A tour of architectural masterpieces in Kanazawa

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?


Photo: Toshiharu Kitajima

Contemporary architecture in Kanazawa

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.

Yoshiro and Yoshio Taniguchi Museum of Architecture, Kanazawa
Yoshiro and Yoshio Taniguchi Museum of Architecture, Kanazawa
A hub of architectural culture
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Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts
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D.T. Suzuki Museum
D.T. Suzuki Museum
Learn about the life and teachings of Kanazawa’s most famed philosopher
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21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
A hub for contemporary art in Kanazawa
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Kanazawa Station
Kanazawa Station
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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 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.


Kanazawa City Ashigaru Museum

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.


The Old Site of Mr. Kurando Terashima’s House

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.


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. 


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. 


Tawaraya

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.

Nomura Samurai Family Residence
Nomura Samurai Family Residence
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Kanazawa City Ashigaru Museum
Kanazawa City Ashigaru Museum
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The Old Site of Mr.Kurando Terashima's House
The Old Site of Mr.Kurando Terashima's House
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  • Yoshiro and Yoshio Taniguchi Museum of Architecture, Kanazawa
  • Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts
  • D.T. Suzuki Museum
  • 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
  • Kanazawa Station
  • Nomura Samurai Family Residence
  • Kanazawa City Ashigaru Museum
  • The Old Site of Mr.Kurando Terashima's House

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