Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture is, with a population of around 466’000 not one of Japans largest cities. However in recent years Kanazawa has become increasingly popular among tourists. The increasing tourism is mainly attributed to the city’s long history and it’s well preserved edo-period temple and entertainment districts. The city boasts not less than 3 edo-period Chaya Districts, several well-kept temple areas and one of Japan’s 3 highest ranked gardens, Kenroku-en.
Kanazawa is often compared to Kyoto, for it’s historic buildings and areas. Spending 1 day, or even 2 days, in Kanazawa is a great alternative – or supplement – to visiting Kyoto. With the Japan Railways Hokuriku Arch Pass, foreign tourists can easily and affordably travel from Tokyo to Kanazawa and Kyoto.
1-day itinerary Kanazawa
On your one day in Kanazawa you will cover some of the most well known attractions the city has to offer. You will start out in the world famous Kenroku-en Japanese Garden, proceed to see the castle remains and another, yet smaller, Japanese garden. Following that, around lunch time, you will continue to the Oyama Shrine, known for it’s gate with unusual architecture. From there, a short walk to the Nagamachi Samurai district where you will visit an ancient samurai home. Finish the afternoon off by exploring the bustling Omicho Market and finally enjoy the authentic atmoshphere in Kanazawa’s largest geisha district, Higashi Chaya.
|11:00||Kanazawa Castle Park|
|13:30||Nomura-ke Samurai Residence|
|14:30||Nagamachi Samurai District|
|17:30||Higashi Chaya Geisha District|
Kenroku-en is a beautiful Japanese Garden located in the center of Kanazawa city. It is considered one of Japans most beautiful gardens and it is part of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan”. Kenroku-en is known for being beautiful through all seasons, hence it’s open year-round. The gardens most famous sight might be the Kotojitoro lantern, which is located on the edge of the gardens main pond.
Kanazawa Castle Park
Kanazawa Castle Park is a larger park where the important Kanazawa Castle was located from 1580 to 1871. Today the park contains the few buildings that have survived various fires over the centuries, and a couple of reconstructed buildings which give a sense of the castles style, size and significance.
Gyokusen’inmaru Garden is a small Japanese garden located by Kanazawa Castle Park. The garden is located up against the 22m tall castle wall, and consists of a lake with 3 islands, a waterfall and a circular walking path plus small bridges between the islands. The garden has a small tea house where, most days of the year, visitors can buy matcha green tea with wagashi sweets. There is also a nice light-up event every night from around sunset.
Oyama Shrine (Oyama-jinja) is a unique shinto shrine, located near Kanazawa Castle Park. The shrine, which is dedicated to the former feudal lord Maeda Toshiie, is especially known for the unusual main gate which features Dutch architecture. The gate was added in the late 1800’s.
Nomura-Ke Samurai Residence
Nomura-ke Samurai Residence is a beautiful, old villa which belonged to the Nomura samurai family. The property, which is located in the historic Nagamachi samurai district, has a stunning viewing garden, a tea house with a garden view, and a museum displaying artifacts from the Nomura family. Here you will have a unique chance to look into an old samurai home.
Nagamachi Samurai District
The Nagamachi District is a historic area where many Samurai families had their residence in the edo-period (1603-1868). The area is well known for its authentic atmosphere, and well preserved streets with canals, narrow stone paths and earthen walls which surround many of the properties. There a plenty of properties to explore, but a stroll around the area to enjoy the atmosphere is also highly recommended.
Omicho Market is a large food market in central Kanazawa. The market is home to more than 170 shops and restaurants, of which a lot sell seafood, fruits and vegetables. It is a great place to find an afternoon snack, or maybe schedule your visit for lunch time to enjoy some of the local sea food.
Higashi Chaya Geisha District
Higashi Chaya Distric is the largest of Kanazawa’s three traditional entertainment districts. In this historic area one finds beautiful, old edo-period buildings with tea houses, crafts shops, galleries, restaurants and museums. The feel of the area is much like it would have been 200 years ago. It is a great place to end the day, maybe with dinner at one of the local restaurants.
Planning your stay in Kanazawa
Hotels and accommodation
|5* luxury Ryokan located near the Higashi Chaya District.|
|Reserve with booking.com|
|Reserve with agoda.com|
Tours, tickets and experiences
Kanazawa is full of amazing experiences, especially related to culture, food and history. Booking a couple of experiences or tours could enhance your experience further and let you dive deeper into the local culture of Kanazawa. Below is a selection of tours and experiences which you may find interesting.
- Food tour: Omicho Market & Geisha District 2.5-Hour
- Private tour: Full day private guided tour
- Night tour: including full course meal
- Group tour: Explore Kanazawa with a passionate local
- Geisha Show: including dinner
- Sushi Making: learn to make your own sushi
- Side trip: Full-day Shirakawa-go, Gokayama & Takayama tour
- Side trip: Half-day Shirakawa-go tour
- Side trip: Cycling trip to Mt. Hakusan
Find more experiences here:
Internet on the go
Having an internet connection can help you a great deal when navigating the streets of a new city. Booking Pocket Wi-Fi or getting a Japanese SIM-card for your phone can be a great way to help yourself out of a tricky situation or help you get the most out of your day.
Transport in Kanazawa
Kanazawa has a great network of busses, which serve most of the central city in a very effective manner. Especially useful for tourists are the two circle lines called Right Loop and Left Loop. They run the exact same path around the city, but in opposite directions. The loop busses have stops near almost all the central attractions in Kanazawa. JR also operates bus lines in central Kanazawa. The JR Bus lines are free for holders of the Japan Rail Pass.
Find maps and schedules here:
Photo credits: Left Loop and Right Loop by Sonic Blooming, CC BY-SA 4.0. JR bus by すらいむさん, public domain.
Getting to Kanazawa
It is really easy to get to Kanazawa by train. There are great connections from many of Japans larger cities, like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe.
From Tokyo, Kanazawa is serviced by the Hokuriku Shinkansen high-speed train. The trip takes only 2.5 hours with the Shinkansen train. The trip is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. An affordable alternative to the full JR Pass is the 7-day Hokuriku Arch Rail Pass, which covers the stretch from Tokyo, over Kanazawa to Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe.
From Kyoto, Kanzawa can be reached in about 2 hours on the JR Thunderbird Limited Express train. The train is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. An affordable alternative to the full JR Pass is the 7-day Hokuriku Arch Rail Pass, which covers the stretch from Tokyo, over Kanazawa to Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe.
Get your train pass or ticket here:
Komatsu Airport (KMQ) is the closest airport to Kanazawa, and the obvious choice for flying into Kanazawa. There are connections between Kanazawa and Haneda (Tokyo), Narita (Tokyo), Sapporo, Sendai, Fukuoka and Naha (Okinawa). In addition to that there are a couple of international destinations, including Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong.