We knew very little about Kanazawa when we first stepped off the train back in 2014. It was supposed to be a stopover, a place to rest up a bit after having completed the Japan Alpine Route and we didn’t have the highest of expectations. Kanazawa took us by complete surprise! First off, it turned out that Kanazawa was not as small as we thought. And the city had a lot more to offer than we could imagine.

Over the years we have been back several times. Kanazawa has, in fact, become one of our favorite cities in Japan. We love how the wonderfully preserved Edo-era districts in Kanazawa blends perfectly with the city’s modern and contemporary architecture and city life. The people of Kanazawa are welcoming and friendly, and the whole town is incredibly atmospheric and cozy.

Kanazawa has around 500 000 inhabitants and is a vibrant city with fantastic sights, fabulous food, great shopping, and many cozy restaurants and cafes. It is famous for its high-quality fresh fish and seafood, which is often served with some locally produced sake. Here you can find some of the oldest and finest sake breweries in Japan.

Among Kanazawa’s most famous sights is the lovely Kanazawa Castle; the fantastic Kenrokuen Japanese Garden ranked as one of the top three gardens in Japan, the beautifully preserved Samurai and Geisha districts, temples, a vibrant market, and a ton of exciting museums.

Autumn leaves in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa is ranked as the third most beautiful garden in Japan

Kanazawa is also home to some of Japan’s most famous traditional arts and crafts, like Kaga Yuzen kimono dyeing techniques and design, gold leaf, ceramics, and lacquerware.

In 2009 it became the first city in Japan to be appointed by UNESCO as a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art. As you can imagine it is a fantastic city for souvenirs and gift shopping.

After dark river Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

Kanazawa is a beautiful city with several rivers

A Brief History of Kanazawa

Kanazawa means “golden marsh” and the area was Japan`s most prosperous region in its heydays during the 15th century. It used to produce about five million bushels of rice annually! Puh, that’s a LOT of rice! This wealth allowed the head clan, Maeda (ruled from 1583 until 1873), to support local culture and artists.

To this day, Kanazawa remains a national cultural hotspot. It is one of few cities in Japan where you can still find traditional arts and crafts, and see genuine and authentic Geisha performances and Japanese Noh theater plays.

The city survived World War II undamaged and has some of the best-preserved historical and cultural sights in Japan. It feels like a mini-version of Kyoto, although Kanazawa sees a lot fewer tourists than its more famous big brother!

We hope you find this Kanazawa travel guide helpful when planning your own Kanazawa itinerary! 🙂

What To Do In Kanazawa –
The Ultimate 2-Day Kanazawa Itinerary


The map above (Google Maps): What To Do In Kanazawa – A 2-Day Kanazawa Itinerary
Day 1 = Violet, Day 2 = Yellow, Other Things To Do In Kanazawa = Black

I recommend that you spend at least two days in Kanazawa so that you get to fully explore the city. This Kanazawa itinerary is designed as a two days DIY sightseeing tour covering all the main Kanazawa sights.

If you only have one day in Kanazawa, I recommend that you focus on Day 1 of this itinerary as it contains what we consider to be the essentials sights and highlights of Kanazawa.

If you have more than two days, you can, of course, spread this itinerary out over more days, which would leave some room to relax in between all the sightseeing. Alternatively, see the section ” Other Things To Do In Kanazawa”, for more tips on what to do in Kanazawa.


DAY 1 – Exploring The Old Historic Kanazawa

Samurais, Japanese Gardens & Geishas


The map above (Google Maps): Day 1 of our Kanazawa Itinerary

Start your tour of Kanazawa at its famous Samurai district, the Nagamachi District (see map and description of this walking tour below). Next up is the beautiful gardens and parks of Kanazawa. Kanazawa has three gardens; one is even ranked as the third best garden in Japan – Gokusen Inmaru Garden, Kanazawa Castle Park, and Kenrokuen Garden. All three are conveniently located next to each other.

In the afternoon, you will get to explore the old and historic Geisha areas of Kanazawa. Kanazawa has two Geisha/ Teahouse districts, separated by a river – Kazuemachi and Higashi.

Enjoy and have fun on your first day in Kanazawa! ♥

Take the Kanazawa Loop Bus and get off at bus stop no. 2 (green Left Loop) or 13 (orange Right Loop).

A. Breakfast at Hirami Pan

We stumbled upon this gem of a little cafe/ bakery by coincidence near our hotel. It was the perfect place to have breakfast and just what we needed after a long previous day doing the Alpine Route.

HIrami Pan Cafe Kanazawa

The cozy french bakery Hirami Pan

Hirami Pan feels like stepping into a French bistro, where the sweet smell of freshly baked pastries and bread welcomes you even before you have entered the front door. Inside, it is super cozy and feels like someone’s home. I could have stayed there forever.

French Bakery HIrami Pan Cafe Kanazawa

Lots of delicious pastries

HIrami Pan Cafe Kanazawa

I loved the Hirami Pan Cafe!

The food was delicious! Who will complain about having fantastic freshly baked pastries for breakfast dessert?! Not me! 🙂 I could get used to a breakfast like this:

  • Address: 1-6-11 Nagamachi, Kanazawa City
  • Opening hours: 08:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm. Closed on Mondays.
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus and get off at bus stop no. 2 (green Left Loop) or 13 (orange Right Loop).
  • Hirami Pan’s Official Webpage

After breakfast at the cozy Hirami Pan Cafe, it is time to head to one of the coolest areas in Kanazawa. Walk just around the corner and over to Ashigaru Museum to start your walking tour of the area where the samurai used to live – Nagamachi Samurai District (B).

Walking time from Hirami Pan Cafe (A) to the first stop of the Nagamachi Samurai Walking Tour – Ashigaru Museum (B): 2 min.

B. Nagamachi Samurai District

  • Estimated time: 1-2 hours

A few streets from the main shopping and dining area of Kanazawa, you will find the famous Samurai district of Kanazawa – Naga-machi Buke Yashiki District. This area was once inhabited by samurais during the Edo period (1603 – 1868).

The atmospheric Nagamachi Samurai District in Kanazawa

So you might ask, what is a Samurai? Samurai were the military caste of Japan from the 12th century to the 1870s. They were the well-paid guards and officers of the Daimyo, the powerful Japanese lords who ruled most of Japan from their vast comfortable land estates.

A Daimyo was like a regional king, only subordinate to the shōgun and the emperor.

Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

Nagamachi Samurai District is located next to a nice canal

Samurai House in Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

A beautiful house in the Nagamachi Samurai District that used to be a Samurai training school

The word Samurai means “to serve“. The Samurais followed a strict honorary code called bushidō, which described how they should live and die. To be a Samurai was a position of prestige, they were well regarded in society and had special privileges like being allowed to wear two swords.

Since their life’s mission was to serve their lord, a Samurai who lost their master would typically fall on hard times. Such masterless samurais were called Ronins.

About 5 % of the Japanese population were samurai families in the 1870s. In Japanese, samurais are referred to as bushi, meaning warrior, or bukeThat’s why Nagamchi District’s official name is Naga-machi Buke Yashiki District.

Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

Beautiful streets in the Nagamachi Samurai area

Nagamachi Samurai District lies between the two canals Onosho and Kuratsuki. This area contains well-preserved old Japanese traditional buildings; some are turned into museums where you can walk inside and see how real samurais lived. The rest are residences, shops, and cafes.

Go for a walk along these narrow alleys, and you will soon feel like a samurai yourself! This is such an atmospheric and lovely area to go for a stroll, both during the day and in the evenings.

Samurai house in Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

A Samurai house with a fantastic garden

DIY Walking Tour Of Nagamachi Samurai District


The map above (Google Maps): DIY walking tour of the Nagamachi Samurai District in Kanazawa

This walking route (about 600 m) only takes 15 min or so if you just walk through it. But, of course, you want to step inside some of the museums, have a look around, and take some photos. So it might take 1-2 hours, depending on how much time you spend at each stop.

A. Ashigaru Museum

Ashigaru Museum in the northern part of the Nagamachi Samurai District is two restored houses that were the homes of foot soldiers or infantry (called ashigaru in Japanese) during the Edo period. These ashigaru soldiers were employed by the samurai class.

Ashigaru Museum Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

Ashigaru Museum consists of two restored foot soldier houses

Ashigaru Museum Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

Ashigaru Museum lets you step back in time and experience how the ashigaru foot soldiers lived

The two houses are beautifully restored, with roof tiles made of stone, tatami mats inside on the floors, and sliding doors made of paper. By walking around inside the houses, you get a good insight into Ashigaru’s duties and daily life. The rooms have been furnished and show artifacts that were used by the ashigaru soldiers. Written explanations (also in English) is in every room.

  • Opening hours: 09:30 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Free

From Ashigaru Museum, walk south along the canal until you reach the crossroad named Yon-no-hasi/ “Fourth Bridge.” On your right-hand side lies the beautiful Takada Family House.

