Kanazawa, a cultural and historic town in the Hokuriku area of Japan, still carries the atmosphere of ages ago. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to experience Japan in its authenticity, and wander into its past through its 17th century castle, its traditional crafts, its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts, its museums and elegant townscapes.
Kanazawa is best known for this castle garden, one of Japan’s top three landscape gardens. This Edo Period garden was developed over almost 200 years by the ruling Maeda family. Take a stroll down its stone bridges and picturesque pathways that wind through ponds and fountains and waterfalls. Its seasonal blooms give the garden a different appearance each season.
In winter, ropes are arranged from the treetops to the base to protect the branches from heavy snowfall. These are called yukitsuri and look almost like a cage for the trees. At night, when the garden is illuminated, the ropes take on a mystical beauty of their own.
There are four teahouses in the garden. The 18th century Yugao-tei Teahouse has been serving celebratory tea ceremonies, while the 17th century Shigure-tei Teahouse was originally built as a villa, but now, is perfect for enjoying tea ceremonies. The Uchihashi-tei Teahouse is idyllic, with one house floating on the Kasumiga-ike pond and connected to another house built on its shores, by a bridge. Annual tea ceremonies are held here. Located near a plum grove, the Funano-ochin Teahouse is ideal for viewing the blossoms.
Cross the Ishikawa Bridge from the Kenrokuen Garden to enter the Kanazawa Castle, of the Maeda clan. It was burnt a few times, but has been rebuilt. The beautiful Ishikawa Gate and Sanjikken Nagaya, the samurai warehouse, are the original, surviving sections of the castle, and important legacies of that period. Roam the 9 hectares of park space surrounding the castle.
The 18th century Kanazawa Shrine is located on the fringes of Kenroku-en. It was built to watch over the kinjō reitaku, a well where Imohori Tôgorô found gold, centuries back. The city thus derived its name “Kanazawa”, or “gold marsh”.
Another temple you must visit is the Myoryuji Temple, nicknamed the “Ninja Temple”, although no ninja has ever set foot here. It’s a Buddhist sanctuary that houses secrets and surprises that delight children and adults alike. The Oyama Jinja, Daijoji and Tentokuin are other temples and shrines that deserve to be admired and appreciated.
Explore the three historic entertainment districts where geishas attended to wealthy patrons in luxury tearooms. Higashi Chaya Gai offers gold products, hand-painted ceramics and hand-dyed silks, among other luxury souvenirs. The Kazuemachi and Nishi Chaya Gai are smaller and more restful. Also stroll down the peaceful Nagamachi Samurai District where samurai families once lived.
Kanazawa is much like Kyoto in its offerings. And even though it is smaller, it is packed with historic and cultural treasures that you will enjoy exploring and discovering.
If you are planning to visit Kanazawa, do not hesitate to contact your luxury travel designer Mr. Isao Numano.