Tsuzumi-mon Gate and Motenashi Dome
If you arrive in Kanazawa by train, Kanazawa Station is likely to be your first encounter with the city. Take the east exit, look up, and prepare to be awed by the massive glass dome towering above you. The Motenashi (Welcome) Dome is flanked by the equally massive Tsuzumi-mon wooden gates. These two structures welcome tourists to the city and symbolize the meeting of tradition and modernity that you'll find in many aspects of the city.
The station also serves as a local hub with numerous shops and restaurants, as well as the Kanazawa Station Tourist Information Center, where you can get all the information you need for your trip.
You may notice that the area around the station is surprisingly tidy, as falconers regularly keep the pigeons away. Keep your eyes open, and you might even spot one!
The Nomura Samurai Family Residence and the Nagamachi District
The Nomura Samurai Family Residence is located in the Nagamachi district, at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle. With its old residences, mud walls, and narrow alleys, this area retains its timeless charm.
The Nomura Samurai Family Residence is a renovated samurai residence that showcases the lifestyle and artifacts of the samurai era. Visitors can appreciate the intricate details of the rooms and garden, both of which have been restored to their original state. The beautiful Japanese garden inside the house features a 400-year-old wax myrtle evergreen tree and a meandering stream surrounded by ancient and unusually shaped rocks.
History buffs will enjoy the exhibition of Edo period (1603-1868) armor and swords, a perfect example of the traditional arts and crafts that are the heart of Kanazawa.
Experience Ryotei Cuisine
What better way to start your culinary adventure in Kanazawa than to enjoy authentic ryotei cuisine?
A ryotei (料亭) is a type of traditional Japanese fine dining restaurant where guests can enjoy their meals in private tatami rooms. These restaurants are an integral part of Kanazawa's food culture, and serve dishes typical of Kaga cuisine, using locally sourced ingredients, accompanied by delicious local sake.
In most ryotei restaurants, you'll also be able to enjoy a view of carefully tended Japanese gardens, as well as beautiful interiors decorated with historical antiques, and Japanese paintings. Food for the soul and for the eyes!
Pottery Workshop at Kutani Kosen Kiln
Kutani ceramic ware is just one of the many traditional crafts that Kanazawa is known for. It dates back to the Meiji era (1868-1912), and this style of ceramics is characterized by unique designs and color combinations.
The only Kutani ceramic ware kiln in the city, Kutani Kosen is also a shop and a studio where you can learn more about the history of Kutani ceramic ware and even try your hand at one of the workshops.
Enjoy making your own pottery, painting it, and go home with a unique souvenir that will make all of your friends jealous.
Experience SAMURAI Culture
While a variety of famous swords are on display at museums, the “Shijimaya Honpo” experience allows visitors to truly appreciate the swords by holding one in their hands and feeling its weight. Many Japanese swords have been kept as family heirlooms in the storehouse of the Shijimaya Honpo since ancient times. In this hands-on program, visitors can listen to explanations in English about the swords and take pictures in hakama.
A Leisurely Walk around Town
If you have some time before dinner and the weather allows it, Kanazawa offers many sightseeing spots just a short walk away from the city center.
Enjoy exploring and getting lost in the town's many old streets, and don't forget to make a stop at Oyama Jinja Shrine, a shinto shrine that is especially stunning after dark, when the unique stained glass used in its main gate, a fusion of Western, Chinese, and Japanese design, is beautifully illuminated.
If you're visiting the city in winter, you shouldn't miss the many light-up events in the area all around Kanazawa Castle.
Bar Hopping in Downtown Kanazawa
To end your first day in Kanazawa, head to downtown Katamachi, an area full of bars and small restaurants where you'll be spoiled for choice.
Sushi? Curry? Ramen? Kaga cuisine? Take your pick. All the establishments in the area will satisfy you with the delicious local cuisine, a rewarding conclusion to a day of art and long walks.
Not too tired yet? After dinner, immerse yourself in the retro Showa atmosphere of Chuo Mishokugai, a narrow alley lined with bars where you'll have to squeeze in to enjoy a cold one. Take the evening in your own hands and have a casual chat with other patrons, or join one of the bar hopping tours available in the area to try some unique establishments without the hassle of making all the decisions yourself. When visiting any city, there's no more authentic experience than drinking with the locals!
Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel
Located within walking distance of downtown, Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel, with its affordable and spacious rooms, is the perfect accommodation for enjoying a night out in Kanazawa.
A Stroll Through Kenrokuen Garden
A Beautiful and Famous Garden in the Heart of Kanazawa
A new day, the crisp morning air, the deserted streets with the shops still closed... There's no better time to get some exercise in while visiting one of Japan's three most beautiful gardens.