B. Remains of the house of the Takada Family/ Members of the Kaga clan

The old home of the Takada family, who were members of the Kaga clan in Kanazawa, is next up on this walking route. The Takada Family House has been restored to the state of the original samurai residence and is open to the public.

Remains of the house of the Takada Family Samurai Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

Remains of the house of the Takada Family has a lovely garden

The Takada family were middle-rank samurai, called heishi.

There is not that much to see inside the house, but notice the stunning and beautifully restored Nagaya-mon Gate at the entrance. The house is surrounded by a lovely Japanese strolling garden and a pond from which the water comes from the neighboring canal. This kind of strolling gardens was prevalent in the Edo period.

Remains of the house of the Takada Family Samurai

The beautiful Nagaya-mon Gate at the entrance of the Takada Family Samurai house

  • Opening hours: 09:30 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
C. Naga-machi Buke Yashiki Kyukeikan Rest House

The Naga-machi Buke Yashiki Kyukeikan Rest House is like the tourist information or gathering point of the Naga-machi Samurai District. Here you are welcome to sit down, relax in the lounge area, and use the restrooms for free. You can also get tourist information about the area.

Rest house Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa

The Naga-machi Buke Yashiki Kyukeikan Rest House is a great place to relax and use the toilet. They also have a nice gift shop.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (16th March – November), 09:30 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (December – 15th March)
  • Ticket price: Free
D. Nomura Samurai House

One of the most beautiful traditional buildings in Nagamachi is the Nomura Family Samurai House, which has been turned into a Samurai museum.

Nomura Samurai House in Kanazawa

The lovely Nomura Samurai House is now a Samurai Museum

The house used to be the home of the Nomura family, who were high ranking officials under the Maeda family who ruled Kanazawa.

Inside the house, there are several Samurai artifacts on display, like a Samurai uniform, swords, knives, and other weapons. The house is also beautiful with a lovely, cypress ceiling and decorated sliding doors.

The most notable about the Samurai House, in our opinion, the garden. The small garden is stunning and well worth a visit! We sat down on the porch, admired all the little details, and watched the large orange and white Carps swimming in the pond below our feet. We enjoyed it`s relaxed and Zen-like atmosphere.

The beautiful garden at Nomura Samurai House Kanazawa

The Nomura Samurai House has a lovely Japanese garden

Have you ever seen a rock tied in twine like this one below? We have been seeing many rocks like these around the gardens we have visited in Japan, and found this one in the Samurai House. When we got back to the hotel, I had to Google it to find out what these strange rocks mean?!

Nomura Samurai House

This is a Tome Ishi – a traditional Japanese stop stone

This round rock is a Tome Ishi – a traditional Japanese stop stone. Or to use its more descriptive name: Sekimori Ishi – Boundary-guard stone.

It is used in Japanese gardens, particularly those with a tea house, to guide visitors along a prescribed route. It is a wrong-way marker. A “No Entry” sign.

But why the rope, you might wonder? It makes the stone easier to notice and to move from place to place. Smart! Ever since ancient times, Japanese people have used a rope to mark off sacred space and designate things as divine.

It can be difficult to find the right rock for this purpose. It has to be flat on the bottom, so it sits well, but with a pleasingly rounded from above. It should be big enough to get noticed, but not so big that it’s challenging to move around.

There are so many cool but also strange things to be found in Japanese gardens. This is at least way cooler and more elegant than a big yellow sign with words like: “DO NOT ENTER!” Don’t you agree? It is more gentle, like a request rather than an order.

The Nomura Samurai House has a lovely tea room upstairs on the 2nd floor. Here you can enjoy a cup of Matcha green tea and some traditional Japanese sweets while enjoying the view of the garden.

E. Shinse Kinenkan Museum

The Shinse Kinenkan Museum used to be the Nakaya pharmacy, established in 1579. Inside, you can see the original furniture and different items from when the pharmacy was operative.

  • Opening hours: 09:30 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
  • Ticket price: 100 JPY = US$ 1 (adult), children free
F. Maeda Tosanokami-ke Shiryokan Museum

This museum shows belongings from the Maeda Tosanokami Family, who was the chief vassal of the Kaga clan.

Inside, you can see around 9000 historical items, like old writings, armor, weapons, different arts, and calligraphy.

You can sit down and relax in the comfortable lounge area with huge glass windows from floor to ceiling so that you can enjoy the beautiful garden outside.

After this walking tour and a history lesson about the Samurais, it is time to see some of the stunning parks and gardens that Kanazawa is famous for. Kanazawa has one of the finest Japanese gardens in the whole country. Start with the brand new Gyokusen Inmaru Garden (D). But on your way to the garden, make a pit-stop at the amazing chocolate shop and cafe Saint Nicolas (C).

C. Saint Nicolas Chocolate Shop & Cafe

On your way from Nagamachi Samurai District to the Gyokusen Inmaru Garden, stop by the cozy chocolate and dessert cafe Saint Nicolas. It quickly became one of my favorite cafes in Kanazawa as I love chocolate! 🙂

Sit down for a cup of coffee or tea, and some chocolate, or buy some chocolate and cakes to bring with you to eat in the gardens of Kanazawa (C, D, E). Saint Nicolas is only a 5 min walk from the last stop on the Samurai walking tour – the Maeda Tosanokami-ke Shiryokan Museum.

If you don’t want to walk from Nagamachi District to Gyokusen Inmaru Garden, you can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus from bus stop no. 3 (green, Left Loop) to bus stop no. 8 or 9 and walk from there.

Walking time from Saint Nicolas (C) to Gyokusen Inmaru Garden (D): 15 min.

D. Gyokusen Inmaru Garden

  • Estimated time: 30 min. Gyokusen Inmaru is a small garden, and it only takes about 5-10 min to walk through it. But you want to go for a peaceful stroll and maybe have a tea at the rest house. 

Gyokusen Inmaru is a lovely and well laid out garden filled with pine trees, a small waterfall and river, a lake with three islands connected by atmospheric bridges, and other traditional elements.

Hanging Trees

We visited this garden in November, and the trees were all wrapped up to protect them from the cold winter and snow coming up. The trees were almost like an art installation and looked so cool!

This kind of binding up the trees with ropes is called Yukizuri, meaning “snow hanging” (see the picture below). It is a winter tradition in Kanazawa, and the trees are made into these pyramids on the 1st of November every year.

The stunning Gyokusen Inmaru Garden Kanazawa

The stunning Gyokusen Inmaru Garden with its trees wrapped up for winter

Gyokusen Inmaru garden was original constructed in 1634 by the lord and samurai Toshitsune Maeda. The Maeda clan was the ruler of the Kaga domain (today’s Kanazawa). The garden is named after Gyokusen´in, the wife of the second feudal lord, Toshinaga. This was her home.

It is believed that this was the private garden for lord Maeda himself and not a place where he would bring guests. He would use the Kenrokuen-en Garden on the opposite side of the castle to entertain his guests.

The garden was, however, abandoned during the Meiji era in 1868. The garden was neglected and vanished until they decided to bring it back to life in 2008. It took about five years to fully restore it to the stunning garden you see today. It is modeled after how the garden looked in the late Edo period (19th century). The garden reopened in 2015.

Gyokusen Inmaru Garden Kanazawa

The Gyokusen Inmaru Garden was constructed in 1634 by the lord and samurai Toshitsune Maeda

It is a wonderful garden to go for a peaceful stroll. The garden is particularly stunning when it is lit up every Friday and Saturday evening, from sunset until 21:00/ 9 pm. The light show lasts for 7 minutes. The first light show mimics the sunset and the moonlight. The second part of the show depicts the four seasons, with colors that reflect spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This makes a fantastic photo spot!

You can enjoy a matcha tea at the rest house while admiring the garden view, and they also do a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Tea house at Gyokusen Inmaru Garden Kanazawa

You can enjoy a Matcha green tea at the resthouse in the Gyokusen Inmaru Garden

  • Opening hours: 07:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm (1st of March – 15th of October), 08:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (16th of October – end of February)
  • Ticket price: Free
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 13 (orange, right loop) or no 2 (green, left loop). The Kanazawa Loop Bus departs from the east side of Kanazawa Station every 15 min. If you have a JR Pass, you can take the JR Bus for free. The JR Bus runs through Kanazawa. The Korinbo Line departs from Kanazawa Station and stops near Gyokusen Inmaru Garden; get off at stop 4 (Korinbo) or stop 5 (21st Century Museum).
  • Gyokusen Inmaku Garden’s Official Webpage

In connection to Gyokusen Inmaru Garden, you will find Kanazawa Castle Park with Kanazawa Castle (E). You can easily walk between these two parks.

Walking time from Gyokusen Inmaru Garden (D) to Kanazawa Castle (E): 5 min.

