Temples, samurai houses and geisha districts battle for attention in Kanazawa, a city where history and legend seemingly entwine. Meaning marsh of gold”, Kanazawa has been a wealthy city for centuries, including in the 15th century when it was the capital of the self-declared Peasants’ Kingdom.
Things to do in Kanazawa
Kenrokuen Garden is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. Open since 1975, the garden surrounds the ruins of Kanazawa Castle. If you go in the winter time, you can see the gardeners tying ropes to the trees so they can withhold the weight of the snow, while the waterfalls, ponds and trees make for the perfect picture postcard scene year round.
The Seisonkaku Villa was built as a palace for a Maeda lord. Though much of the original structure has been dismantled, what remains is one of the most elegant feudal residences in Japan. The walls and ceilings are painted in vivid colours, and the carpets were handmade in England.
Wandering through the Higashi Geisha District, you can see surviving geisha houses from the Edo period. The streets are still lit by antique lamps, so it feels particularly atmospheric in the early evening.
While you are in Kanazawa, take the time to learn about the city’s traditional craft of beating gold. Visit the Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum and look out for gold leaf at mealtimes, as it is frequently scattered on dishes and even added to tea.
Getting around Kanazawa
Kanazawa is well-connected to the Japanese railway network, and there are two train stations within the city, Kanazawa Station and Higashi-Kanazawa Station. If you’re not rushed for time, various local buses also traverse the city.