The name Kanazawa, which literally means marsh of gold, is said to be originated from a legend that the peasant Imohori Togoro washed gold dust in a local marsh. It is also said that the name is originated from the fact that the present Kenrokuen Garden area was called Kanazawago and Kanazawanosho in ancient times.
Around the middle of the 16th century, the Buddhist Ikko sect set up a religious government in Kanazawa. In 1583, Maeda Toshiie, the top retainer of Hideyoshi Toyotomi who reigned over the whole country, entered Kanazawa Castle. The Maeda family governed Kaga (presently Ishikawa prefecture) for 300 years over the 14th generation henceforth.
During this period, the Maeda family was treated as the second greatest daimyo (powerful feudal ruler) next to Tokugawa Shogun (the central governor). The family's financial power based on the harvest of rice was invested in the promotion of culture and learning. This led to the development of a number of traditional high cultures and activities including handicrafts (e.g., Kanazawa gold leaf and Kaga Yuzen), subtle and profound activities (e.g., the tea ceremony and Noh theater), and gastronomic cultures (e.g., Kaga cooking and Japanese sweets). These cultures and activities have been handed down to this date.
During the modernization of Japan in the Meiji period (from 1868), Kanazawa was left behind the industrial development of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. Therefore, Kanazawa changed from a leading big city in Japan to a base city in the Hokuriku district. Kanazawa escaped war devastation in World War II. Therefore, historical streets coexist with a development zone including modernistic buildings in the city area.
City of Crafts and Folk Art UNESCO appointed Kanazawa to the Creative Cities Network in June 2009. UNESCO launched the Network to promote the international cooperation and exchange of each city in the world that develops creative and cultural industries. The Network has seven categories, i.e., Cities of Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music, and Media Arts, and Kanazawa was appointed UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art.