E. Kanazawa Castle & Park

  • Estimated time: 1 hour. How much time you spend here depends on whether or not you want to go inside the castle. 

The beautiful Kanazawa Castle, originally built in 1580, was called the “castle of 1000 tatami” and housed the ruling Maeda Clan for 14 generations. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1881 but was rebuilt in 2001.

Kanazawa Castle in Kanazawa, Japan

The three-story watchtower is the highest structure on the castle

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa, Japan

Great autumn colors in Kanazawa Castle Park in December

If you are a history buff like me, you should download the app Kanazawa Castle AR Tour. It gives you an insight to all the historical sights and places at Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenrokuen Garden, with in-depth information about the sight as you walk around. You can download the Kanazawa Castle AR Tour app for free at Google Play and AppStore.

Kanazawa Castle is surrounded by a beautiful huge park, Kanazawa Castle Park, and a moat.

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa, Japan

Can you see me on the bridge crossing the moat?

It is free to visit the Kanazawa Castle Park, but to enter Kanazawa Castle costs 310 JPY (3 us$) per person.

There is not that much to see inside the castle, except for exhibits showing the traditional wooden construction method used to rebuild the castle in 2001. You can have a look at a very detailed miniature model of the entire castle, showing the internal castle structure and how it was built.

Kanazawa Castle and Bridge, Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa Castle is a rebuild from 2001

The view from the watchtower is lovely! However, I am not sure if the trip inside (and the ticket) is worth it.

Lovely view from Kanazawa Castle in Kanazawa, Japan

Lovely view from the top of Kanazawa Castle

Ishikawa Gate

The elegant Ishikawa Gate, called Ishikawa-mon in Japanese, was rebuilt in 1788. It is connected by a bridge over to the Kenroku-en Garden.

Kanazawa Castle and Bridge, Kanazawa, Japan

The elegant gate Ishikawa-mon takes you from Kanazawa Castle to Kenroku-en Garden.

It is the back gate of Kanazawa Castle and is a typical Japanese castle box-shaped gateway, referred to as masugatamon. The gate is especially magnificent in the evenings when it is illuminated.

  • Opening hours: 07:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm (1st of March – 15th of October), 08:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (16th of October – end of February)
  • Ticket price: Free to enter the Kanazawa Castle Park, 310 JPY = US$ 3 to enter Kanazawa Castle
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 7 (orange, right loop) or no 9 (green, left loop).
  • Kanazawa Castle’s Official Webpage

After you are done inside the park, continue through Ishikawa Gate and over the bridge.  In front of you is one the highlights of Kanazawa – the famous Kenroku-en Garden (E).

Walking time from Kanazawa Castle (E) to Kenroku-en Garden (F): 5 min.

F. Kenroku-en Japanese Garden

  • Estimated time: 1-2 hours. How much time you spend in Kenroku-en Garden depends, of course, on how much you walk around, and if you want to have tea at one of the tea houses or not. 

The Kenrokuen Garden is ranked as one of the top three gardens in Japan, and for good reason. It is stunning!

Autumn leaves in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa

Kenrokuen Garden is on the top three list of the most beautiful gardens in Japan.

The garden dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868). It was first settled when the 5th Lord Tsunanori built his house Renchiochin here facing Kanazawa Castle, surrounded by a small garden named Renchitei. Later, the garden was expanded into the landscaped garden that we see here today, by the 12th Lord Narinaga and the 13th Lord Nariyasu.

The garden got the name Kenrokuen in 1822, based on a Chinese book describing the famous gardens Luoyang. Its name Kenroku means “combined six,” where the six meaning seclusion, spaciousness, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and broad views. The garden sure has all six of them!

Kenroku-en garden is beautiful at any time of year and should be a part of any Kanazawa itinerary.

Kotojitoro Lantern & Nijibashi Bridge

Standing just next to the large pond in Kenrokuen Garden, there is a famous stone lantern with two broad legs. The lantern is called Kotojitoro, as its shape resembles the traditional Japanese music string instrument koto.

Nijibashi Rainbow Bridge in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

Me on the popular “photo-bridge” Nijibashi Bridge.

In front of the lantern is the small stone bridge Nijibashi Bridge, meaning Rainbow Bridge. The bridge, like the lantern, has a shape like the music instrument koto. Therefore it has the nickname “Koto Bridge.”

This bridge is a popular photo spot for selfies. It is so popular that during peak visiting times, especially during Cherry blossom season and autumn leaves season, you must stand in line to take a photo.

Nijibashi Rainbow Bridge in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

The Kenroku-en Garden is popular for photoshoots.

As we walked around the garden, all of a sudden, a bride and groom showed up! They were having a photoshoot in the garden. They were beautifully dressed in traditional Japanese wedding Kimono dresses.

Japanese wedding couple in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

A Japanese couple taking their summer wedding photos in Kenroku-en Garden

Kasumigaike Pond

In the middle of Kenrokuen Garden, you will find the big green Kasumigaike Pond, meaning misty pond. The pond has a lovely fountain. The water column in the fountain is approximately 3,5 m tall, made up of natural water pressure from a difference in elevation.

The fountain was built in the early 1860s and is said to be the oldest fountain in Japan.

Fountain in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

The oldest fountain in Japan, 3,5 m tall

Hanamibashi Bridge

The lovely wooden bridge Hanamibashi Bridge is surrounded by a sea of beautiful flowers. The flowers are especially stunning in spring when the cherry trees are in bloom, and when the irises and azaleas are in full bloom.

Hanamibashi Bridge in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

The lovely wooden bridge Hanamibashi Bridge. The trees are tied up to protect them from the coming winter.

Tea House

There are two teahouses tucked away in between the lush and green Kenrokuen garden – Shigure-Tei and Uchihashi-Tei. Here you can participate in a Japanese tea ceremony and enjoy a cup of tea and some Japanese sweets. You can choose between Sencha green tea and Matcha green tea.

The Shiguretei tea house was restored in 2000, and can also be rented.

Tea house in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

There are two tea houses in Kenrokuen Garden

Seven Fortune Gods

The Seven Fortune Gods area of Kenrokuen Garden represents the world of the gods. Each stone represents one of the gods.

The stones Seven Fortune Gods in Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa

The Seven Fortune Gods, where each stone represent one of these gods

  • Opening hours: 07:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm (1st of March – 15th of October), 08:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (16th of October – end of February)
  • Ticket price: 310 JPY = US$ 3 (adult), 100 JPY = US$ 2 (child)
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 7 (orange, right loop) or no 9 (green, left loop).
  • Kenrokuen Garden’s Official Webpage

After all this fresh air and green scenery, it is time to visit two old historic districts of Kanazawa, the home of the Geishas. The two main Geisha districts in Kanazawa are located next to each other, only separated by the Asano River – Kazuemachi Chaya District (F) & Higashi Chaya District (G). Chaya means teahouse in Japanese.

If you don’t want to walk, you can take the green Left Kanazawa Loop Bus from bus stop no. 8 or 9 to bus stop no. 10.

Walking time from Kenrokuen Garden (F) to Kazuemachi Chaya District (G): 15 min. 

G. Kazuemachi Chaya District

  • Estimated time: 20-30 min. This is a small Geisha area, consisting of only a couple of streets. There are no museums here. 

On the west side of the Asano River lays some narrow cobblestone streets and alleys lined with beautiful old traditional Japanese houses. These houses date back to the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and are fantastically preserved.

This area is the old geisha tea district of Kanazawa and lies between Nakano Hashi Bridge and Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge.

Cozy street in Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

Kazuemachi Chaya Geisha District is located just opposite the Higashi Chaya Geisha District

Today, you will find high-end traditional Japanese restaurants, teahouses/ chaya, bars, shops, and small inns (ryokans) here. This area is incredibly atmospheric in the evenings when the houses are lit up both outside and inside, making the shōji doors and windows glow.

Even if you don’t plan on eating here (it is quite expensive and not all the restaurants cater to foreign tourists), it is a lovely street to go for a walk and to take photos. Some restaurants and teahouses have geisha performances in the evenings. So if you are lucky, you might hear beautiful shamisen (a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument) and drums played by geishas.

The main street of Kazuemachi runs along the Asano River, which is lined with cherry trees. This street is stunning during cherry blossom (March/ April) when the trees are in full bloom, surrounding the river and the Asanogawa Bridge in a sea of pink flowers. In the evenings, lanterns light up the cherry trees.

The teahouse area Kazuemachi Chaya was designated as an Important Cultural Asset in 2008.

  • How to get there: You can easily walk here from the Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen Garden, a 15 min walk. Or from the geisha district Higashi Chaya (just cross the Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge). The closest bus stop is Hashiba-machi. You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 4 (orange, right loop). The Kanazawa Loop Bus departs from the east side of Kanazawa Station every 15 min.

From Kazuemachi Chaya District, just walk across the river to another Geisha area, the biggest in Kanazawa – the Higashi Chaya District (G).

Walking time from Kazuemachi Chaya District (G) to Higashi Chaya District (H): 5 min.

H. Higashi Chaya Geisha District

  • Estimated time: 1-3 hours. This is a larger Geisha area than Kazumachi, consisting of several streets lined with lovely shops, cozy cafes, and a couple of museums/ old Geisha houses. You can spend hours here shopping, drinking sake, and green tea. Most museums, shops, and cafes in this area close around 17-18/ 5-6 pm. 

By the riverbank of Asanogawa River, east of the city center lays the most famous  Geisha district of Kanazawa – Higashi Chaya.

It is a maze of narrow streets and alleys dating back to the early 19th century, where Geishas entertained wealthy male customers here. The wooden houses are well-preserved, and going for a stroll in these streets feels like stepping back in time.

Main street Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

The atmospheric Higashi Chaya Geisha District of Kanazawa

Today,  tourists dominate the streets of the Geisha District. But you can easily picture how it must have been back then when the streets were crowded with wealthy tradesmen come to dine and be entertained at one of the many teahouses.

They enjoyed watching elegant and beautifully dressed Geishas perform and playing the harp, the Shamisen (a three-stringed instrument), dancing, singing, reading poems, and performing the tea ceremony.

Two ladies in kimonos in Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

The Higashi Chaya Geisha District is popular to walk around in dressed in kimonos

Most of the former Geisha houses are now turned into fabulous museums, shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Go for a stroll along the streets, have a cup of Matcha green tea in one of the many cozy cafes, and do some souvenir shopping.

Kimono ladies in Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

Higashi Chaya District is a great area to go for a walk

We had some delicious tea and sweets at Higashiyama Ikkyu Cafe. It is located inside an old teahouse and is a relaxing and cozy place to sit down and have a rest. The menu consists mainly of cakes, sweets, tea, and coffee.

Matcha green tea in Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

We had some delicious Matcha green tea and sweets at the old tea house Higashiyama Ikkyu Cafe

If you want to have a proper lunch or dinner, the Jiyuken Restaurant is a good and inexpensive restaurant located in the heart of Higashi Chaya District. They have been serving delicious food since 1909. Their special meal set of the day is a good value (925 JPY = US$ 9). They have a huge menu, everything from salads, sandwiches, spaghetti, steak, rice dishes, hamburger, and several set menus.

Another great option in this area is the Todoroki-Tei Restaurant. This atmospheric candle-lit bistro is very popular, located in a cool rustic-style building built in the Taisho-era (1912-1926). Their eight-course dinner sets are a good value, from 3500 JPY = US$33 per person.

Shima Geisha House Museum

The Shima Geisha House in the middle of the Higashi Chaya District dates back to 1820 and gives you an excellent insight into how a typical geisha house was constructed. The house is well preserved and is like a Geisha museum. It has an impressive collection of combs, Shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese instrument), and other Geisha tools.

Shima Geisha House and Museum, Kanazawa

You can walk inside the Shima Geisha House and see how the geishas used to live

You can enjoy a cup of Matcha green tea at the tearoom inside.

Opening hours for the Shima Geisha House are 09:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm (summer) and 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (winter, Dec – Feb). The entrance ticket costs 500 JPY = US$ 5 (adult) and 300 JPY = US$ 3 (child).

Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photos inside of the house, so we were only able to take a few snapshots in secret with our iPhones (sorry for the bad quality).

Kaikaro Geisha Teahouse & Geisha Performance

Just across the street from Shima Geisha House is the Kaikaro Geisha House. It is a bit similar to the Shima house, with a beautifully decorated and bright interior. Check out its cool bright red-lacquered staircase.

Geisha tea house in Higashi Chaya District Kanazawa

You can enjoy an authentic Geisha performance at the Kaikaro Geisha House

The Kaikaro Geisha House is more than 170 years old and nicely restored. Also, here, you can enjoy a cup of Matcha green tea.

Kaikaro has geisha performances some evenings, usually Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is one of the very few remaining places in Japan where you can see a real and authentic traditional Geisha performance. You will see the geishas playing instruments and demonstrating traditional party games. The geisha performances are in English. You can also join a dinner party with Geisha. The geisha performance lasts 1,5 hours and costs from 6500 JPY = US$ 61. Check the official webpage of Kaikaro Geisha House and the Geisha Evenings In Kanazawa Website.

Opening hours for the Kaikaro Geisha House are 10:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (all year round), and an entry ticket costs 750 JPY = US$ 7 (adult) and 500 JPY = US$ 4,7 (child).

Arts & Crafts Of Kanazawa

During the Edo period, the Kanazawa`s ruling Maeda family supported many crafts that are still practiced today in the Kanazawa area. To learn more and get an introduction to the arts and crafts of this region of Japan, visit the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Products & Crafts.

The Higashi Chaya Geisha District is the perfect place to go shopping for souvenirs and gifts to bring back home. Here you will find lots of shops selling locally produced crafts that are a specialty of Kanazawa. Specialties such as sake, gold leaf products, ceramics, porcelain, pottery, silk dyeing fabrics and clothes (especially kimonos), and lacquerware. I always end up shopping a lot when visiting.

Most shops and cafes in the Geisha District close around 17:00/ 5 pm – 18:00/ 6 pm, but you can, of course, go for a stroll in the streets whenever you want.

Sake

Sake is Japan’s national drink, and some of the country’s finest sake breweries are located in Kanazawa. Some have produced high-quality sake for over 400 years!

Sake in Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

You can buy sake in one of the many sake shops in the Higashi Chaya District

Sake is an alcoholic beverage (about 15% alcohol) made by fermenting rice. It is also called Japanese rice wine. You can drink sake cold and warm. Hot sake is a typical winter drink in Japan. Premium sake should be served chilled, however.

Sake goes well with food, especially fish and seafood. Although, like with wine, different sorts of sake goes well with different kinds of food. So ask at the sake shop if you want sake that pairs well with a particular kind of food.

Sake makes an excellent gift and souvenir to bring back home. Several of the Kanazawa’s sake breweries have a shop in Higashi Chaya Geisha District, and many of them offer a tasting menu. So make sure to stop by some of the sake shops and have a taste or two.

One of these shops, The Higashiyama Shuraku sake shop, has over 120 different types of sake from sake breweries in the entire Ishikawa prefecture, many of which you can taste before you buy. Shuraku also sells locally produced snacks and food, like spices, tea, Japanese sweets, and fish sauce.

The Kanazawa’s sake is made from rice harvested in the Kaga Plain and water from the Saigawa River and Asanogawa River in the cold winter. There are four sake breweries in Kanazawa:

  • Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery
    The oldest sake brewery in Kanazawa dates back to 1625. Have English guided tours and a store in Higashiyama Geisha District.
  • Yachiya Sake Brewery
    It dates back to 1871 when its founder moved to Kanazawa with the first lord of the Kaga domain. Have guided tours, but only in Japanese.
  • Nakamura Sake Brewery
    Established in 1804. Certified as an organic manufacturer. No tours, but they have a museum open in the afternoon (12:00 – 17:00). Here you can learn about the process of sake brewing.
  • Takeuchi Sake Brewery
    One of the smallest sake breweries in Japan. It is located in the northeastern part of Kanazawa.
Sake shop in Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

A cozy sake shop in the Higashi Chaya District

If you want to go to a sake bar, head to the Makoto,  in the Higashi Chaya where you can try sake from many different breweries. Go for their food option as well to get the perfect pairing of local food together with sake.

If you happen to be in Kanazawa in October, check out the Sake Festival Sake Marche. Here you will get to taste sake from 22 sake breweries all over Ishikawa Prefecture.

Gold Leaf

Gold leaf application is Kanazawa’s primary specialty when it comes to craft. And actually, 99% of all gold leaf in Japan is made in Kanazawa.

To make gold leaf, a lump of pure gold the size of a 10 JPY coin is rolled into a superthin plate the size of a tatami mat. The thin golf leaf plate is only 0,0001mm thick. The thin gold mat is then cut into small pieces that can be mounted on walls, murals, paintings, pottery, and so on.

You will find almost anything with a gold leaf in Kanazawa, like gold leaf ice cream, gold leaf bath salt, gold leaf cosmetics, golf leaf handbags, golf leaf clothes, golf leaf tea, yeah, everything you can imagine! They make fantastic gifts and souvenirs to bring back home.

Gold leaf in Higashi Chaya Geisha District Kanazawa

You will find several shops in the Higashi Chaya District selling gold leaf products

Among my favorites are the gold leaf ice cream, the hand and body lotion with gold leaf, and the gold leaf bath salt! Nothing beats bathing in gold! 🙂

To learn about the history of gold leaf and its production, visit the Yasue Gold Leaf Museum in the Higashi Chaya Geisha District. Here you get to see the whole gold leaf process of making this incredible thin 0,0001 mm gold leaf. They also have an impressive exhibition (over 300 pieces) of old and new items made of gold leaf.