Kenrokuen Garden is, to reason, one of the symbols of Kanazawa. With its crystal-clear pond, beautifully designed garden art, and plenty of seasonal flowers and trees, it's a joy to visit all year round.
The Seisonkaku Villa
Located within the borders of Kenrokuen Garden, the Seisonkaku Villa is a cultural landmark that provides a unique window into the town's past. Its fascinating history and breathtaking displays of artistry and craftsmanship make it well worth a visit. Built in 1863 by the 13th lord of the Maeda family, it's famous for its intricate inner pillars and walls with openwork flowers and birds, as well as a coffered ceiling in the guest chamber, Ekken-no-ma.
What's more, the villa houses a collection of historical artifacts, such as dolls for the Japanese Girls' Festival and furniture. It's well-known for its seasonal natural beauty and carefully crafted garden art. Here's a curious anecdote: The colors of the floor and seats of the Hokuriku Shinkansen's green cars are said to have been inspired by the Gunjyo Room of the Seisonkaku Villa, as a tribute to the manor's traditional art and craftsmanship.
The National Crafts Museum
Digging Deeper into Kogei
The National Crafts Museum is a unique and valuable cultural institution, showcasing the finest examples of domestic and international crafts from the 20th century. Located in two historic Meiji-era buildings just a short walk away from the Kenrokuen Garden, the museum features works created by Japan's Living National Treasures, designated masters of a particular traditional art and craft, as well as modern and contemporary works.
The Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art
Another must-see for art lovers is the The Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art. Its exhibitions feature pieces created by Japan's Living National Treasures and include a variety of antique art objects, items owned by the Maeda family, traditional Japanese paintings, oil paintings, sculptures, and modern handicrafts. The museum is a reminder of the Maeda family's patronage of the arts over 400 years ago and of the ongoing commitment to preserving traditional crafts and handicrafts in the region.
The Art Path and the Green Path
From the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art, take the nature trail known as "Art Path (Bijutsu no Komichi)", which winds along a rapid, waterfall-like stream, the sound of cascading water echoing in the serene environment surrounded by green trees. In about 100 meters, you'll arrive at Honda Park, which houses the Nakamura Memorial Museum.
From there, take another walking path known as the "Green Path (Midori no Komichi)," which will take you all the way to the D.T. Suzuki Museum in just a few minutes.
This short trail in the center of Kanazawa is still relatively unknown, so it is not overly crowded, giving you the feeling of walking through the forest rather than in the heart of Kanazawa.
The D.T. Suzuki Museum
Learn about the life and teachings of Kanazawa’s most famed philosopher
At the D.T. Suzuki Museum, you can discover the life and teachings of one of Japan's most revered Buddhist philosophers, Daisetz Suzuki. From the Entrance Wing to the Contemplative Wing, the museum contains a variety of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of Suzuki's life and his impact on the world. Take a break while you contemplate his teachings in the tranquil atmosphere of three gardens - the Vestibule Garden, the Water Mirror Garden, and the Roji Garden. The museum is a tribute to Suzuki's profound influence in bringing Buddhist philosophy to the West, and provides an unforgettable experience for those who take the time to appreciate the life and work of this remarkable man.
A B-Grade Gourmet Lunch in the Korinbo area
Time for lunch!
While Kanazawa offers as many fine dining experiences as you can count, including but not limited to fresh seafood, mouthwatering sushi, and the extravagant Kaga cuisine, we realize that sometimes you just want to kick back and relax with some budget-friendly comfort food.
That's where B-grade gourmet food comes in. This term refers to all of the inexpensive yet tasty dishes that the Japanese love to eat on an almost daily basis, such as ramen, curry, and rice. Kanazawa has its fair share of B-grade gourmet options: enjoy some hanton rice, for example, a one-plate meal consisting of an omelet over rice topped with fried white fish and drizzled with ketchup and tartar sauce. If you're in the mood for something lighter, try oden: a comfort food traditionally eaten in all Japanese households during the winter, these vegetables and seafood simmered in an umami-rich dashi broth are sure to warm you up on a cold day.
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
A hub for contemporary art in Kanazawa
Kanazawa's ties to the world of art were forged many centuries ago and remain strong today. The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, located in the heart of the city, is a testament to this; with its distinctive disc-shaped design resembling a UFO, this intriguing modern building houses a collection of experimental contemporary art that invites visitors to interact with it firsthand.
Highlights of the museum include commissioned works integrated into the building's design, such as Leandro Erlich's The Swimming Pool, which gives visitors the unique experience of being at the bottom of a swimming pool.
