Kanazawa Castle-Secrets of the Beautiful Gates and Turrets -2-

Kanazawa Castle Park is a popular tourist spot in Kanazawa. The castle developed during the Edo period as the residence of the Maeda family of the Kaga domain, but most of its buildings were lost in repeated fires. In recent years, however, restoration and maintenance have progressed in line with historical facts. 

Visiting the castle after learning about the distinctive structures and functions of the castle architecture will double your enjoyment of walking around Kanazawa Castle Park.

→see the previous article

Along with the gates, the important defensive role of the castle was played by a structure called Yagura, turrets. In peacetime, those turrets were used as watchtowers and armouries. During battles, they were used as a base to attack enemies with arrows and guns.

Kanazawa Castle’s Sanjikken Nagaya, was built in the Edo period as an armoury, is still standing and has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property. The three turrets, Hishi-Yagura, Hashizume-Mon-Tsuzuki-Yagura and Gojikken Nagaya, which had surrounded Nino-Maru palace, the residence of the lord of the domain, have been restored.

Hishi-Yagura Turret

This is the keystone of the defence of Kanazawa Castle, guarding the main and back gates. To prevent enemy soldiers from climbing the stone wall, a bay window is provided to drop stones on the wall facing the moat.  

Hashizume-Mon-Tsuzuki-Yagura Turret

It overlooked “Hashizume Gate”, one of the most important gates of Kanazawa Castle, where passers-by were observed and control before to enter the Lord residence.

Gojikken Nagaya

In peacetime, it was used as a warehouse and also served as a base of operations. 

The Tsuru-no-maru resting hall is the perfect spot to take a photo of the long row of three turrets. The front of the building is made of glass, and you can enjoy the Castle View from inside the building. 

The Tsuru-no-maru resting hall

During summer 2020 was inaugurated the end of the restoration of Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge.

The architecture of Kanazawa Castle is characterized by its lead-tile roof and its Namako wall, with flat tiles on the walls and plaster joints. Nezumitamon Gate also has both of these features, but various surveys have shown that while white plaster was used for the usual namako walls, black plaster was used for Nezumitamon Gate. This is unprecedented in any other castle construction in Japan. The restored Nezumitamon Gate is also plastered in black, based on historical fact, and has a unique presence. 

Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge.

One of the former parts of Kanazawa Castle, the garden Gyokuseninmaru was connected at this time with Kanaya-de-maru by the Nezumitamon Bridge, which crossed the water moat and served as an entrance and exit. The retired feudal lords lived in the Kanaya-de-Maru. In modern times the landscape has changed dramatically: the water moat is now a road and Kanaya-demaru is now the Oyama Shrine, dedicated to the Kaga domain’s founder, Toshiie Maeda.  

The garden Gyokuseninmaru

If you walk from Kanazawa Castle Park to Oyama Shrine through the Nezumitamon Gate and on to the ruins of the Nagamachi samurai residences, you will feel like a samurai. Along the route, there is a Kanazawa Central Tourist Information Center with a foreign-language concierge on hand.  

Oyama Shrine

Related article: The history of Kanazawa

Kanazawa Castle-Secrets of the Beautiful Gates and Turrets -1-

Kanazawa Castle Park is a popular tourist spot in Kanazawa. The castle developed during the Edo period as the residence of the Maeda family of the Kaga domain, but most of its buildings were lost in repeated fires. In recent years, however, restoration and maintenance have progressed in line with historical facts.

Visiting the castle after learning about the distinctive structures and functions of the castle architecture will double your enjoyment of walking around Kanazawa Castle Park.

Full-scale castle construction began to take place in Japan from around the middle of the 7th century. The country underwent a shift from yamashiro, constructed in the mountains as a defense base, to hirajiro/hirajo, built on flat land as a political base. 