Another great place to watch and buy gold leaf products is the shop of the Sakuda Gold Leaf Company. The Sakuda Gold Leaf Company has been producing crafts made of the gold leaf since 1919. At their shop in Higashi Chaya Geisha District, you can observe the Kinpaku (gold-leaf) process. You can also have a cup of gold leaf tea, said to be particularly good for people with rheumatism. Don’t forget to visit their toilet, where even the walls are covered with gold and platinum.

Kaga Yuzen Silk Dyeing

The Kanazawa area is famous for its special silk dyeing pattern and techniques, called Kaga Yuzen. The Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing is characterized by strong colors and realistic natural patterns like different sorts of flowers. Visit the Nagamachi Yuzen-kan to learn more about the Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing technique and see beautiful fabrics on display. Here you can even try out silk dyeing process yourself.

Ohi Pottery

The Ohi Pottery, typical for Kanazawa, is an old pottery design dating back to the early Edo period. It is simple in design, and a bit rough on the surface, with irregular shapes and monochromatic glazes. The Ohi Pottery is mainly used for tea ceremonies (cups and pots).

Ohi Pottery has been made by one family, the Ohi family, in Kanazawa for 350 years. They have an Ohi gallery, museum, and cafe in Kanazawa, designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Here, you can enjoy a nice cup of green tea and some sweets in an original Ohi teacup that you select yourself. Next to the gallery and cafe building is an old samurai residence.

Kutani Porcelain

The beautiful Kutani porcelain is a specialty of Kanazawa and is famous for its bright colors, elegant shapes, and graceful design. They look a bit like a crossing between Chinese porcelain and Japanese Imari ware and dates back to the early Edo period. Typical patterns for Kutani porcelain are flowers, birds, trees, and landscapes. Check out the Kutaniyaki Porcelain Art Museum to learn more.

Kanazawa & Wajima Lacquerware

The special Kanazawa & Wajima lacquerware is typical made of a luminous black or dark red background with a decoration of gold and silver powder, or gilding. Check out Wajima Urushi Art Museum to learn more.

  • How to get to Higashi Chaya Geisha District: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 4 (orange, right loop) or no 11 (green, left loop).

I. Dinner In Seseragi-dori Street

The Higashi Chaya Geisha District makes the end of Day 1 of this Kanazawa itinerary. If you are staying at a hotel in the downtown area of Kanazawa, I recommend that you head over to Seseragi-dori Street to have dinner in the evening.

Seseragi-dori Street is a super cozy street that stretches along a canal. The street is lined with lots of nice restaurants and cafes. You will find all sorts of restaurants here, from Italian, French, Indian, Nepalese, and American, to Japanese. If you are in the mood for a delicious hamburger, check out The Godburger. Or if you rather fancy a delicious pizza, head over to Buddha Gorilla.

If you still have some energy left and want to experience the nightlife of Kanazawa, head to the Kata-machi area. Kata-machi has many bars and Japanese-style pubs called Izakayas. Here you also find several “shot bars” that specialize in local sake. Kata-machi is it the perfect area to go bar-and-sake-hopping.

To get from the Higashi Chaya District to Seseragi-dori Street, take the orange Kanazawa Loop Bus (Right Loop) from the bus stop no. 4 (orange, right loop). Get off at the bus stop no. 11 or 12 (orange, right loop).


DAY 2 – Exploring The Modern Kanazawa

Market, Shrine & Museums


The map above (Google Maps): Day 2 of our Kanazawa Itinerary

The second day of this Kanazawa itinerary shows you the more modern side of Kanazawa. First up is the bustling seafood market Omicho Market, followed by a pleasant stroll through the Oyama Shrine and its beautiful garden. Then it is on to a unique and peaceful museum where you get a chance to do some meditation and reflection surrounded by Zen calmness. The day is topped off with a visit to the cool and modern 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.

Enjoy your second day in Kanazawa!

Take the Kanazawa Loop Line Bus to bus stop no. 1 (Green Left Loop) or no. 14 (Orange Right Loop).

A. Breakfast at Curio Espresso & Vintage Design Cafe

We had a delicious breakfast at this unique and cozy Seattle style cafe called Curio. Here you find great coffee, tea, and tasty food. I don’t drink coffee, but the rumor has it that Curio has Kanazawa’s best coffee!

Breakfast at Curio Cafe in Kanazawa

We had a delicious breakfast at Curio Cafe

The cafe is owned by a guy from Seattle, USA, and his Japanese wife. They speak, of course, perfect English, and are very friendly and welcoming. If they have the time, they will gladly answer any questions you might have about Kanazawa.

Curio Cafe in Kanazawa

The owners of Curio Cafe are American and Japanese

Espen had their pulled pork sandwich, while I tried their croissants with homemade strawberry jam. Both were delicious! They also have some vegetarian options, and the cakes on display looked very tempting.

Curio Cafe in Kanazawa

Cozy atmosphere at Curio Cafe

  • Address: Yasuechō, 1−13 Kanazawa-shi, 1, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0854, Japan
  • Opening hours: 10:00 am – 15:00/ 3 pm
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no. 1 (green Left Loop) or no. 14 (orange Right Loop).
  • Curio Espresso & Vintage Design’s Official Webpage

After your breakfast, it is time to do like the locals and hit the Omicho Market. If you are keen on fish and seafood for breakfast, you can, of course, head straight for the market and have your breakfast there. The Omicho Market is only a short walk from Curio Cafe.

Walking time from Curio Cafe to Omicho market: 5 min. 

B. Omicho Market

  • Estimated time: 1-2 hours, depending on whether you will eat here or not, and how much shopping you will do. 

Omicho Market is Kanazawa’s famous fresh food and fish market, a bit like its big brother Tsukiji market in Tokyo. The market has been here since the Edo period and is still going strong. The market’s nickname is “Kitchen of Kanazawa” and is the perfect place to sample some of the specialties of Kanazawa.

Lots of fresh fish at Omicho Market Kanazawa

Lots of fresh fish and seafood at the Omicho Market

It is an indoor market where more than 200 stalls sell fresh local seafood. You can, however, also find vegetables, fruit, meat, flowers, kitchen tools, sake, and clothing here. A great place to buy some local products to bring back home as a souvenir or gift.

Omicho Market Kanazawa

You can shop all sorts of fresh food at the Omicho market

Crabs at Omicho Market Kanazawa

Snow crab at Omicho Market, which is in season from 6th of November until 20th of March

Take a walk through the market and watch the locals, restaurant chefs, fish buyers, and sellers in action over today’s catch.

There are several restaurants inside the market, specializing in fresh seafood like sushi and sashimi. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, try the Kanazawa specialty, Kaisendon – a bowl of rice topped with different sorts of sashimi/ raw fish and hard roe. Omicho Market is an excellent place to head for breakfast or lunch!

Seafood Of Kanazawa

Kanazawa’s big specialty when it comes to food is seafood and especially sushi. These fresh seafood delicacies come in many different variations, and since Kanazawa is a coastal city facing the Sea of Japan, you can have some unique pieces and styles of sushi here.  The best seafood season is from November to May when the sea is at its coldest and the fish and shellfish taste the best.

The snow crab is a Kanazawa delicacy during the autumn and winter months. The fishing season for snow crab runs from the 6th of November until the 20th of March.

Another popular delicacy during fall is amaebi – shrimps that live at depth of around 300 m in the Sea of Japan. These shrimps are especially tasty from September until December.

If you like tuna and salmon, you should definitely try the yellowtail. The yellowtail moves south from Hokkaido and into the Sea of Japan outside Kanazawa. The main season for fishing yellowtail is between December and February when they have a firm and fatty texture.

If you are an oyster fan, you should check the sweet farmed oysters from the Kanazawa area, called Magaki. The brand name of these oysters is Noto-kaki. These farmed oysters are grown slowly in the low sea temperature in the Nanao Bay in the Noto Peninsula. The season for these oysters is from December to March.

Fresh fish at Omicho Market Kanazawa

Omicho Market has lots of restaurants and is the perfect place to try out Kanazawa’s specialties

Oden

Oden is a popular hot pot dish in Japan, especially during autumn and winter. The ingredients and flavor of the broth vary from around Japan, and of course, Kanazawa has its own type of Oden.

Unique to the Kanazawa Oden are kurumabu (dried wheat gluten shaped like a donut), akamaki (fish cake), fukashi (steamed fish cake), baigai (Japanese ivory shell), kani-men (crab), hirozu (tofu mixed with vegetables),

Kanazawa is an Oden mecca with lots of Oden bars where you can try out this dish.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
  • How to get there: You can walk from Kanazawa Station (a 15-20 min walk) or take the bus to Musashigatsuji bus stop. You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no. 1 (green Left Loop) or no. 14 (orange Right Loop). Most buses depart from the east side of Kanazawa Station (including the JR buses).
  • Omicho Market’s Official Webpage

From the Omicho Market, walk over to the Oyama Shrine (C).

