Where is Kanazawa? How do I get there?
The most popular Japan travel destinations are of course Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. And with so many interesting places to visit within a limited time, it may be difficult to select side trip destinations. What if we told you that Kanazawa is halfway between Tokyo and Osaka, just two and a half hours from each city?
Kanazawa is conveniently located in the center of Japan's main island (Honshu), and is connected to major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya by the Hokuriku Shinkansen and limited express trains. If you use the versatile Japan Rail Pass, you can also save on travel costs. If travelling by air, there are flights from major airports including Haneda and Narita to the nearest airport (Komatsu), and from there you can arrive Kanazawa in about 40 minutes by bus.
If you make Kanazawa your travel hub in the region, there is also the large appeal of being able to access the famous tourist destinations of Takayama and Shirakawa-go by highway bus for day trips.
Why should I visit Kanazawa?
Kanazawa is a charming city offering unique attractiveness no matter the season, with its culture and arts rooted in the city, rich food culture represented by Kaga cuisine that both tastes and looks beautiful, and a townscape and cultures where old and new coexist, all against its historical backdrop as a prosperous castle town.
How is Kanazawa different from Kyoto? Is there any need to visit Kanazawa too?
Kyoto is a city created by the Imperial Family and aristocracy, whereas Kanazawa is a castle town created by samurai, so they are fundamentally completely different. In terms of the length of their histories, Kyoto functioned as Japan's capital and Emperor's place of residence from the 8th century, and was the center of politics and culture for about 1100 years. On the other hand, the foundations of present-day Kanazawa were laid at the end of the 16th century, making the two very different.
So, if you visit Kyoto, do you need to visit Kanazawa? The answer is yes. It's true that both destinations are similar in that they both have many heritage sites from the pre-modern era, but there are countless other reasons to visit Kanazawa, such as the rich culture, arts and crafts and delicious foods that have been passed down since the samurai era.
What's the best season to visit Kanazawa?
Kanazawa is worth visiting any time of the year. Each season has its own charms, such as the cherry blossoms in spring, festivals in summer, beautifully colored leaves in autumn, and snowy scenery and seafood from the Sea of Japan in winter. It's a destination that will satisfy everyone, and you will feel a different appeal whenever you come. Please come to discover "your Kanazawa".
What's Kanazawa's weather like? What should I wear?
The weather in Kanazawa changes dramatically depending on the season. Spring and autumn are generally cool and comfortable; it's a good idea to wear a sweater or a light jacket. Summer is quite hot and humid. Come prepared for rain, especially in the rainy season from June to mid-July. Unlike many cities on the Pacific Ocean side of Japan, winters in Kanazawa are not only cold, but also snowy. Be sure to bring warm clothes and proper footwear.
If you didn't bring an umbrella and boots, don't worry! They can be rented free of charge at tourist information centers in the city, so please feel free to use them.
How many days do you need for sightseeing in Kanazawa?
A satisfying experience awaits you regardless of how long you stay. However, you'll need at least two nights and three days to explore the attractive neighboring areas such as the World Heritage Shirakawa-go and Gokayama and nature-rich Noto area, in addition to the major sightseeing spots such as Kenrokuen Garden and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa and various experiences that will delight your five senses.
Where should I stay in Kanazawa?
Kanazawa is both a convenient hub and gateway to the region, with a wide variety of accommodation facilities such as hotels like Hyatt Centric Kanazawa, as well as traditional Japanese inns and guest houses. Most of the accommodation is concentrated around Kanazawa Station and in the city center, so you can choose according to your taste. The tourist information centers in the city also provide a same-day accommodation reservation service, so please feel free to use it.
Is it easy to get around Kanazawa?
Kanazawa is a compact city in which you can access the main tourist spots on foot.
For sightseeing, in addition to walking we recommend bicycles, since they allow you to navigate the narrow alleys which are unique to Kanazawa. There's a convenient public bicycle share service called Machi-nori, with many rent/return docking stations around the city. In addition, a loop bus runs every 15 minutes from the east exit of Kanazawa Station, stopping at the major sightseeing spots.
Can I use the Japan Rail Pass for trips to Kanazawa?
The Japan Rail Pass, which can be used for the Shinkansen from Tokyo and the limited express trains from Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya, is very useful for getting to Kanazawa. Even after arriving, it can be used for the JR trains connecting to Kaga Onsen (hot springs) in the south and the Noto region in the north, and also the West Japan JR Buses that operate mainly within the city.
Can I find an interpreter guide in Kanazawa?
Yes, you can find an interpreter guide to suit your needs! There is a range of interpreter guides in Kanazawa, including nationally-qualified guides, guides certified by Kanazawa City after taking a course on Kanazawa's history, tradition and culture, as well as volunteer guides (free).
Why not take a walk around the city with a guide who is familiar with Kanazawa, and make your stay an unforgettable, lifelong memory?
Where are Kanazawa's non-touristy areas?
Kanazawa has been preserved by successive generations dating back to the time when it flourished as a castle town. It's a place that maintains the authentic atmosphere of a local, lived-in area, and even the major tourist destinations in the city see relatively few tourists compared to Tokyo and Kyoto, allowing you to enjoy a relaxing stay. Such characteristics become even more prominent in areas off the beaten path such as Yuwaku Onsen, rich in nature surrounded by mountains, and the Ono area, overlooking the Sea of Japan, where you can relax and unwind.
What activities should I experience in Kanazawa?
To experience is to know a city. In Kanazawa, you should of course visit the must-see tourist destinations such as Kenrokuen, Higashi Chaya District, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, but don't forget that Kanazawa also offers various experiences (strongly recommended by the author, who lives in the city), with something for everyone.
The history of Kanazawa began when the lord who ruled this region during the samurai era gathered master craftsmen from all over the country to encourage culture and art, against a backdrop of wealth second only to the shogunate family in Edo (Tokyo). Many traditional crafts such as Kaga Yuzen (silk dyeing) and gold leaf, as well as traditional performing arts including Kanazawa geigi (geisha), the tea ceremony and Noh (theatre) have been handed down to artisans and citizens, and there are many facilities and events where you can experience these. A few days is not enough to experience them all!
So are there only traditional things in Kanazawa? The answer is no. Kanazawa is a city where tradition and creativity are beautifully balanced. For example, Kanazawa Station's Tsuzumimon Gate features modern architecture with a beautiful fusion of traditional Noh drums and contemporary glass, symbolic of how Kanazawa preserves not only the old, but constantly adds innovation to tradition to create new things.
Modern technology is applied in the field of crafts, too. For example in the development of wine glasses featuring a combination of Kutani ware (ceramics) and glass. In addition, with a focus on the material of glass as a new field, The International Exhibition of Glass Kanazawa, which was the world's first international exhibition of glass works by the public, is held yearly.
Also, as indicated by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, modern art flourishes in Kanazawa, and there are many museums, galleries, and studios in the city. You may find it fun to stop by while enjoying a leisurely stroll. I strongly recommend experiencing Kanazawa up close. This trip will surely become a lifelong memory and transform you into a new person.
What should I eat in Kanazawa?
Food is one of the greatest attractions for many visiting Japan, but if you really want to enjoy the food, visiting Kanazawa is a must. There are various gourmet foods made with the abundant local ingredients such as crab and sweet shrimp, and if you like fish, you should definitely try sushi. Food genres range from elegant to funky, and from sumptuous course meals to one-plate comfort foods; Kanazawa has something to satisfy everyone's tastebuds. If you like cooking, there are also cooking experiences using local ingredients and Japanese sweets workshops.
What's Kanazawa's nightlife like?
The evenings in Kanazawa are well-suited to an enjoyable time, as various parts of the city come to life and entertain the locals and tourists. For those who feel that the nightlife of Japan's big cities is too wild (Osaka) or too spread out (Tokyo), Kanazawa offers a quieter experience and a friendly atmosphere in a downtown area that's easily accessible. If you practice Japanese a little and talk with the owners and regulars, you may discover an enjoyable time with likeminded friends.
Are there restaurants for vegetarians and vegans in Kanazawa?
You may find that few stores in Japan offer meals for vegetarians and vegans. Kanazawa city publishes information regarding stores that offer meals taking into consideration food allergies, vegetarians, vegans, halal etc., so please check it out.
Are there any places besides Kanazawa I should visit in the area?
Of course there are! Kanazawa is located right in the middle of popular destinations such as Shirakawa-go, which is symbolic of Japan's unspoilt landscapes, Takayama, with its historic townscape, and the Noto Peninsula, where you can feel the beauty of rugged nature. With its excellent accommodation and a wide selection of evening meals, Kanazawa makes for a great hub from which to explore the other fascinating destinations in the region. Don't miss the opportunity!