From the beginning of its history in 1546, Kanazawa Castle developed as the residence of the Maeda family of the Kaga domain. Following the end of the Edo period (1603–1868) ruled by samurais, it was used as a military site, like other castles, and many of its buildings were destroyed. It is now open to the public as Kanazawa Castle Park and a number of its historic buildings have been restored.

During the Edo period, Kanazawa Castle had at least 30 gates. In particular, “Ishikawa-mon Gate,”“Kahoku-mon Gate,”and “Hashizume-mon Gate”were collectively called “Sangomon,”meaning the three major gates.

Kanazawa Castle park, Ishikawa-mon Gate

Ishikawa-mon Gate

This gate was constructed in the middle of the Edo period and is designated as a National Important Cultural Property. While it is now the entrance to Kanazawa Castle Park, it used to function as a rear gate to the castle.

Kanazawa Castle Park, Kahoku-mon Gate

Kahoku-mon Gate

This gate essentially used to serve as the main gate of Kanazawa Castle and was restored in 2010. 

© Ishikawa Prefectural Tourism League

Kanazawa Castle Park, Hashizume-mon Gate

Hashizume-mon Gate

This gate, which was restored in 2015, was used to strictly monitor the comings and goings of people as the last gate leading to Ninomaru Palace, which served as both the lord’s residence and a place of political affairs.

All three gates feature a “masu-shaped gate” structure designed to prevent enemies from intruding. A masu is a traditional Japanese square cup used for drinking sake. A masu-shaped gate consists of two gates installed at a right angle and connected by a fence, etc. with a square space like a masu in the middle.

A “masu-shaped gate”; Hashizume-mon Gate

Let’s think from the viewpoint of samurai corps trying to attack Kanazawa Castle.

After breaking through the first gate, you reach a dead end with fences, making it impossible to storm through sheer momentum by breaking through the next gate. As you stand there puzzled, your comrades fill up the square space and there is no room for you to move. You then experience a fierce attack from above with arrows or guns.

While the three major gates are beautifully shaped, the functional beauty of the defense can be observed when considering the flow lines in an attack on the castle. However, the Edo period was a peaceful time without any wars, and Kanazawa Castle was never actually attacked.

We’ve introduced the role of the three gates in this article, and in the next article we will introduce the role of the turrets.

A tour of architectural masterpieces in Kanazawa -2-

Since Kanazawa has been spared damage by natural disasters and war, the city contains a mixture of architecture from different periods of time, such as modern contemporary buildings standing alongside historical remains from the Edo period, or wooden townhouses next to high-rise buildings. However, they all show originality while harmonizing with each other at the same time. Why not go on a trip to Kanazawa to discover its fascinating architecture? 

Our previous post; A tour of architectural masterpieces in Kanazawa -1- , introduced you to contemporary architecture in Kanazawa.

In this post, we will go back in time and take a look at constructions from the Edo period. We will particularly select some samurai residences where the samurai who served the Maeda family of the Kaga clan used to live, as well as the merchant houses that were at the center of the lives and activities of ordinary people.

Nomura-ke Samurai Residence

Ocher clay walls and cobbled alleys will take you to the site of the Nomura family’s residence. The feudal retainers of the Kaga clan lived in this corner of the Nagamachi Samurai District.

The current building, which was part of the house of a prefectural shipping wholesaler was relocated to this address. You’ll be impressed by the splendid building materials and decorations, as well as the garden with irrigation water that is drawn from the surrounding areas.

  • Address: 1-3-32, Nagamachi, Kanazawa
  • Admission fee: 550 yen

Two houses of the lower-class samurai called “ashigaru” have been relocated and recreated as a museum, which is open to the public.

Inside, you will find information on the duties and lives of the ashigaru. The old stone roofs are also worthy of your attention.

  • Address: 1-9-3, Nagamachi, Kanazawa
  • Admission fee: free

Kurando Terashima, a middle-class samurai of the Kaga clan, lived in this house.

