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12 Things To Do In Charming Kanazawa, Japan

Rachel
Updated Nov 02, 2018

Kanazawa, the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture, sits on the Sea of Japan, bordered by scenic mountain ranges and national parks, has well-preserved art and culture. As it is one of the few major cities in the country that was spared from the fire bombing in World War II, it is the best-preserved Edo Period city in Japan. Known to the locals as “little Kyoto” because of its beautifully preserved traditional neighborhoods, but without the throngs of tourists, this is one charming city you wouldn’t want to miss! As a guide, read on for the 12 things you can do in Kanazawa!

Top 3 activities to book in kanazawa

1. Ninja Temple

Source: Wikimedia

Myoryuji Temple (妙立寺, Myōryūji), commonly known as Ninja Temple (Ninjadera in Japanese), was built in 1585 by Lord Maeda Toshiie as a place of worship during the Edo Period. It gained its nickname because of its many deceptive defences to guard against intruders or attack. The temple looks like a 2-story building on the outside, but it is actually a four-story building with a complicated structure designed to fool enemies and intruders. Explore the Ninja Temple to see for yourself the fascinating designs of this ancient architecture!

Myoryuji Temple (妙立寺)/ Ninja Temple

Address: 1-2-12 Nomachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Price: 9.48 USD per adult, 6.64 USD per child

Opening Hours: 9 am - 4.30 pm (till 4 pm during winter) daily except January 1 and infrequent irregular closures.

Duration: guided tour takes about 40 minutes

Access: 5-minute walk from the Hirokoji stop on the Kanazawa Loop Bus

Contact: +81 76-241-0888

Ninja Temple

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2. Kanazawa gold leaf soft serve

a gilded soft cream😛🍦✨ #goldleaf#kanazawa#higashichayastreet

A photo posted by Tsumugi Sekiya (@tsumugiiiiiiii) on

Recognised as a City of Crafts and Folk Art in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Kanazawa is Japan’s capital of gold leaf. It seems only logical that Hakuichi, the city’s main gold leaf producer, also started selling soft serve cones wrapped in real gold leaf. Pretty images of this eye-catching sweet treat are now all over social media in Japan, a novel experience that is fast catching up for both locals and tourists alike. So don’t forget to grab a trendy gold-topped ice cream cone when you are in Kanazawa!

Read also What to eat in Kanazawa?

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3. Walking in the Kanazawa Higashi Chaya District

There are three well-preserved chaya districts in Kanazawa, with the largest and most interesting being the Higashi Chaya District. Chaya, which means teahouse in Japanese, played an important role in designated entertainment districts during the Edo Period. Guests to the exclusive restaurant would be entertained by geisha (professional entertainer) with traditional song and dance. In this cultural district, take your time to shop and enjoy a unique cafe-hopping experience along the central street. Discover the intriguing teahouse heritage at the Shima Teahouse which has been converted into a museum.

Kanazawa Higashi Chaya District (東茶屋街)

Address: 1 Chome Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Opening Hours: shop hours vary, but generally opens from around 9 am to 6 pm.

Duration: about half a day.

Access: 5-minute walk from the Hashibacho (Koban-mae) stop on the Kanazawa Loop Bus

Nearby Food: Kaikaro Teahouse, Hakuza Gold Leaf Store

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4. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (金沢21世紀美術館) is one of the most popular art museums in Japan exhibiting works of notable contemporary artists in the country and all over the world. The deliberate design of the circular museum architecture without any main entrance makes it unique, standing out from other museums and buildings around Kanazawa. Immerse yourself in this modern art space and be amazed by the creative exhibits in the museum!

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

Address: 1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa

Price: Varies by exhibition, typically 9.48 USD

Opening Hours: Exhibition Zone 10 am - 6 pm (Open till 8 pm on Fridays & Saturdays) Public Zone 9 am - 10 pm. Closed on Mondays (or Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday), December 27 to January 1.

Duration: around 3 hours required

Access: 1-minute walk from the Hirosaka bus stop

Contact: +81 76-220-2800

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

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5. Kanazawa handicraft experience (89.60 USD per adult)

Join a half-day tour in the creative city of Kanazawa, to experience the making of gold lacquer decoration, one of the city’s greatest arts! You will also be able to enjoy tantalising local sweets and green tea at the famous “Nosaku” and marvel at the beauty of the historical Kenrokuen (兼六園) garden established during the Edo Period. Finally, bring a miniature Samurai armour model home, a great souvenir from Japan!

Experience Traditional Crafts and Sweets in Kanazawa

Price: 89.60 USD per adult

Tour Hours: 1.30 pm - 5 pm

Duration: 3.5 hours required

Access: Meet at Nosaku in central Kanazawa.