Walking time from Omicho Market (B) to Oyama Shrine (C): 10 min.

C. Oyama Shrine

  • Estimated time: 30 min. 

The elegant  Oyama Jinja shrine was established in 1599. It is a Buddist Shinto shrine, dedicated to the first lord of Kaga, the powerful Maeda Toshiie (1538-1599).

Oyama Shrine Kanazawa

The beautiful Oyama Shrine was established in 1599

The shrine was originally built on the east side of Kanazawa but was relocated to its present location in 1873. A couple of years later, the main gate was built.

Oyama Shrine Kanazawa

The Oyama Shrine is a peaceful and atmospheric place

In my opinion, the gate is the most beautiful building. The upper section of the three-tiered gate has a stunning colorful stained glass, giving it an exotic and unique look. It is designed by a Dutch architect, which is probably why it has this European style.

The main gate is particularly stunning after dark when it is lit from the inside, making the colored stained glass glow beautifully.

Entrance Gate Oyama Shrine Kanazawa

The stunning entrance gate at Oyama Shrine with its colored stained glass

The shrine has a lovely strolling garden with a nice, quite big pond with bridges that you can walk across. You will also see a statue of Lord Toshiie here.

Garden Oyama Shrine Kanazawa

Oyama Shrine garden with its walking bridges

  • Opening hours: 24h, year-round
  • Ticket price: Free
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Line Bus to bus stop no. 2 (green Left Loop) or bus stop no. 13 (orange Right Loop).
  • Oyama Shrine’s Official Webpage

After you have explored the lovely Oyama Shrine and its lush garden, continue to see a more modern side of Kanazawa – the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (D).

Walking time from Oyama Shrine (C) to 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (D): 10 min. 

D. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Estimated time: 1 hour. 

Kanazawa has a contemporary art museum, the 21st Century Museum. It was built in 2004, and the building itself is super cool shaped as a low-slung glass cylinder, 113 m in diameter.

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa

This cool glass building houses the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa

Their exhibitions vary, so check their webpage.

  • Opening hours: 10:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm, open until 20:00/ 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Ticket price: Free (some exhibitions have entry tickets)
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 8 (both green Left Loop and orange Right Loop).
  • 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art’s Official Webpage

By now, you have probably worked up an appetite. There are several nice cafes and restaurants in the area; one is the Full of Beans (E).

Walking time from 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (D) to Full of Beans Cafe (E): 5 min. 

E. Lunch At Full Of Beans Cafe

We had a delicious lunch at the cafe Full of Beans, an atmospheric and stylish cafe located in a quiet street.

You can choose between various Western and Japanese dishes, and they have excellent coffee, tea, and juices. On their lunch menu, you can try out the classic Kanazawa specialty Hanton Raisu – a bowl of rice topped with an omelet, fried seafood, tomato, and tartare sauce.

After you have filled up your stomach, it is time to go in search of some spiritual calmness at a one of a kind museum – D. T. Suzuki Museum (F).

Walking time from Full of Beans Cafe (E) to D. T. Suzuki Museum (F): 10 min. 

F. D.T. Suzuki Zen Museum

  • Estimated time: 30 min – 1 hour. You can, of course, spend hours meditating and relaxing at this museum. The museum is, however, quite small, so just to see the museum takes about 30 min. 

The DT Suzuki Museum is unlike any other museum we have been to. It is a spiritual museum built in tribute to one of the foremost Buddhist philosophers, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki. He was the one who introduced the Zen philosophy to the western world. The museum opened in 2011 and is truly one of a kind.

D T Suzuki Museum Kanazawa

Peaceful Zen vibes at the lovely D T Suzuki Museum

D T Suzuki Kanazawa

The Buddhist philosopher Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki

Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki was born in Kanazawa in 1870 and died in 1966, 95 years of age. He worked at the University of Toky, at its Faculty of Philosophy. When he was 27 years old, he moved to the USA to work as an editor and do translation and interpretations.

He later moved back to Japan, and became a professor at Gakushuin University and later at Otani University. He gave guest lecturer at several universities abroad, like Harvard University, Princeton University, New York University, Colombia University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Hawaii.


The museum architecture is simple, elegant, and calming with concrete buildings that exhibit all the elements of Zen. It consists of three zones or spaces:

  • Exhibition Space – Here, you will learn about Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki’s life and achievements
  • Learning Space – A collection of Suzuki’s most famous quotes and philosophy
  • Contemplative Space – The most peaceful area of the museum, where you are encouraged to sit down, meditate, self-reflect, and have a little Zen moment of your own

The museum also has three lovely and peaceful Zen gardens; the Vestibule Garden, the Roji Garden, and the cool Water Mirror Garden.

Autumn colors at D T Suzuki Museum Kanazawa

Lovely autumn colors when we visited the Water Mirror Garden at D T Suzuki Museum in December

Here you can learn about the ideas of Zen Buddism and its philosophy. The museum’s architecture and calming zen garden invites you to sit down, relax, and practice mindfulness and meditation. Or simply have a peaceful moment, which we seldom have in our busy lives. So this is a museum where you don’t just learn about others, but where you can also connect with yourself.

Here is a quote by the philosopher Suzuki himself, published in 1943, which I think is still highly relevant even today. I feel that this is what traveling is all about, at least for me. Traveling, meeting, and getting to know new people and cultures is essential to understand ourselves better.

You cannot understand yourself simply by thinking about yourself. You can understand yourself better by understand others. You will never understand the East if you are confined to the East. You can understand yourself much less if you are obsessed by your “past”, which is originally or culturally limited.

Words by the philosopher D. T. Suzuki

  • Opening hours: 09:30 am – 17:00/ 5 pm (last admission at 16:30/ 4:30 pm). Closed on Mondays.
  • Ticket price: 310 JPY = US$ 3 (adult), free for children
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 9 (orange, right loop) or no 7 (green, left loop). The Kanazawa Loop Bus departs from the east side of Kanazawa Station every 15 min.
  • D T Suzuki Museum’s Official Webpage

D. T. Suzuki Museum is the last stop of this second day of the Kanazawa itinerary.

If you want to experience an important and unique part of Japanese culture, I recommend that you end your day at an onsen or a hot spring public bath.

Wind Down & Relax At A Hot Spring/ Onsen

Kanazawa has many bathhouses, where you can soak down, enjoy a friendly social atmosphere, chat with the locals, and warm up your body and soul after a day of sightseeing the city. Some of the bathhouses even have a sauna and special herbal waters, which is supposed to do wonders for your skin.

Bathhouses, or hot springs, have been a huge part of the Japanese culture and everyday life for centuries. They are called onsen in Japanese, and if you haven’t tried it yet on your Japan journey Kanazawa is a great place to do so.

I love onsen; it is the perfect way to relax and unwind, especially during the autumn and winter.

Onsen, japanese hotspring public bath

I love onsen/ hot spring bath, it is so relaxing!

There is a certain etiquette to visiting a bathhouse and taking an Onsen. Read our 10-steps guide on how to take onsen in Japan to prepare, and avoid making any of the blunders we did 🙂

Here is a list of some of the bathhouses/ onsen in Kanazawa (Yu means “bathhouse”):


The map above (Google Maps): An overview of the public bathhouses/ onsen in Kanazawa

  • Miroku Onsen Motoyu – Its water has a coffee-kind of color, which is supposed to be great for your skin.
  • Kenroku Onsen – A cool open-air bath.
  • Kuwana Yu – Has a nice location, at the shore of Asanogawa River, near the Geisha district Higashi Chaya. This onsen has several herbal baths with cool colors, like its Hawaiian blue water.
  • Kobashi Yu – Has herbal baths which are good for your skin, like coenzyme Q10, lavender, etc.
  • Yamato Onsen – A natural hot spring.
  • Hyotan Yu – Close to Kanazawa Station, a 10-min walk.
  • Waon No Yu
  • Z Sasanoyu – A cozy bath house located at the birthplace of the astronomer Hisashi Kimura.
  • Kanazawa Onsen Kanaiwasou – A fairly big onsen with hot spring water that is good for back and shoulder stiffness.
  • Azuma Yu – Located close to Kanazawa port.

They all charge a fixed price for a bath: 440 JPY = US$ 4 (adult), 130 JPY = US$ 1 (elementary school), 50 JPY = US$ 0,5 (small child). You can buy and rent everything you need at the bathhouse, like a towel, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

Nowadays, many bathhouses welcome people with tattoos but check with the staff before entering if you have a tattoo.