In the Edo period, the neighborhood was a residential area for middle-class samurai, and so contained a line of samurai houses of the same size as the Terashima residence. It still retains the garden that was built at that time. You’ll be overwhelmed by its seasonal beauty; the azaleas, which are over 300 years old, bloom in the spring and tree leaves change color in the fall.

  • Address: 10-3 Ohte-machi, Kanazawa
  • Admission fee: 310 yen

Tateno Family’s Residence

This is a workplace for the tatami-mat artisans in Daiku-machi (which literally means “carpenter town”), where a number of carpenters lived during the Edo period.

Even now, tatami mats are made in an open space called the Mise-no-ma. This faces the street and evokes images of how the artisans in the Edo period worked. 

  • Address: 37 Daiku-machi, Kanazawa

Takagi Kouji Syouten

This large townhouse is located close to the Higashi Chaya-gai District.

The second floor features a distinctive plaster wall finish for fire protection. In the store that contains historical remnants, staff manufacture “koji” using an old-stylemanufacturing method. Koji is used to make traditional Japanese seasonings, such as soy sauce and miso. They also sell miso and amazake made with homemade koji. 

  • Address: 1-9-3, Higashiyama, Kanazawa


This is a candy specialty store founded in 1830. The candies are made using only rice and barley and have become popular souvenirs from Kanazawa. 

The building, which is believed to have been constructed in the late Edo period, is a typical townhouse in Kanazawa. It features a second floor with a low ceiling, a latticed door on the first floor, and a door known as “shitomido” that flips open and swings upward.

  • Address: 2-4, Kobashi-machi, Kanazawa

A tour of architectural masterpieces in Kanazawa -1-

Since Kanazawa has been spared damage by natural disasters and war, the city contains a mixture of architecture from different periods of time, such as modern contemporary buildings standing alongside historical remains from the Edo period, or wooden townhouses next to high-rise buildings. However, they all show originality while harmonizing with each other at the same time. Why not go on a trip to Kanazawa to discover its fascinating architecture? 

A hot topic concerning architecture in Kanazawa is the opening, on July 26th 2019, of the Yoshiro and Yoshio Taniguchi Museum of Architecture, Kanazawa. It is located in Teramachi, Kanazawa; from downtown, cross the Saigawa Bridgeover the Saigawa River and walk toward the temple district of Teramachi. 

Based on the concept of spreading the historically multi-layered architectural culture of Kanazawa both in the country and to the world, this museum bears the names of architect father Yoshiro Taniguchi (1904-1979), and his son Yoshio (1937-), who is also an architect. 

Father Yoshiro, who was born in Kanazawa, designed the Togu Gosho (Crown Prince’s Palace) in Tokyo and the Toyokan of the Tokyo National Museum, among other buildings. He played an important role in modernist architecture in Japan. Son Yoshio is known for designing both domestic and overseas art galleries and museums, including the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art. 

The Museum of Architecture, Kanazawa was designed by Yoshio and built at the site of his father’s residence. The permanent exhibitions worth seeing are the real-sizereproduction of the hall and tearoom of Yushintei, which is the Japanese-style annex to the State Guest House Akasaka Palace, designed by Yoshiro

Sitting in harmony with its surrounding environment, the museum building is an attraction itself. After viewing the exhibits, why not stroll around the circular path that leads to the bank of the Saigawa River? 

There are also further examples of Yoshiro and Yoshio’s architectural works to discover in the city. 

The works of Yoshiro include the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts (built in 1959) adjacent to Kenrokuen Garden. Its front has features reminiscent of a shoji screen, which is part of Japanese architecture. 

One of Yoshio’s famous works is the D.T. Suzuki Museum (built in 2011), which introduces the footsteps of Daisetz Suzuki, a Buddhist philosopher from Kanazawa who spread the Zen philosophy to the West. It was designed with the aim of enabling visitors to know, learn, and think about Daisetz as they move through the space, which comprises three buildings and three gardens.

Kanazawa City Tamagawa Library (built in 1978), close to Ohmicho Market, is known as an unusual piece of collaborative work by the Taniguchi father-son duo.

Kanazawa is dotted with world-renowned modern architecture, in addition to the designs by the father and son of the Taniguchi family.   

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa is representative of such modern architecture. It was designed by Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA, an architect unit that won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, known as the Nobel Prize of the architectural industry. The museum is characterized by its circular appearance and contains exhibition rooms in various shapes.

Consistingof a glass dome and wooden gate (called Tsuzumi-mon), which symbolizes a tsuzumi hand drum, JR Kanazawa Station was named among the “World’s Most Beautiful Train Stations” in 2011 by the online edition of U.S. magazine “Travel & Leisure.”

If you go to the suburbs, you will find Kanazawa Umimirai Library, which was selected as one of the “World’s 20 Most Stunning Libraries” in 2014 by the U.S. major “Fodor’s Travel Guide.”

With its eye-catching steeple, Karakuri Memorial Museum, close to Kanazawa Port, is the work of Shozo Uchii, one of the leading architects of postwar Japanese architectural history.

Next time, we will introduce you to buildings from the Edo period that exhibit originality and charm that differ from the modern architecture. 

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -4-

―Interview with Jang Dayeon, a technical trainee at Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo―

In Kanazawa, a variety of traditional handicrafts still remain and are rooted in everyday life, helping to boost the cultural and artistic level of the city. We will explore the beauty and roots of the handicrafts that have been passed down in this city.

“Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kogo” in Kanazawa City is a comprehensive facility of traditional crafts to inherit the spirit and role of “Osaikusho” established during the Edo period by the Maeda family of the Kaga domain. Here, young craftsmen who will lead the next generationof craftwork devote themselves to polishing their skills in the five fields of pottery, lacquer arts, dyeing, metalworking, and glass.

On this occasion, we interviewed Jang Dayeon, a technical trainee of pottery from South Korea.

―What made you leave Seoul, South Korea and learn pottery in Japan?

Jang Dayeon; I studied ceramics design at university in my home country and had taken up porcelain painting as a hobby. 

There was an occasion when one of my seniors showed me a Kutani ware sake cup, which is a traditional craft of Kanazawa, Ishikawa. The overglaze painting used in Kutani ware is totally different to that of European styles. There is also a glossiness like glass, formed when items are heated after being glazed repeatedly.

I was strongly attracted to the expressions that I had never seen before and began thinking “I want to learn Kutani ware in Japan.” Searching for places to learn Kutani ware, I found “Ishikawa Prefectural Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center” in Nomi City, Ishikawa Prefecture. I had an interview with my clumsy Japanese and was given a position. I then spent a year learning about Kutani ware. 

As I learned about Kutani ware overglaze painting, I also became interested in the shapes of pottery. After completing the training at the center, I joined the Graduate School of Fine Arts at Aichi University of the Arts to learn design and molding techniques with the aim of creating, with my own hands, a shape to complement my paintings. 

―You then returned to Ishikawa and became a trainee at Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo this time. 

Jang Dayeon;Yes. After learning the techniques of “painting” and “shape,” I aspired to create my own work, so I joined Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo to acquire the necessary abilities.

In addition to pottery training, this facility provides the opportunity to learn the unique Japanese cultures of tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, and calligraphy. Tea ceremonies in particular give me ideas from a creator’s perspective, as various crafts including pottery are used for both practical and ornamental purposes. 

―The elaborate and dreamy overglaze paintings of your work strike the eye. What gives you inspiration?

Jang Dayeon; My year at the Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center was a fulfilling time, learning about the Kutani ware that I admire. However, at the same time, it was also a painful year for me as I did not have a very good command of the Japanese language and had none of my family or friends there. In order to distract myself from the solitude and loneliness, I would just keep drawing, in tears, like writing a diary, all the while thinking that “this experience should help me to create great work one day.”

The pottery works that I produce now reflect my own imagined scenery from that time,as if I was seeking a healing light in the dark.

―How do you see Kanazawa? 

