15 Things to Do in Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Besides getting to know more about Japan through major cities like Tokyo or Osaka, Japanese culture also can be seen from historical prefectures, such as Ishikawa Prefecture, located in Japan's central Honshu. To visit Kanazawa, capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture, is to explore the well-preserved Edo Period districts, samurai culture as well as Japanese handicrafts products and beautiful nature.

1. Kenrokuen Garden

Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons

Kenrokuen, which is symbol of Kanazawa, is considered to be one of the Japan's Three Great Gardens. Kenrokuen has a very special layout that makes you walk around to totally enjoy the beauty of the garden instead of standing at one spot watching. To see the worker whose responsibility is to take care of garden, working in traditional costumes will bring you the feeling of travel in time to the Edo era, which is something you can only experience in Japan! There are plenty of ponds in Kenrokuen, and the water is so clear that you can see the surface's reflection of seasonal beauty and scenery, just like looking through a water mirror!

Opening hours: Mar. 1st to 15th Oct.: 7:00 – 18:00 (gate closing time); 16th Oct. to last day of Feb.: 8:00 – 17:00 (gate closing time)

Opening hours of Shiguretei Teahouse: 9:00-16:30 (last entry 16:00). Closed from 29 Dec. to 3rd Jan

Admission fees: Adults (18years and over): ¥300 Children (6-17years) ¥100

2. Myoryuji - Ninja Temple/ Ninjadera

Photo by Irina Gelbukh via Wikimedia Commons

Myoryuji, also known as Ninjadera, which means 'Ninja Temple' in English, was built in the Edo era under the control of Maeda Lords. The original name of this temple started from its architecture features, it is designed as a restricted area, but actually a disguised military outpost. Ninjadera was used along with escape routes against intruders, so defenders could warn the castle in case of attack. The temple also has a very special design which includes hidden tunnels and secret staircases, corridors as well as traps! You might want to be careful not to get lost in here.

In case you are not confident with your Japanese, English guidebooks are available so you can enjoy this unique temple.

Address: 1-2-12 Nomachi, Kanazawa 921-8031, Ishikawa Prefecture

Access: 15mins by Left Loop from Kanazawa Loop Bus, get off at Hirokoji stop, then 5mins on foot

Hours: 9:00 to 16:30 (until 16:00 during winter). Closed on January 1st

Fees: Adult ¥1,000. Children ¥700

Official Website

3. Omicho Market

Photo by Jpatokal at wts wikivoyage via Wikimedia Commons

Established 280 years ago since the Edo era, Omicho is not only the best market that promote Kanazawa's cuisine, but also the liveliest market in town. The traits of a traditional market still remain, you will see and hear sellers' loud voices calling to customers, some food stalls even offer you free food to taste! Moreover, if you are a fan of seafood, then Omicho is the best place to enjoy various kinds of seafood from Kanazawa's coast as well as wide range of dishes, from both restaurants and food stalls.

Address: 51 Kamiomicho, Kanazawa

Access: 15mins walk from Kanazawa Station or by bus and get off at Musashigatsuji.

Hours: 9:00-18:00 (shop's operation hours may vary)

4. Kanazawa Castle

Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons

Kanazawa was a place for lords to stay and a base during war time. The first thing you will see after entering the is Ishikawa Gate, which shows the structure's strength through its material: iron and thick wood.

After Ishikawa Gate, you will see Gojikken Nagaya Warehouse with traditional features from although it has recently been reconstructed. Inside there is a watchtower called Hishi Yagura inside, which was used for spying on enemies during the Warring States Period, and its looking glass is made from diamond so as to have maximum visibility to watch throughout the area.

Photo by 継之助 via Wikimedia Commons

Opening hours: Mar. 1st to 15th Oct.: 7:00 – 18:00 (gate closing time); 16th Oct. to last day of Feb.: 8:00 – 17:00 (gate closing time)

Opening hours of Hishi Yagura, Gojikken Nagaya, Hashizumemon Tsuzuki Yagura: 9:00 – 16:30 (last admission 16:00); Kahokumon: 9:00 – 16:30 (last admission 16:00)

Admission fees: Free entry, however, fees for entry to Hishi Yagura, Gojikken Nagaya and Hashizumemon Tsuzuki Yagura is as follow: Adults (18 years and over): ¥300 Children (6-17 years) ¥100.

5. Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art

Photo by ほぶ via Wikimedia Commons

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art is located near the Kenrokuen Garden. The museum has plenty of outstanding collections which are mainly traditional craft works related to Ishikawa/ Kanazawa culture. There's also an English audio guidance system with explanations of every handicraft on display as well as information about artists who made them, so it is very convenient for foreign tourists or whose Japanese is not an advantage.

For more information about upcoming events as well as exhibitions, visit the museum's website.

6. Higashi Chaya District

Photo by 金沢市 via Wikimedia Commons

Higashi Chaya in Japanese means Eastern (Higashi) Teahouse (Chaya). Along the main street of this traditional town are lots of small buildings which were built using traditional Japanese style. Whenever walking along the street, especially at nights, you will hear the sound of Japanese traditional instruments such as drums, flutes, etc. and lit paper lantern outside these teahouses. If you are a lucky person (which I assume you are), you will have the chance to meet a geisha!

Address: Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa, Higashiyama Icchome

Access: 10mins by the Right Loop of Kanazawa Loop Bus from Kanazawa Station, get off at Hashibacho stop, and walk for 5mins

Recommendation: Shima Teahouse, Hakuza Gold Leaf Store

7. Nishi Chaya District

Photo by 金沢市 via Wikimedia Commons

Nishi Chaya in Japanese means Western Teahouse, together with Higashi Chaya are the most famous two Teahouse Districts of Kanazawa. However, Nishi Chaya is smaller and more quiet than the Higashi Chayagai. I'd recommend you visit the Nishi Chaya Shiryokan, which is a reproducing teahouse museum, displaying the history of the district and the guest room of the teahouse. Sometimes, it is the meeting place for the area's free tours, which are conducted in Japanese.

Address: 2-25-18 No-machi, Kanazawa.

Access: a short walk from Ninja Temple

Hours: 9:30-17:00

8. Nagamachi (Former Samurai District)

Photo by Hirorinmasa via Wikimedia Commons

In their history, samurai and their families resided at the foot of the Kanazawa Castle, which is now known as Nagamachi. Nowadays, there are still traditional houses of samurai residences, with earthen walls, waterways, private entrance gates and cobble stones. There are houses that are open for visiting such as Nomura Residence and Kanga Hanshi, so you can enjoy lounging in a samurai's home and their traditional gardens!

Access: From Kanazawa Station East exit, get on bus numbers 7 to 11 and get off at Korinbo stop, then it takes 5mins walk from the stop to Nagamachi.

9. D.T. Suzuki Museum

Photo by Saigawasakurabashi via Wikimedia Commons

D.T. Suzuki Museum opened since 2011, dedicated to Suzuki Daisetsu Teitaro (1870-1966), a prominent Buddhist philosopher, and he was also one of the people to introduce Zen lifestyle to the West.

Inside the Museum are exhibitions displaying writings of D.T. Suzuki which helps visitors to know more about his life and philosophy. Moreover, the design of the Museum shows accurately an interpretation of D.T. Suzuki's life that comes with Zen philosophy. From the entrance to overall architecture and interior, you can feel the sense of Zen style throughout the museum. Also, it has three buildings connected by corridors surrounding a large pond at the centre called the Water Mirror Garden, which visitors can enter, as well as to self-reflect at the very fit atmosphere.

Address: 3 Chome-4-20 Hondamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0964

Access: 15mins by bus from Kanazawa Station, get off at Hondamachi and walk for 4mins

Hours: 9:00-17:00 (last admission 16:30). Closed December 29th - January 3rd every year

Fee: ¥300

Official Website

10. 21st Century Museum

Photo by 金沢市 via Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 2004, 21st Century Museum displays works of contemporary art from Japan and all over the world artists, it is by far among Japan's most popular art museums, not only because of its architectural designs but also the displays!

The museum has a circular building which has neither a main entrance nor front and back side, in order to encourage the idea of approaching the museum and observing art from only one direction. Besides exhibition areas, there is a public zone open free to anyone, in here includes contemporary art works, which one of the most significant is Leandro Erlich's "Swimming Pool", a pool where visitors appear to be underwater (although entry inside the pool requires paid admission). All in all, it is a nice place to spend with your family and friends so as to relax and enjoy the world and Japan's contemporary art.

Address: 1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa, Japan 920-8509

Access: 15mins by bus from Kanazawa Station, get off at Hirosaka·21st Century Museum and walk for 1min

Hours: Exhibition Zone 10:00 – 18:00 *Open until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, closed on Mondays. Public Zone: 9:00 – 22:00. Closed on New Year and holidays

Fee: depends on exhibition, check the website for more information about exhibition and tickets.

Official Website

11. Seisonkaku Villa

Photo by 663highland via Wikimedia Commons

The Seisonkaku Villa was built in Edo era by one of the Lords of the Maeda Family, specifically for his mother, located in the southwest of Kenrokuen. It is considered as one of the oldest and most classy samurai villas that remain in Japan, not only because it has a direct entrance gate to Kenrokuen, but also of its special architectural design. Seisonkaku Villa is very large, consists of expansive tatami rooms all over two floors of the villa, and its roof covers a garden viewing spot.

Address: 1-2 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Access: Hokutetsu bus from JR Kanazawa Station to Dewa-machi (or National Hospital). 2-minute walk from the bus stop.

Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 (admission until 16:30). Closed every Wednesday and from December 29 through January 2 every year.

Fees: Adult ¥700. Junior high student ¥300. Children ¥250

Official Website

12. Oyama Shrine

Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons

Oyama Jinja, or Oyama Shrine, located on Mt. Utatsu, was built in 1599 by Maeda Toshinaga to dedicate the first Lord of the Maeda clan in Ishikawa Prefecture - Maeda Toshiie. However, Oyama Shrine later was moved to its present location.

One specialty of the Shrine is its gate, which was designed by a Dutch architect, therefore the gate has patterns inspired from European and Asian religious themes. This feature is also shown clearly through the structure of the Shrine: The first floor is the combination between Chinese and Japanese patterns, then the second floor has a stained glass window in Dutch style, which was used as a lighthouse. On the ground of Oyama Shrine there is a statue of Lord Maeda Toshiie, next to it is a garden with ponds which are connected by bridges, bringing the relaxed atmosphere for anyone who visits.

Address: 11-1 Oyamamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Access: 10mins by bus from Kanazawa Station

Hours: always opens

Fees: Free

13. Kanazawa Station/ Tsuzumimon Gate and Motenashi Dome

Photo by Kakidai via Wikimedia Commons

Kanazawa Station has two very special architectural designs which are a huge glass dome called Motenashi Dome and another huge wooden gate called Tsuzumimon.

Motenashi in Japanese means "welcoming", which was said to bring a welcoming atmosphere for visitors when they visited Kanazawa. Motenashi Dome has a shape like a giant umbrella and people said that each visitor is offered an umbrella since Kanazawa has many rainy days.

Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons

Tsuzumi is a traditional Japanese hand drum and 'mon' means "gate", as the appearance of the gate looks like two hand drums. Both of the architectural features of these two are so special and meaningful that they will make you feel the welcoming as well as historical atmosphere right at the moment you arrive at the Kanazawa Station!

14. Kazuemachi Tea House District

Steps leading down in the Kazuemachi Tea House District
Photo by 663highland via Wikimedia Commons

Along the river between Naka no Hashi (Naka Bridge) and Asanogawa Ohashi ( Greater Asanogawa Bridge), is the small old beautiful Kazue-machi, which was formerly one of Kanazawa's geisha districts. If you don't know about the term "Geisha", they are Japanese female entertainers, who can perform many kinds of Japanese arts, from playing classical instruments to dancing.

Kazue-machi has lots of tea houses, where geisha perform, especially from evening time, you can still hear the sounds of traditional instruments such as bamboo flutes or drums from the remaining tea houses along the district.

Kazue-machi is a perfect route to walk through and at the same time sightseeing the view of Kanazawa from Asanogawa Ohashi and Naka no Hashi is an incredible experience, and also there's a slope which connects to Owari area, which is said to have hills.

15. Kanazawa Yasue Gold-Leaf Museum

Photo by © Kanazawa City/© JNTO

The name says everything, Kanazawa Yasue Gold-Leaf Museum is the place which focuses mostly on displaying gold beating tools and handicraft collected by a famous gold-leaf artist Komei Yasue. Besides exhibits about gold-leaf handicraft products, visitors can observe the manufacturing process of gold leaves.

Address: 1 Chome-3-10 Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0831

Moreover, other Kanazawa's handicraft exhibits Noh costumes, Kutani porcelain, Kaga lacquer and incrustation work are also displayed!

Access: 5mins by bus from Kanazawa Station, get off at Hashiba-cho then walk for 5mins

Hours: 9:30-17:00 (last admission 16:30). Closed December 29th - January 3rd every year

Fee: Adult ¥300. Senior ¥200. High school student and below: free

Tel: 076-251-8950

Official Website

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