Yuwaku Hot Spring

If you have the time, you can head out of Kanazawa city for a real mountain onsen experience with fantastic scenery!

Yuwaku is a lovely hot spring/ Onsen with a stunning location in a valley surrounded by mountains, about an hour from Kanazawa city by bus. The onsen is 1300 years old and offers natural hot spring water. Here you get excellent mountain scenery, and it is especially lovely during autumn and winter when the landscape is covered by snow.

It is part of a hot spring village, and you can also stay at one of the nine inns. You can reach Yuwaku Hot Spring in about 50 min from Kanazawa Station by bus. You can also combine a visit to Yuwaku Hot Spring with a visit to the World Heritage Site Shirakawago.

  • Opening hours: 07:00 am – 22:00/ 10 pm
  • Ticket price: 380 JPY = US$ 3,6 (adult)
  • How to get there: Bus: From bus station No. 7 at the East Exit of Kanazawa Station to Yuwaku Onsen. Each way: 600 yen.
  • Yuwaku Hot Spring’s Official Webpage

That’s it, our recommended Kanazawa itinerary with what is, in our opinion, the highlights of Kanazawa. If you have more than two days in Kanazawa, you can, of course, spread out these sights over more days. For more things to do in this fantastic city, see the list below.

We hope you find this article helpful when deciding on what to do in Kanazawa. Feel free to pick and choose from what interests you the most in this itinerary.

From Kanazawa, you can easily do the Japan Alpine Route, visit the fabulous little mountain village Shirakawago (1,5 hour by bus one way), famous for its unique Gassho-Zukuri houses.

Sunset over Asaganogawa River in Kanazawa

Me enjoying the sunset over the Asanogawa River that runs through Kanazawa

Other Things To Do In Kanazawa

Myoryu-Ji Temple Ninja Temple

The famous Ninja Temple in Kanazawa lies on the west side of the Sai River, west of downtown Kanazawa.

Myouryuji Buddhist Temple was built in 1643, designed to protect Maeda, the lord of Kanazawa, from attack. The temple served as a disguised military outpost to alert Kanazawa castle in the event of an attack.

The temple has nothing to do with ninjas; no ninjas have ever stayed or lived here. It does, however, contain hidden stairways, secret rooms, and escape routes with a labyrinth of concealed tunnels and trick doors. This is probably why it has got its nickname “Ninja Temple” as ninjas are well-known for sneaking around and cleverly escape their enemies. 🙂

It is a lovely temple, but you can not just show up here and walk around by yourself, as is common at other temples. You can only visit the Ninja Temple on a booked tour. The tour is in Japanese only with a Japanese speaking guide. But you are given an English guidebook if you don’t understand Japanese. You have to call them (they speak English) and make a reservation (check their webpage for telephone number).

The area where Myouryuji Temple is located has several other temples as well.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 am – 16:00/ 4 pm
  • Ticket price: 1000 JPY = US$ 9,5 (adult), 700 JPY = US$ 6,6 (child). Cash only!
  • How to get there: You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus to bus stop no 10 (orange, right loop) or no 5 (green, left loop). The Kanazawa Loop Bus departs from the east side of Kanazawa Station every 15 min.
  • Myouryuji Temple’s Official Webpage

The Nishidake Family Garden “Gyokusen-en Garden”

Just northeast of the vast Kenrokuen Garden, you will find this beautiful little gem of a Japanese garden – Gyokusen-en Nishida Family Garden.

It is a small but well-laid garden build around a pond and is a typical Japanese strolling garden where its visitors are meant to go for a walk and not sit down. The garden is 120 years older than its neighboring big-brother Kenrokuen Garden.

The garden has Kanazawa’s oldest tea house, where you can enjoy a lovely Matcha tea ceremony. Reservation is required three days in advance to join the tea ceremony; check their webpage. Or you can just buy a cup of Matcha tea and enjoy it while admiring the garden.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm. It closes at 16:00/ 4 pm during winter (December – February).
  • Ticket price: 700 JPY = US$ 6,6 (adult), 500 JPY = US$ 5 (child).

Kaga Yuzen Kimono Center

If you got inspired by visiting the Geisha areas of Kanazawa, you should head over to the Kaga Yuzen Kimon Center. Here you will see and learn about how they make the beautiful kimonos that the Geishas wear and see the special dyeing technique Kaga Yuzen, which is unique to this area of Japan.

The Kaga Yuzen dyeing uses five basic colors: indigo, crimson, ocher, dark green, and royal purple. The design has typical nature elements such as plants, leaves, and insects. You can witness and learn about the nine main steps of the Kaga Yuzen hand dyeing technique.

You can even try on and rent a Kaga Yuzen Kimono, and wear it inside the building or outside on the street (60 min or 3 hours). And you can participate in a dyeing workshop where you get to hand-paint a handkerchief to bring back home.

Museums In Kanazawa

So, Kanazawa is an H-U-G-E museum city! It has an impressive amount of museums, from small niche museums focusing on one theme or art to bigger, more general museums about this region of Japan.

I am not a museum fanatic. A museum or two is ok when visiting a city to learn about its history and culture. But a full day of museum hopping is a bit too much for me. If you are a museum lover, though, Kanazawa is the place for you. You can easily spend days, yeah even weeks, at walking around in the many museums of Kanazawa.

Here is a list of some of the museums in Kanazawa:

  • Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art
    This museum exhibits traditional Japanese arts and crafts.
  • Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of History
    This is a great place to learn about the history of Ishikawa prefectural and Kanazawa, and its samurai and geishas in the Edo period.
  • Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts & Crafts
    This museum showcases the different kinds of traditional arts and crafts that this region of Japan is especially famous for.
  • Nakamura Memorial Art Museum
    This is an art museum showcasing the art collection belonging to Eishun Nakamura, the president of Nakamura Sake Brewing Company.
  • Seisonkaku Villa Museum
    Located at the south end of Kenrokuen Garden, this old and beautiful Samurai villa was built 140 years ago by Maeda Nariyasu, the 13th lord of Kaga. It was used as a retirement home for his mother and is surrounded by a stunning Japanese garden.
  • Kanazawa Noh Museum
    If you are into the theater and like traditional costumes and dances, then the Kanazawa Noh Museum is right up your alley. Noh theater plays is a World Intangible Cultural Heritage and dates back to the Edo Period.
  • Kanazawa Phonograph Museum
    This unique museum houses over 600 phonographs, including old Epson models. What’s even cooler is that they all work even today!
  • Yasue Gold Leaf Museum
    At this museum, you can learn about the history behind golf leave, the process of making and applying gold leaf, and which tools are used. You can even make 0,0001 mm thin gold leaf yourself at one of their workshops.
  • Ohi Ceramics Museum & Gallery
    The Ohi family in Kanazawa was the main provider of ceramics, tea pottery, and tea utensils for the Kaga clan who ruled the Kanazawa area. The Ohi Pottery Museum and Gallery are housed in their old family house, containing a lovely gallery with a large exhibition of old ceramics and pottery.
  • The Old Site of Mr. Kurando Terashima’s House
    Mr. Kurando Terashima was a middle-ranking Samurai, but also an artist. In his old beautiful Samurai house built in the 18th century, you will see his paintings on display.

We fell in love with Kanazawa! The city surprised us, as we did not expect to like it that much. It was just going to be a transit city for us between the Japan Alps and Takayama.

The city has such a nice and cool vibe and atmosphere, and so much to see and do both when it comes to sightseeing, shopping, and eating. We ended up wishing we had had at least one more day to spend in this nice city, but, unfortunately, we had to say goodbye after only two nights and get on the train to Takayama. Buhuu…. 🙁

We will be back visiting you beautiful Kanazawa, I promise! ♥

If you are short of time and want an in-depth tour of Kanazawa and its history, join a guided tour – The Golden Kanazawa Tour: Gardens, Castles, Geishas.

⇒ Kanazawa is on our recommended two-week Japan Itinerary, which you can find here


How To Get To Kanazawa

Air

Komatsu Airport (KMQ) is the closest airport to Kanazawa, a 40 min bus ride by Kowatsu-Aiport Limousine Bus. You can also take the JR train from Komatsu Station to Kanazawa Station.

The airport and has a connection to all major Japanese cities, as well as Seoul, Shanghai, and Taipei.

Bus

JR Highway Bus has express buses from in front of the train station (exit east) to Tokyo (7,5 hours, 7840 JPN) and Kyoto (4,5 hours, 4060 JPY). Hokutetsu Buses has buses to Nagoya (4 hours, 4060 JPY). Nohi Bus Company has buses to Takayama via Shirakawa-go (2,5 hours, 3300 JPY).

Train

The JR Hokuriku line links Kanazawa with Kyoto (2 ¼ hours, 6200 JPN), Osaka (2 ¾ hours, 6930 JPN) and Toyama (35 min, 2100 JPN) with a connection to Takayama (90 min more, 4870 JPN).