Jang Dayeon; Although Kanazawa is often compared to Kyoto, it does not have as much in the way of appealing, large-scale sightseeing spots, but it is possible to enjoy the sightseeing like a treasure hunt. You’ll find some pretty landscapes, craftsmen’s studios, and nice restaurants as part of everyday life. 

I’ve heard that there were active exchanges between Ishikawa and South Korea in the olden days. This is probably why I feel that they have a somewhat similar cultural climate.

―You will be graduating from Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo in March 2019. What are your plans after graduation?

Jang Dayeon; I will be based in South Korea and plan to travel between Korea and Japan to engage in activities, such as solo exhibitions. In addition, I would like to disseminate Kanazawa’s charms in South Korea. Kanazawa has a deep culture, including tea ceremonies. You can also learn a lot from their spirit, such as attentiveness and compassion. It would be a waste if I was the only one aware of this, so I want many people in South Korea to also know about it.

Given the boom in Japanese confectionery currently taking place in South Korea, I hope there will be deeper interactions between the two countries in terms of culture.

Jang Dayeon

From South Korea. Graduated in 2008 from Seoul National University of Science & Technology. With her admiration for Kutani ware, she came to Japan on her own, trained at the Ishikawa prefectural Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center, studied at the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Aichi University of the Arts, and since 2017 has been serving as a technical trainee at Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo. She has engaged in group exhibitions and other activities. In May 2019, she plans to hold a solo exhibition at a department store in Osaka.

Kanazawa’s handicrafts, which date back over 400 years, continue to develop even now alongside the policy of each era and the passionof the people in this area. Please look forward to a future of beautiful craftworks that transform according to the changes of the times and the culture of Kanazawa that nurtures them. 

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -3-

– Surviving gracefully through the changing times –

In Kanazawa, a variety of traditional handicrafts still remain and are rooted in everyday life, helping to boost the cultural and artistic level of the city. We will explore the beauty and roots of the handicrafts that have been passed down in this city.

*Following “Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -1-” we will introduce the history of Kanazawa’s traditional handicrafts.

The roots of Kanazawa as a city of traditional handicrafts date back to the Edo period (1603–1868), a time when the samurai reigned. During this period, daimyos from different parts of Japan ruled over their “han” (domain). For example, the Maeda family ruled the Kaga domain, which had Kanazawa as its capital. 

In the following Meiji period (1868–1912), however, a centralized state was constructed under the new government, who adopted a policy of reorganizing the traditional “han” as “ken” (prefecture) and “fu” (urban prefecture) in order to control them in a unified way. 

Kanazawa’s crafts were at stake after losing the protection of the Maeda family, who were patrons of arts and crafts. Nevertheless, they gained new strength thanks to a thriving pottery and copperware export business, in addition to the establishment of a school teaching arts and crafts for the promotion of industry (present Ishikawa Technical Senior High School). 

The school’s graduates slowly moved away from manufacturing toward the promotion of industry and began creating craft works for appreciation. A large body of craftsmen then became established in Kanazawa, which became known throughout the country as a craft kingdom on a par with Tokyo and Kyoto.

A contemporary art exhibition was held in the city only two months after the end of the Second World War. The following year saw the establishment of a school that would form the basis of the present-day Kanazawa College of Art. In the chaotic times that followed the war, it was a great accomplishment as a regional city to be working on art activities before other cities.

The succession and development of Kanazawa’s traditional handicrafts was also aided by the fact that the city sustained no war damage.

In 1989, Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo (crafts studio) was opened in Utatsuyama, eastern Kanazawa, as a facility to inherit the spirit and role of “Saikusho” run by the Kaga domain. It nurtures craftsmen living in a new era. Kutani ware masterpieces draw particular attention as there was once a Kutani ware kiln in Utatsuyama. 

