Kanazawa Travel Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat traveling in Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa Travel Guide

Kanazawa Travel Guide
Photo by raul1534 on Pixabay // CC0


Sitting on the Sea of Japan in Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa is a historic city that is also known as the Seattle of Japan for its frequent rainfalls (and in winter, snowfalls).

Filled with historic attractions, it is a great place to learn about samurai, geishas, and the way life was during the Edo Period.

Come check out our Kanazawa travel guide for indigo visitors as we cover the best things to do in Kanazawa, Japan.

Top Attractions

Start your time off in Kanazawa by checking out the D.T. Suzuki Museum. This institution is dedicated to the life and times of leading Buddhist philosopher Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro. A prolific author, it was this man who introduced the precepts of Zen Buddhism to nations around the world, as he was able to write books in English, Chinese, and Sanskrit, the three foreign languages he was fluent in.

A modernist structure, the design of the D.T. Suzuki Museum embodies the tenets of this Buddhist sect, as its lines, the serenity of its water garden, and its lush garden communicate its philosophy on the nature of life and existence.

The Water Mirror Garden is an especially chill place, so take a few moments to reflect on your day and your life before moving on to the next attraction on your itinerary in Japan.

Kanazawa held a great deal of importance during the Edo Period, as it was home to a sizable population of samurais. In fact, a significant number of their abodes have been preserved to the present day, as you will see on a visit to the Nagamachi Samurai District.

Located within walking distance of Kanazawa Castle, the protectors of this realm and the people of the region lived in humble earthen homes with their families. Some are open to visitors, like Nomura-ke.

As a high-ranking family, this residence is larger than most and comes with a small garden. Inside, you’ll find artifacts which will bring to life the lives of these loyal guards.

However, there is no dispute which samurai home is the finest in Kanazawa. The Seisonkaku Villa will amaze you with its understated elegance. It didn’t even serve as a residence for an actual samurai – rather, it was built as a manor for a samurai’s mother so she could live in comfort during her golden years.

Within, it contains several sizable rooms that boast tatami floors, as well as a garden that can be viewed from a roof-covered deck, thus allowing the occupant to enjoy its tranquillity without exposing themselves to the elements.

Geisha were another class of people in Japanese society that played a big role in the everyday life of Kanazawa. They were mostly women who wore elaborate makeup and costumes in the course of amusing patrons within the entertainment quarters of cities such as Kanazawa.

These ladies lived in the same neighbourhood as the establishments where they worked, walking to work to buildings called geisha houses. In Kanazawa, a place called Ochaya Shima Geisha House has been preserved to give visitors a look into the lives of these performers.

While the performance spaces are now quiet, there are displays which show how the geisha entertained patrons with dancing, songs, and poetry. See the instruments they once played and the dressing space where they put on their complex costumes.

Sake was once served here, but these days, only green matcha tea and pastries are available as you admire this space’s furnishings and its indoor garden.

Other Attractions

Japanese towns and cities are home to numerous green spaces, as traditional gardens are proudly kept as a matter of their culture. Despite their volume, though, Kenrokuen Garden stands out as one of the best in all of Japan.

Sitting just outside the gates of Kanazawa Castle, it is best known for best embodying a Chinese principle known as the Six Sublimities. That is, it makes use of space, separation from the outside world, water, human-made elements, artifacts from the past, and sweeping views to create a delightful experience for visitors.

In particular, its lakes, flowering trees and shrubs, and tea house make this a special place in the midst of an active city.

As referenced before, Kanazawa Castle is an attraction that holds significant importance in the history of this city. Ranking only second to the Tokugawa clan in wealth and influence, the Maeda clan held sway here during the Edo Period.

Alas, this structure burned down several times during its life, meaning that it has been reconstructed as recently as the late 19th century. While the main keep has not been rebuilt, the Gojukken Nagaya Storehouse, the Ishikawa-mon Gate, and other structures combine with cherry trees to create an amazing atmosphere, especially during the peak spring months.

Those wanting to take in a Shinto shrine while in Kanazawa should check out Myoryuji Temple. Also known as the Ninja Temple, it was built to provide its occupants with a way to take refuge during an enemy attack. Boasting secret tunnels, its defenders could make for the castle to warn its occupants of a coming offensive.

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