Kanazawa is a historic town on the lesser-visited west coast of Japan, famed for its classical architecture and landscaped gardens. Whether you're coming from Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka, the journey is only about 2 and a half hours thanks to the Hokuriku Shinkansen train line. This is a great destination for a weekend trip, perhaps staying at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) or hotel and enjoying the local Kaga cuisine and fresh crabs from the Hokuriku coast?

    Known for Kenroku-en, one of Japan's 3 most famous gardens, Kanazawa has a historical vibe as a castle town associated with the Kaga clan. One of the highlights of any trip will be a stroll through Higashi Chayagai, a designated Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings. With thriving modern culture too, including the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa has it all.

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    Kenroku-en

    Enjoy the flavours of Kanazawa at a teahouse while gazing at a seasonal garden

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    Kenroku-en is a nationally-designated special scenic spot regarded as one of the 3 most beautiful gardens in Japan. This is a must-visit if you're in Kanazawa. A typical Edo-period landscape garden with ponds and hills, you can check out the excellent scenic views of pine trees with ropes stretched out like umbrellas during the yukitsuri (the period when ropes are placed around trees to protect them from the snow).

    The plum and cherry blossoms in spring and autumn colours are also well worth seeing. When you fancy a break, why not stop at one of the teahouses for some sweets or lunch while appreciating the beautiful nature? Admission is usually free of charge for early morning visits before the park opens. There are also free open periods held on a regular basis.

    Location: 1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0936, Japan

    Open: 1st March—15th October: daily from 7 am to 6 pm. 16th October—last day of February: daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)76-234-3800

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    2

    Omicho Ichiba

    Kanazawa citizens' kitchen gathers fresh seafood from around Hokuriku

    Omicho Ichiba is a market in Kanazawa with a history of more than 300 years, dating back to the feudal era. There are about 170 stalls here selling seafood delicacies such as the famous Hokuriku crabs, fruits and vegetables, meat, processed foods, and daily necessities.

    There are also many restaurants that tourists visit to enjoy Kanazawa-style kaisen-don (seafood rice bowls), sushi, and set meals. If you're staying somewhere that has a kitchen you can use, it's a good idea to do all your food shopping here. Also, don’t forget to check out the deli for yummy-looking precooked foods.

    Location: 50 Kamiomicho, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0905, Japan

    Phone: +81 (0)76-231-1462

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    Higashi Chaya District

    Take a scenic walk through this historic district

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    Higashi Chaya District is a must-visit spot where you can take a stroll through typical Kanazawa scenery. The scenery is historic, but not of the Kyoto style, so get ready to be surprised. Why not rent a kimono and enjoy a stroll in style?

    If you're shopping for souvenirs, you'll be spoilt for choice. You'll find plenty of Kanazawa's traditional crafts, cute Japanese trinkets, and delicious sweets. Matcha tea experiences at the traditional Shima teahouse are also worth a try.

    Location: 1-13 Higashiyama, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0831, Japan

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    4

    Kanazawa Castle

    Immerse yourself in this lovingly restored castle

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    Kanazawa Castle was the residential castle of Maeda Toshiie, a warlord representing Kanazawa. Today you can see the restored Hishi Yagura turret, Gojikken Nagaya warehouse, Hashizume-mon Gate, and Kahoku-mon Gate. In 2020, the reconstruction of Nezumita-mon Gate and Nezumita-mon Bridge was completed, and these are now the highlights of the castle.

    Illuminations are held every season, providing great opportunities to see this fantastic castle emerge out of the darkness. A tour of Kanazawa Castle's stone walls, which have a wide variety of designs, unlike most of the other stone walls in Japan, is a hit with history buffs.

    Location: 1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0937, Japan

    Open: 1st March—15th October: daily from 7 am to 6 pm. 16th October—last day of February: daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)76-234-3800

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    5

    Nagamachi Samurai District

    Catch a glimpse of the life of the samurai

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    The Nagamachi Samurai District preserves old samurai residences and the charm of Kanazawa's history. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet to absorb the traditions and culture of Kanazawa, this is the place for you. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to the days when the feudal retainers of Kaga Province were alive.

    In winter, the earthen walls are covered with komo (straw mats) to protect them from the snow, which makes the district even more attractive. Some residences open their houses and gardens to the public, so be sure to stop by and snoop around. Don’t forget to check out the souvenir shops and cafés, too.

    Location: 3-12-2 Nagamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0865, Japan

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    6

    D.T. Suzuki Museum

    An exciting new museum offering a Zen-like experience

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    The D.T. Suzuki Museum is a majestic structure where you can enjoy the beauty of architecture designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. This iconic establishment is a symbol of Kanazawa where you can immerse yourself in the world of Buddhist philosophy from D.T. Suzuki, who is arguably the greatest Buddhist scholar in modern Japan. As you go back and forth between the corridor and the garden, you’ll pick up valuable life lessons.

    This is the kind of museum that defies explanation, but its concept is to be a place for visitors to meditate. Probably the best idea is just to go there and experience it for yourself. A Zen-like experience of having your mind empty will certainly give you a unique memory of your trip.

    Location: 3-4-20 Hondamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0964, Japan

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 9.30 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +81 (0)76-221-8011

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    7

    Myoryuji Temple

    A ninja temple like no other

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    Myoryuji Temple, also known as Ninja-Dera (Ninja Temple), has all kinds of tricky defence features and looks like a genuine ninja house. Children of school age and older can enter the temple provided that you’ve made a reservation. But with pitfalls, hidden stairs and other clever features, even grown-ups will have a blast.

    It’s said that the temple became so structurally complex to play a role as the outpost castle of the Kaga Domain under the tozama daimyo (non-Tokugawa feudal lord), who was always likely to be spied on by the Tokugawa Shogunate. With the support of the Maeda family, Myoryuji Temple has for centuries had many adherents who focus on the practice of chanting.

    Location: 1-2-12 Nomachi, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture 921-8031, Japan

    Open: Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm (excluding winter), Saturday to Sunday from 9 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)76-241-0888

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    8

    21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

    A palace of art with fascinating special exhibitions

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    With its eye-catching circular building, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa is a symbol of the city's standing in the art world. The museum is highly rated both in Japan and abroad for its creative efforts to exhibit challenging contemporary artwork in accessible ways.

    Art aside, the museum has also become popular with young people as a great photo spot. The permanent installation of “The Swimming Pool” by Leandro Erlich is so popular that tickets to see it sell out almost immediately.

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

    Open: Tuesday to Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm. Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm. Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +81 (0)76-220-2800

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    9

    Tsuzumi Gate

    Take a photo at Kanazawa Station's enormous iconic gate

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    The Tsuzumi Gate is a new attraction that has appeared at the Kenrokuen Entrance (East Entrance) of Kanazawa Station, the gateway to Kanazawa. Designed based on the image of a Japanese hand drum used in Noh, a traditional performing art of Kanazawa, it was built as a part of the glass-walled Motenashi Dome that leads to the station building.

    This huge building comes into view as soon as you step off the bullet train, but you’ll notice its surprisingly delicate structure as you draw closer. The gate looks even more beautiful when lit up at night, so get your camera ready.

    Location: 2 Kinoshinbomachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0858, Japan

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    10

    Oyama Shrine

    The shrine of Toshiie and Omatsu, a famous historical power couple

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    Oyama Shrine was dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the founder of the Kaga clan, and his lawful wife, Omatsu no Kata. This is a great spot for fans of the Taiga NHK historical drama series, which features the couple as the main characters. Why not take a commemorative photo with the statue of Toshiie and Omatsu in the background? If you're visiting in June, check out the Hyakumangoku Parade, a samurai warriors' procession in which celebrities dress up as Toshiie and Omatsu.

    The shrine building, with its nods to overseas culture, is another highlight. The shrine gate, incorporating Japanese, Chinese and Western design elements in a style called wakanyo with stained glass windows, is beautiful when illuminated at night.

    Location: 11-1 Oyamamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0918, Japan

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)76-231-7210

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