The slopes that climb up to Utatsuyama are known as atmospheric walking paths. They include “Kikou-zaka,” which extends from near the Tenjin Bridge crossing the Asano River, and “Korai-zaka/Kogi-zaka,” which starts from Utasu Shrine in Higashi Chayagai District. You can enjoy a pleasant stroll while looking down at the streetscapes of Kanazawa, which retains its traditional culture to date.

the Kikou-zaka slope; address: Tokiwa-machi, Kanazawa

Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo

  • Open: 9 am to 5 pm (Visitors must enter by 4:30pm)
  • Closed: Tuesdays and Dec. 29 to Jan. 3
  • Admission fee: 300 yen
  • Address: To-10 Utatsu-machi, Kanazawa
  • Contact: Tel. 076-251-7286
  • WEB: www.utatsu-kogei.gr.jp

*Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo is under renovation until November 2019. 

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -2-


– An interview with Mr. Tomoyuki Yamamoto, The director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum –

In Kanazawa, a variety of traditional handicrafts still remain and are rooted in everyday life, helping to boost the cultural and artistic level of the city. We will explore the beauty and roots of the handicrafts that have been passed down in this city.


The crafts found in different parts of Japan are deeply connected to the daimyos who ruled the land during the Edo period. It is therefore not possible to learn about Kanazawa’s crafts without mentioning them in relation to the Maeda family/lords of the Kaga clan. The successive lords enjoyed taking part in Japanesetea ceremonies, and this is a factor in the development of craft activities in this place.

On this occasion, we interviewed Mr. Tomoyuki Yamamoto, Director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum, known as the “museum of tea ceremony utensils and crafts.”


― In areas of Japan where the tea ceremony is flourishing, arts and crafts are also popular, but why is this?

Director Yamamoto: Tea ceremony utensils, such as tea bowls and pots, are made using different craft techniques, including pottery, metalwork, lacquer, wood and bamboo, dyeing fabrics, etc.

For the Maeda family, Sen no Rikyu, who is referred to as the “tea saint,” coached both the first lord, Toshiie, and the second lord, Toshinaga. From that point successive lords also interacted with renowned tea experts. These tea experts created a variety of utensils based on their sense of beauty, which had a strong influence on those engaged in craftwork production in Kanazawa.

Such utensils are used in the special space of a tea ceremony, as opposed to crafts, which are meant to be used in our everyday life, such as to “eat, drink, love, or wear.” The creator’s sense of beauty and the techniques used to embody this provide added value as a characteristic not seen in mass-produced items.


―What do you consider to be the charm of the tea ceremony?

―Director Yamamoto: Prior to the appearance of Sen no Rikyu, tea ceremonies were held as social occasions at which the upper classes would compete with each other over the luxury of their tea ceremony utensils. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (16th century), Sen no Rikyu established the simple “wabi-cha” style, which went on to become the basis of the current tea ceremony. It is said that the spirituality of the Japanese, who find beauty in simple or incomplete things, is condensed in the teaceremony.

In fact, the matcha drunk at tea ceremonies is also appealing in terms of its medicinal effects. English tea, Chinese tea, and Japanese tea in generalhave their substances extracted; in the case of matcha, however, powdered tea leaves are dissolved in hot water to be consumed. This means that you ingest all of the nutrients contained in the tea leaves, such as catechins and vitamins. It is thereforea good idea to casually take part in a teaceremonyto benefit your health.


― How do you appreciate tea ceremony utensils?

―Director Yamamoto:  I am frequently asked that question while working at the museum, along with “Which is the most expensive item?” However, would an expensive item be something good?

For example, when you choose clothes in a shop, you may not necessarily like the expensive items. Even if they’re expensive, things that don’t suit you are not good for you.

We should apply the same type of judgment when viewing artworks at a museum. What you like or are interested in is the best for you,so take a moment to consider why you like it. Each piece has captions accompanying it to help you with this, with the information provided including the title, the year it was created, the techniques used, its historicalbackground, and any points to be noted.


― What do you recommend doing to try and use crafts?

