Discover Japan’s captivating Kanazawa

Discover Japan’s captivating Kanazawa
August 2020

Enchanting, curious and culturally diverse, Japan has fascinated travellers for centuries. The country’s central hubs like Tokyo and Kyoto justifiably draw in visitors with their sleek, futuristic cityscapes and buzzing creative arts, dining and cultural districts. But if you journey a little further off the beaten track, Japan unfolds before you, with plethora of charming regional destinations among its 47 prefectures just waiting to be explored.Capital of the coastal Ishikawa prefecture (known for the spectacular Noto Peninsula that extends out into the Sea of Japan) Kanazawa is a real hidden gem. Overflowing with impressive history, insight into iconic traditions, and flavourful local fare, a visit will immerse you in much of Japan’s ancient culture and unveil breathtaking (natural and man-made) architectural wonders. Below are just a few things that are sure to make your own exploration a truly unforgettable journey.

See

Take a deep dive into the city’s traditional history

Along with Kyoto, Kanazawa escaped the bombing during the Second World War and as a result some of the city remains as it has been for hundreds of years. Explore the tiny narrow crooked streets and passageways of the Nagamachi Samurai district and discover the former samurai mansions and old geisha quarters, learning more about these ancient traditional practices. If you are one to fall in love with fine arts and crafts, Kanazawa artisans are creators of stunning gold leaf, superb lacquerware, delicate kimono cloth, and some of the most spectacular pottery in Japan.  For those with a penchant for Japan’s iconic spirit sake, this city is known for exceptional locally produced drops, and a tasting cannot be missed.

Do

Stroll in awe through Kenrokuen Garden

Passionate green thumbs will be left speechless on an exploration of spectacular Kenrokuen Garden. Justifiably one of Japan's three ‘Great Gardens’, it stands proudly alongside Mito's Kairakuen and Okayama's Korakuen. The spacious grounds were once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle, constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries. The name, sometimes translated as “garden of six elements” refers to a classical Chinese poem highlighting the six contrasting features needed for a truly spectacular garden. Balancing these elements; extensive space and quiet seclusion, human artistry and old-fashioned elegance, flowing water and distant views, is considered a near-impossible harmony to achieve in a garden. But, if you take a stroll through Kenrokuen, you will see this perfect balance brought to life.  Opened to the public in 1871, Kenrokuen is home to Japan’s oldest fountain and features a variety of flowering trees changing the colour palette of the garden from season to season.

Pay a visit to The D.T. Suzuki Museum

Need some time to ‘zen out’ on your adventure? Then you’ll want to immerse yourself in the life and teachings of Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro. Opened in 2011, this museum stands to commemorate and celebrate the Kanazawa local’s life and work as a Japanese Zen philosopher. Here, you’ll learn about Suzuki’s thinking and can admire design that puts Zen thought into practice, the Water Mirror Garden designed by the architect, Yoshio Taniguchi. Built to embody the abstract beauty of Suzuki’s teachings, you might choose to take your own time to reflect in the specially-designed meditation area. Small in size but mighty in impact, the museum is well worth visiting as a place to learn more about Zen practices and history, and to admire the graceful modern architecture.

Stay

From hotel bliss to traditional ryokan luxury

If you are looking for traditional hotel accommodation, the Nikko Kanazawa Hotel will tick all your boxes. Located in the heart of the city, the hotel is close to the main sites including the Kenrokuen Garden, The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and the Higashi Chaya geisha teahouse district. Overlooking the city from 30 stories high, Hotel Nikko reflects the history and traditions the region is reputed for, with archetype Japanese interiors interspersed with examples of local craftwork from Kaga-yuzen silks and ceramic art to intricate metalwork.

If you are looking to truly immerse yourself in tradition and savour a memorable stay, there are many excellent ryokan (Japanese guesthouses) in the Ishikawa Prefecture worth considering for a more authentic experience. Matsuno Midori, set in Nanao, is one such place, allowing you to revel in a luxury ryokan experience in Wakura Onsen, one of the most renowned onsen spots in north Japan, with gorgeous rooms, breathtaking sea views and flavourful, authentic cuisine.

Dine

Seafood & Sake: The perfect pair

One for seafood enthusiasts, Kanazawa’s proximity to the Sea of Japan means the city boasts some of the best and freshest fish, crustaceans and more in the nation. See (and taste) it go from sea to shopfront at the Omicho Market, which has been supporting the area’s culinary scene since the mid-1700s. Lead your explorations with your tastebuds, being sure to try local specialties such as deep sea prawn, crab, and buri (yellowtail). Sushi is one of the most common (and delicious) ways you can savour some of the fresh catch, and it can be found at local kaitenzushi (sushi train style) restaurants, or those with more refined dinner preferences can sit down to a meal at one of many omakase sushi restaurants. Kanazawa is dotted with many tiny restaurants offering local sake and seafood, two things that come together to offer a truly unforgettable and authentic dining experience. Your only problem will be settling on which one to try first!

Inspired to explore the charming coastal gems of Japan? You can explore some of A&K’s Japan experiences on our website or get in touch to start planning your perfect bespoke adventure.