Katamachi area, where teenie tiny bars that generally only fit several people at most have been around for years and is a staple with the locals. With a zest for the fun things in life, don’t be surprised as you move around, if Kana bumps into various friends or if her boss joins you for a drink after midnight!

RELAX IN MODERN LUXURY AT KORINKYO

Downtown in the heart of the city, rest the night in Korinkyo; a luxury boutique hotel. Once a former art gallery, the building retains much of its structural integrity with beautiful high arched floor to ceiling windows. Rooms are tasteful, minimalist vibes in tones of whites, creams, natural light and leafy greens. Book the High Floor Suite with Panoramic View Bath to spoil yourself on your last night in Kanazawa.

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