―Director Yamamoto: We serve tea at a tearoom in our museum. You can use your hands and put a bowl to your lips to feel its shape that has been designed to allow you to experience the delicious taste of matcha. As well as our museum, there are many other facilities in Kanazawa City where you can enjoy hands-on experience ofhandicrafts and craft techniques; they are definitely worth a visit. New thingsflock to Tokyo and old culture is accumulated in Kyoto. In Kanazawa, new things are created on topof the old culture. I am confident that the city is worth a visit for tourists.

Some people will want to buy handicrafts, as well as wishing to see how they work out. If you obtain an item of your choice, you use it carefully in your everyday life, which I believe is the most ideal and original way of interacting with handicrafts. Some people think they are way too good to use and simply cherish them without putting them to use. But please leave the preservation work to museums and use them in your everyday life.Using things that are filled with the creator’s or your sense of beauty willenhanceyour life, sharpen your senses, and lead to a prosperous life.



Tomoyuki Yamamoto

Director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum. Born in Kanazawa City in 1965. After graduating from the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University, began working in the Culture Section, Cityof Kanazawa in 1990. Following long-term training at the Tokyo National Museum and National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto,began serving as a curator for Izumi Kyoka Memorial Museum in 1999. Has served in the current position since 2016.



Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum

  • Open: 9:30 am to 5 pm (Visitors must enter by 4:30 pm)
  • Closed: Exhibit changes from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3
  • Admission fee: 300 yen
  • Address: 3-2-29 Honda-machi
  • Contact: Tel. 076-221-0751
  • WEB: http://www.kanazawa-museum.jp/nakamura/english/

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -1-

– the “Saikusho” that produced samurai furnishings –

In Kanazawa, a variety of traditional handicrafts still remain and are rooted in everyday life, helping to boost the cultural and artistic level of the city. We will explore the beauty and roots of the handicrafts that have been passed down in this city.

Kanazawa’s roots as a city of traditional handicrafts date back to the Edo period (1603–1868), a time when the samurai reigned.

During the Edo period, the Maeda family, who were daimyo (feudal lords), ruled over the Kaga clan with Kanazawa as its capital city. From the time of the first lord, Toshiie, successive lords of the Maeda family maintained a deep interest in cultural projects through tea ceremonies. In particular, the third lord, Toshitsune, was an outstanding cultural lord.

At that time, the extent of the land owned by a clan throughout the country was indicated by the “Kokudaka.” This was a measure of the productivity of the land as expressed by its rice yield. The Kaga clan had a kokudaka of one million, which was the highest in Japan.

The great Kaga clan posed a threat to the Edo shogunate. In order to demonstrate his obedience to the government, as well as to show his family status as Japan’s top daimyo, Toshitsune spent his financial wealth, worth a kokudaka of one million, on arts and crafts, including martial arts.

*Maeda Toshitsune/ quote a photo from wikipedia

In Kanazawa Castle, there was a workshop called “Saikusho” as a symbol of the Kaga clan’s cultural incentive measures.

It was originally a place for repairing tools and weapons, but Toshitsune gradually transformed it into a craft studio for creating luxurious daimyo-style furnishings for the Maeda family. Along with this, many skilled craftsmen were invited from different places, such as Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo), as instructors of the Saikusho. This led to the foundation of Kanazawa’s arts and crafts techniques, which have been passed down to the present, including “Kaga Maki-e” and “Kaga Zogan, inlay.”

The techniques held by the Saikusho within the castle eventually spread to the studios that were run by the townspeople living in the castle town. This led to the formation of an unprecedented rich bank of craftsmen in Kanazawa. Indeed, the dyed kimono that served as the origin of today’s “Kaga Yuzen” was not created at the Saikusho, but rather by a dyer in the castle town who was patronized by the Kaga clan.

“Kaga Maki-e”

The Saikusho was further enhanced and developed by the fifth lord, Tsunanori, in terms of both its organization and roles. It remained as a clan-owned arts and crafts studio right up to the end of the Edo period, which was a rare thing across the whole country.

If you wish to see the great skills and aesthetics of the artisans from that time, visit the “Seisonkaku” history museum adjacent to Kenrokuen Garden. Nariyasu, the 13th lord of the Kaga clan, built it as his mother’s retirement home, with the craftsmanship of the Kaga clan featuring in both the works inside the building and in the collections on display.

Seisonkaku Villa

  • Open: 9 am to 5 pm 
  • Closed: Wednesdays and Dec. 29 to Jan. 2
  • Admission fee: 700 yen
  • Address: 1-2 Kenroku-machi
  • Contact: Tel. 076-221-0580
  • WEB: http://www.seisonkaku.com/english

Takenoko, un sabor de la primavera

La primavera es la temporada de cosecha del retoño del bambú, takenoko. El bambú, originalmente, era la planta que no podía faltar en la vida del japonés, utilizado como material de construcción y de utensilios de cocina como palillos, contenedores y coladores. Aunque en la actualidad estos han sido reemplazados por productos de plástico, el takenoko es ampliamente consumido hasta estos días, es amada su textura crujiente y su sabor ligeramente amargo.

Aquí en Kanazawa es cultivado por primera vez en 1766 el bambú Moso, e introducido a sus suburbios posteriormente. En el Kanazawa actual se tienen certificados 15 tipos de vegetales endémicos, y el takenoko es uno de ellos.
Se cosechan solamente los retoños jóvenes del takenoko, que parecen colmillos recién salidos (de ahí su nombre, “hijo del bambú”).

Aunque hay varias formas de prepararlo, son tradicionales con arroz, hervidos y en tempura. Los frescos recién cosechados pueden ser rebanados y comidos crudos.

A pesar de ser una sociedad que cultiva bastantes vegetales en invernaderos durante todo el año, el takenoko natural solo se cosecha una vez al año. Se dice que el takenoko muestra su rostro 7 a 10 días después del florecimiento del cerezo, y para los japoneses ambos eventos representan la añorada entrada de la primavera.

Sake de Kanazawa: elaborado en el corazón del invierno usando una combinación de agua pura y arroz de primera calidad

La época más fría del invierno en la que nieva es la época del año con más trabajo en las destilerías de sake en Kanazawa. Durante esta época, cada sakagura (destilería de sake) en Kanazawa entra en la temporada alta de su producción de sake. La Prefectura de Ishikawa, con sus fríos inviernos y sus abundantes nevadas, es un lugar ideal para la elaboración de sake, y se le conoce como la región líder de todo Japón. Hay muchas sakagura establecidas en Kanazawa, orgullosas en su tradición mientras buscan nuevos e innovadores sabores.

El agua y el arroz para sake son los ingredientes principales del sake, y son primordiales para determinar su calidad. La cordillera de la montaña Hakusan proporciona a Kanazawa con abundante cantidad de agua fresca y pura, alta en minerales y baja en hierro, haciéndola ideal para el cultivo. Las destilerías locales de sake llevan usando desde hace mucho tiempo un arroz para sake llamado Yamada Nishiki, un arroz local de alta calidad conocido como Gohyakumangoku.
Tradicionalmente, las destilerías de sake son supervisadas por un destilador jefe llamado toji. Las destilerías en Kanazawa contratan su toji de la península de Noto pero también de otras partes del país, y así pueden competir y aprender entre ellos. Además, las ricas tradiciones culinarias en Kanazawa llevan mucho tiempo respaldado la industria del sake.
El sake es considerado una bebida sagrada y se creé que puede liberarse de los espíritus malignos. Es por eso que podrás ver enormes toneles de sake en santuarios sintoístas.

[Destilerías de sake en Kanazawa]


・Fukumitsuya http://www.fukumitsuya.co.jp/english (English)

・Yachiya http://www.yachiya-sake.co.jp (Japanese)

・Nakamura shuzo http://www.nakamura-shuzou.co.jp (Japanese)