While most contemporary museums can be a challenge to the eye unaccustomed to modern art, the interactive nature of this venue makes it the perfect place for the casual art enthusiast and even families, thanks to the many spaces dedicated to children.
Just a minute-walk from the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, you'll find another private museum that just opened in 2020. KAMU kanazawa also features contemporary works, the main highlight being “Infinite Staircase,” another installation by Leandro Erlich that draws the viewer in with a visual illusion.
Despite its small size, this museum contains a surprising number of works by emerging artists. As an added bonus, many of the installations are super instagrammable!
Dinner Around Kanazawa Station
The area surrounding Kanazawa Station is a foodie's paradise.
Just a two-minute walk from the West Exit is Cross Gate Kanazawa, a shopping mall with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and even a food market. For dinner, we recommend an izakaya, a Japanese-style pub serving all kinds of snacks and tapas-style dishes to share with your travel companions for a convivial experience.
After your meal, spend the rest of the evening at one of the many bars in the area that serve a variety of Japanese drinks and spirits, and don't forget to try the city's local beers.
Hyatt Centric Kanazawa
A full-service lifestyle hotel located in front of Kanazawa Station.
With its prime location just steps away from Kanazawa Station, Hyatt Centric Kanazawa provides easy access to the city's best attractions and is the perfect place to start and end your journey in this vibrant city.
The artwork displayed throughout the hotel is by emerging Kanazawa artists.
The hotel also has a roof terrace bar where you can enjoy light meals and cocktails in a cozy and elegant setting, perfect for a romantic evening or a relaxing night out with friends.
A Seafood Breakfast at Omicho Market
Ready for the best breakfast you've ever had? Omicho Market in Kanazawa offers just that. Known as the "Kitchen of Kanazawa," this market has been a beloved part of the city's food culture for over three centuries.
Start your morning off right with a lavish breakfast of sushi or seafood rice bowls while soaking up the lively atmosphere of the market, bustling with tourists and locals. Established during the Edo period, the market features over 170 shops, including fishmongers selling freshly caught seafood from the Sea of Japan, as well as produce shops selling local fruits and vegetables.
Mizuhiki is just one of Kanazawa's many traditional crafts. Traditionally used for celebrations, these Japanese-style wrapping ribbons are made from paper twine tied in sculptural knots that resemble symbols of good fortune, including flowers and animals.
Join a workshop where you'll learn the history of this craft and have the opportunity to make your own mizuhiki accessories; their light weight makes them the perfect handmade souvenir to take home.
Kanazawa Cuisine Cooking Class
While taking advantage of your traveler status and dining out in search of the best and tastiest dishes is a perfectly fine way to enjoy your foodie trip to Kanazawa, the city's local cuisine may enchant you so much that you'll want to replicate it at home.
The city offers several cooking classes where you'll learn how to prepare authentic Kanazawa dishes using local and unusual ingredients - and more importantly, you get to eat them at the end of the class!
Rent a Kimono
Before heading to Kanazawa's quaint teahouse (Geisha) districts, stop by Kirara in Higashi Chaya and rent one of their beautiful kimonos (yukatas are also available in the summer). Enjoy exploring your surroundings in your new attire, and take pictures that will become treasured souvenirs of your trip.
Higashi Chaya District
Discover one of Kanazawa’s largest geisha districts
Geisha teahouses, or "chaya," have existed in the area since the Edo period. Here, wealthy guests were entertained by geisha who sang, danced, and played traditional instruments.
The largest and possibly most famous of these is the Higashi Chaya district.
The architecture of the area is still distinctive today, with wooden latticework on the first-floor exterior of these two-story buildings.
Stroll through its atmospheric alleys and take in all of the sights, smells, and sounds of this unique neighborhood. Rent a kimono and explore the area, peering into the various establishments on the side streets or stop for a bite to eat at one of the many cafes, souvenir shops, and restaurants in the area. For a truly memorable experience, plan your visit around the Kanazawa City Tourism Association's geisha performance show, which is held on designated Saturdays.
Gold Leaf Soft Serve Ice Cream
Did you know that 99% of the gold leaf produced in Japan comes from Kanazawa?
Several shops in the Higashi Chaya district offer gold-leaf application workshops, but there's another experience you shouldn't miss: a gold-leaf afternoon snack!
During the day, head to Kaikaro, the district's largest teahouse, for a coffee or tea break. The establishment also offers some traditional desserts, from Japanese wagashi to the popular gold-leaf soft serve!
Kazue-machi Chaya District
Kazuemachi is another old geisha district located along the Asanogawa River.
Take a walk around the area to enjoy the beautiful views, from Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge, to the rows of chaya teahouses. In the evenings, you may even hear the sound of the shamisen coming from some of the establishments.