Kenrokuen Garden in autumn

How to Spend a Perfect Day in Kanazawa

Welcome to Kanazawa

Kanazawa, capital city of the Ishikawa prefecture in the central western region of Honshu, has become more and more important for Japanese tourism. After the launch of the Hokuriku Shinkansen in 2015, shortening travel time from Tokyo to 2.5 hours, the numbers of visitors have only increased. The city’s popularity is due to the variety of interesting sights and cultural aspects it has to offer: one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, traditional architecture, extraordinary craftsmanship as well as a rich and fascinating cuisine – the former Samurai city has it all!

This route is designed for all visitors who only have one day to visit Kanazawa and want to make the most out of it. It starts and ends at Kanazawa station. You can reach all destinations via foot or by bus (check the section below for the information about bus routes). All sights are also posted all over the city center, including the estimated distance in meter and walking time. Within one day, you will pass all important places of Kanazawa as well as enjoy the famous cuisine the city has to offer. 

All Good Things Start With Food

The first destination on this tour is the famous fish market Omicho Ichiba. It's only a 15-minute walk from the station away. If you go by bus, you get off at the "Musashi-gatsuji" station which is directly in front of the market. 

Kanazawa: Omicho

Next to buying fresh seafood, you can also find tiny restaurants, food stalls, coffee places or stores where you can buy vegetables, meat, seasoning and other special products. Take your time while strolling through the different hallways and don't miss the chance to get yourself something freshly made from one of the many food stalls. It's your chance to try some special seafood like sea urchins (if you're brave enough). Also, get yourself some nice coffee from one of the various coffee shops and enjoy the special atmosphere before continuing with your walk.

The Spiritual Side of the City

For the next destination, take the exit towards Konrinbo and follow the road that runs parallel to the big Hyakumangoku-dori Avenue (as it is much more peaceful and quiet) to the Oyama Jinja Shrine. It was constructed in 1599 and dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the local Maeda Clan in the Edo Period. The glass windows of the shrine's gate show a different, European influenced style which makes the shrine so special. Behind the shrine you find a nice garden including a small pond and can use this place to take a short rest. You will surely spot some fish in the water as well as golden frogs!

The walk from the fish market only takes ten minutes. If you want to go by bus to the shrine, the corresponding bus stop is called "Minami-cho".

Omiya Jinja

Kanazawa Castle Awaits You

Following the way through the garden, you will soon (after 10 minutes of walking) reach the entrance for the Kanazawa Castle Park via Gokusen-Inmaru Garden, in my view the most beautiful way to enter the castle grounds. The garden had been reconstructed in 2015 and contains a pond, lots of small bridges, and a lot of traditional garden elements. The teahouse is the center piece of this garden, from there you have a fantastic view and during weekends, you can watch the illuminated garden by night. Volunteers from Kanazawa City are working there every day and will help you in case you have questions or need recommendations. Of course, they will also take a nice picture if you in front of the garden! 

If you want to arrive by bus, get off at the "Kenroku-en Shita" station and walk a little around the castle walls, following the Hyakumangokudoori Avenue until you reach the garden. Climbing up the stairway leading along the castle walls, you will soon enter the castle plateau and get your first view of the impressive building. 

Kanazawa Castle was built in 1580 but sadly burned down several times over the centuries. Only two store houses and the Ishikawa-Mon Gate, facing Kenroku-en garden, survived the last fire in 1881. Therefore, most of the current buildings you can visit are reconstructions, based on the knowledge how the castle has looked like in the Edo period. You can visit the castle's interior and get good impressions on how the former castle life was organized. Admission to the whole castle ground is free, however you have to pay an entrance fee if you want to visit the interior of the castle. You can buy a combination ticket that gets you access to the castle and Kenroku-en. 

No matter how you decide, you can have a nice lunch break afterwards in the castle ground's coffee place called Mamezarachaya and gather some energy for the next destination on our route: The famous Kenroku-en Garden

Kenroku-en A Masterpiece of Japanese Garden Architecture

Leaving the castle grounds through the famous Ishikawa-mon Gate, you cross a nice bridge over the Hyakumangokudoori Avenue and enter the ticket office area for Kenroku-en. After paying a small admission fee, but you will also receive some handouts including information about the garden. If you already bought a combination ticket, you can enter the park without paying any further fee. 

Kenroku-en is one of the three most perfect Japanese gardens and as soon as you enter the grounds, you will understand why. It was designed in the Edo period and unifies the six important attributes a garden should possess: solitude, width, artistic design, long history, large water supply, and unobstructed view. Since 1871 it has been opened for the public and is a very popular place, not only among tourists but also among local citizens. 

In the center of the park, you will find some nice teahouses where you should drink some matcha tea while watching the nature and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. You should plan at least one hour to stay in the garden and walk around.

Kanazawa: Matcha

The main entrance of the garden can be reached by bus if you get off the station "Kenroku-en Shita".

Experience the Geisha Lifestyle

After enjoying a great afternoon walk through the garden it's time for the last destination on our tour: Higashi Chaya District. Follow the Hyakumangoku-doori avenue in the northern direction and after a walk of 15 minutes you will reach the Asano River. 

Kanazawa: Asano River

Cross the bridge and turn right and you have reached the Higashi Chaya-gai, the former geisha district of Kanazawa.

In the narrow streets of this district, you can enjoy the view of old and traditional wooden houses of the geisha and get a feeling of this special time. Former geisha teahouses are open to the public and worth a visit if you want to learn more about their lifestyle. It's also a good place to buy some special handmade craft from Kanazawa like gold leaf products and pottery. There are also a lot of small galleries to visit where you can get a look at interesting artist culture!

In the evening, the district gets very quiet, so it's time to get back to the station to have some nice dinner, before the day ends. The walk will take you about 20 minutes. If you are too tired, hop on the loop bus from the “Higashi Chaya Gai” bus stop.

For dinner, I strongly recommend sushi as you must taste the fresh fish Kanazawa has to offer. You will find a perfect sushi restaurant at the top floor of the Forus Shopping Mall next to the station, as well as other restaurants. At the west exit of the station, you will also find another sushi restaurant I can recommend – it serves food with a sushi belt!

I hope you enjoyed your day in Kanazawa and got a good impression of how truly special it is! 

How to Get Around by Bus

If you don’t want to walk all the way or if the weather is pretty rainy, you can reach every destination in this route by using the Kanazawa Loop Bus. There are two lines running, the “left loop” and “right loop” line, but both of them take you to all destinations you want to see. Single fare is 200 Yen, a day pass costs 500 Yen and enables you to hop on and off the bus at either destination without worrying about paying. You can buy the pass and receive the timetables of the bus lines at Kanazawa Station.

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