We took the train (had Japan Rail Pass for 14 days) from Toyama (after the Alpine Route) to Kanazawa. Took the train from Kanazawa to Takayama (via Toyama).

I highly recommend that you buy a Japanese Railway Pass, which will save you a lot of money if you plan to travel around Japan. The Japan railway system is excellent and the fastest in the world.

How To Get Around Kanazawa

Kanazawa Loop bus

Kanazawa does not have an underground/ subway system. Instead, they have a sightseeing bus called Kanazawa Loop Bus. There are two bus loops:

  • Orange Right Loop (RL)
    Stops at 16 bus stop around Kanazawa city, from bus stop no. 0 to 15. It departs every 15 min., from 08:38 am until 18:05/ 6:05 pm.
  • Green Left Loop (LL)
    Stops at 14 bus stop around the city, from 0 to 13. It departs every 15 min., from 08:00 am until 18:00/ 6 pm.

Both bus loops start and end at Kanazawa Station, from bus stop no. 0, at the east gate of the station. They depart every 15 min.

One-way fare: 200 JPY = US$ 2 (adult), 100 JPY = US$ 1 (child).

A day pass costs 600 JPY = US$ 6 (adult), 300 JPY = US$ 3 (child), where you can take unlimited rides with both Kanazawa bus loops (right and left) and Kenrokuen Shuttle (see below). You can jump on and off the bus at any bus stops along its route.

Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus

The red Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus only runs in a short loop starting and ending at Kanazawa Station. It goes through the downtown of Kanazawa and on to the Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenrokuen Garden. The Kenrokuen Shuttle bus runs every 20 minutes. Same fare as for the Kanazawa Loop Bus (see above). You can jump on and off the bus at any bus stops along its route.

JR Bus

if you have a JR Pass, you can take the local JR buses for free. The JR Buses runs through Kanazawa city and has two routes:

  • Korinbo Route (Blue) – Downtown Kanazawa, Omico Market, Oyama Shrine, Nagamachi Samurai District, Kanazawa Castle Park, Kenrokuen Garden, Higashi Geisha District
  • Owaricho Route (Red) – Downtown Kanazawa, Omicho Market, and the Higashi Geisha District

Both routes depart every 20 min. or so from Kanazawa Station, east gate, terminal 5. You can jump on and off the bus at any bus stops along its route.

Kanazawa Light-Up Bus

This special night bus runs every Saturday from 19:00 until 22:30. It starts and ends up at Kanazawa Station and departs every 15 min. This night bus takes you to Kanazawa’s biggest illumination spots, the sights that are lit up in the evenings. A total of 16 spots.

One-way fare: 300 JPY = US$ 3 (adult), 150 JPY = US$ 1,4 (child).

A night pass costs 500 JPY = US$ 5 (adult), 250 JPY = US$ 2 (child), where you can take unlimited rides on the Light Up Bus. You can jump on and off the bus at any bus stops along its route.

Rent A Bicycle

Kanazawa is the perfect city to explore on a bike. The city is not that big, and the main sights are located in a small area. The roads are in good condition, and traffic is not that bad, at least not compared to Tokyo. So you can easily and quickly get around Kanazawa on a bicycle.

Kanazawa has public city bikes, Machi-nori, all over the city, which you can easily rent from the automat or the app. Very convenient.

You can choose between normal/ standard type bicycles and electrical bikes with an assisted motor. With the motor-assisted electrical bike, hills are no problem as the electrical motor will help you. You can borrow a bike anywhere, and return it anywhere.

City bikes Machi Nori Kanazawa

Machi Nori public bicycles can be rented all over Kanazawa city. You can choose between an electric bike or a standard bike.

 

Where To Stay In Kanazawa

Kanazawa offers a wide selection of accommodation for all budgets, and you will have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the right place to stay. Japan is, however, a bit expensive, especially when it comes to accommodation, so don`t expect to find dirt cheap places to stay with good standards. The rooms are in general quite small. You get what you pay for in Japan.

Below are some of the best accommodation options in Kanazawa in our opinionstarting with the place we called home for 2 nights.

Hotel Trusty

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The lobby at Hotel Trusty

We stayed at the Hotel Trusty and had a fantastic stay! Actually, it was probably the best hotel that we stayed at during our entire five-week Japan trip. The hotel has a very good location in the middle of everything and is brand new. We couldn`t believe how centrally placed it is! It is so much better than to stay by the train station in our opinion.

It is located in the main shopping street, with the biggest shopping center in Kanazawa as its neighbor. From the hotel, you can easily walk to the main attractions like Kanazawa Castle, Kenroku-en Garden, and the Samurai District. The Geisha District is a bit further away, across the river, but we walked one way and took the bus back.

There are bus stops right outside the front door of the hotel, so it is very easy to get wherever you want. There are buses going directly to/from the train station from just outside the hotel. The hotel has a very cozy cafe/restaurant just next to the lobby with lots of delicious cakes.

Will highly recommend this hotel! It is probably the newest and best hotel in Kanazawa, with the best location! The rooms are big by Japanese standards, and the beds are heaven!

Conclusion Hotel Trusty: A fantastic place to stay, perfectly located. Rooms are spacious and come with A/C, TV, free WIFI, slippers, bathrobe, and free tea/coffee.
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Kinjohro Ryokan (Japanese Inn)
If you are looking for a unique and special place to stay, then the Kinjohro Ryokan is it! It is one of the best Ryokans (traditional Japanese Inn) in Japan and they sure know how to treat their guests and give them a special and luxury stay. Amazing Breakfast and dinner are included in the price, where you get to try some Japanese special dishes. Staying here is an experience of your lifetime.

The Kinjohro Ryokan has a perfect location, just 400 m from Kanazawa Castle and 800 m from Kenrokuen Garden. The rooms have private bathrooms which include a true onsen (hot spring). Rooms are incredibly spacious and very well designed with tatami mats and have views to beautiful Japanese gardens. All rooms have air-conditioning, free WIFI, an electronic kettle, flatscreen-TV, and you get free parking. All guests get a free welcome drink where you can choose between locally produced beer, rice wine, and twig tea.
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Maki No Oto Kanazawa
Maki No Oto Kanazawa is a brand new and stunning hotel located only 700 m from Kanazawa Castle and a 13-minute walk from Kenrokuen Garden. Its modern Japanese design is amazing and the whole hotel has a real Zen-vibe to it which I love. The hotel has a beautiful terrace where you can sit and relax and enjoy the garden view.

You get a room with a desk, a flat-screen TV, a coffee machine, a private bathroom with a bathtub, and some rooms come with a balcony.
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Hotel Nikko
This is a lovely new hotel with very large comfortable rooms. It is located just next to the Kanazawa Train Station, a little bit out of downtown, so if you book this you would have to take a bus or taxi to the main attractions and to downtown (a 15 min bus ride). There are a lot of shops and restaurants in the Train Station area, however, with several huge shopping malls.

All rooms are located above the 17th floor, offering beautiful panoramic views of Kanazawa city, and all guests get free WIFI. The hotel has several restaurants like the La Plage that offers 30th-floor views and French cuisine, while Benkei serves sushi next to a beautiful  Japanese garden. A Chinese restaurant and a bar are also available.
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Kanazawa Sainoniwa Hotel
The hotel is beautifully located and surrounded by four gardens, only a 15-min walk from JR Kanazawa Station or you can take the free shuttle from the station (5 min drive). All rooms are non-smoking, and the hotel has a great spa and a restaurant. You can enjoy free bicycle rental which is very convenient for getting around the city to all the sights it has to offer. The hotel has some big family rooms.
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Dormy Inn
This is a very nice hotel option, located right by JR Kanazawa Station. Kenroku-en Garden, Kanazawa Castle, and Myoruji Temple are all a 20-minute bus ride away. You get free WIFI, and each room has a fridge and a flat-screen TV. The hotel even has it`s own onsen (Hot spring) and sauna on the top floor! Very nice!

Free coffee is available at the lobby between 15:00 and 21:00, and you get free Ramen noodles between 21:30-23:00.
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Blue Hour Hostel
If you are traveling on a low budget, then the brand new Blue Hour Hostel is an excellent choice! It is a dorm with bunk beds, and it also has a female-only floor. The hostel is conveniently located just a 3-minute’s walk away from JR Kanazawa Station. Check-in is as early as 10 am so that you can explore the Kanazawa city. You get free WIFI, bath towels (no charge), and can enjoy their nice shared lounge area.
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Travel Guides

We used the Lonely Planet`s Japan travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):



PIN IT FOR LATER!
Hover over the pictures below, and press the red “Save” button that pops up: 

Japanese Garden-2      Japanese Garden

Have you ever visited a city that you did not expect to like that much, but ended up loving? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. If you liked this article or found it useful, please share it on social media. Thank you! 🙂

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