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6. Nagamachi Bukeyashiki, the samurai district

#bukeyashiki #nagamachi #kanazawa #ishikawa

A photo posted by Hiroki (@dr.hiro) on

The Japanese samurai refer to the middle and upper class warriors during the Edo Period. Travel back into pre-modern Japan as you roam the historic samurai district in Nagamachi Bukeyashiki. Located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, this was where the samurai and their families used to reside. Notable attractions in the district include the Nomura-ke - a restored samurai residence displaying the lifestyle and artifacts of the era, and the Shinise Kinenkan Museum - a restored pharmacy that prospered following the decline of the samurai.

Nagamachi Bukeyashiki

Address: 1 Chome-3-32 Nagamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Price: 0.96 USD to 5.27 USD per adult, depending on attraction

Opening Hours: hours vary depending on attractions. Generally open from 9 am - 5 pm.

Duration: around 3 hours required.

Access: 5-minute walk south of Korinbo bus stop

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7. 1-day trip from Kanazawa to the neighbouring Gifu Prefecture (from 989.89 USD)

Less than 2 hours away from Kanazawa lies the mountainous Gifu Prefecture with spellbinding landscapes. You can book a one-day trip to the scenic Gokayama, Shirakawago or Takayama where you can visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Shirakawago village and Ainokura village) and best-preserved traditional old towns in Takayama. Have fun making your own senbei rice crackers in the traditional shopping street - Sasaraya at Gokayama!

Shirakawa-go, Gokayama and Takayama: Private Tour

Price: from 989.89 USD

Duration: 1 full day

1-day trip from Kanazawa to Gokayama, Shirakawago or Takayama

Price: 122.46 USD per adult

Tour Hours: 8 am - 5.30 pm.

Duration: 9.5 hours required

Access: Meet at Kanazawa Station

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8. Kenrokuen Garden

Source: bryan...

The ancient Kenrokuen Garden (兼六園) built during the Edo Period is one of the Great Three Gardens of Japan, and the top attraction for Kanazawa visitors. Opened to the public since 1871, Kenrokuen literally means “Garden of the 6 Sublimities” - spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. These attributes make for a perfect garden. The wide variety of flowering trees gives the spacious private garden a different look every season. Come visit the garden in different seasons and experience the difference for yourself!

Kenrokuen Garden (兼六園)

Address: 1-2-12 Nomachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Price: 3 USD per adult. Free during early admission hours

Opening Hours: Regular Hours: 7 am to 6 pm (March to October 15); 8 am to 5 pm (October 16 to February) Early Admission Hours: From 5 am (April to August from 4 am, November to February from 6 am); Early admission visitors must exit the garden before the start of regular hours.

Duration: 2 to 3 hours required

Access: short walk from the Kenrokuen-shita bus stop

Contact: +81 76-234-3800

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9. Dine in one of the small restaurants in Katamachi area

The strategic location of Kanazawa between the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps makes it a great place to tuck into amazingly fresh sashimi and sushi. At the Katamachi area, there are many reasonably-priced small restaurants where you can tuck into fresh sushi and sashimi made right in front of you. Experience a homely dining experience without burning a hole in your wallet!

Read also What To Eat in Kanazawa?

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10. D.T. Suzuki Museum

Source: Wikimedia

Opened in 2011, D.T. Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館, Suzuki Daisetsu Kan) is a small museum honouring the life and works of a prominent local Buddhist philosopher - Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro. Just like the Japanese Zen philosophy that Mr. Suzuki believes in, the museum’s use of clean, simple designs and open spaces allows visitors to pause, immerse in the serenity of the surroundings and reflect. Visit the museum to unwind from the hustles of the city!

D.T. Suzuki Museum

Address: 3-4-20 Honda-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Price: 2.90 USD per adult.

Opening Hours: 9 am to 5 pm. Closed on Mondays (or Tuesdays if Monday is a Public Holiday) and 29 December to 3 January.

Duration: 1 hour required

Access: 5-minute walk from the Hondamachi bus stop

Contact: +81 76-221-8011

D.T. Suzuki Museum

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11. Kanazawa Umimirai Library

Kanazawa Umimirai Library is a public library opened in May 2011. With about 6,000 holes fitted with translucent glass panels on the building exterior, this innovative design allows natural light into the 12-metre (39 feet) high-ceilinged library. Plenty of open spaces are created within the library for a pleasant and comfortable reading environment. It is thus little wonder why this large contemporary building was crowned the world’s most beautiful public library in 2012!

Kanazawa Umimirai Library

Address: 1-1 Jichu-cho, Yubinbango, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Price: Free admission

Opening Hours: 10 am to 7 pm on weekdays. 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays. Closed on Wednesdays (except when Wednesday is a Public Holiday) and year-end New Year holidays.

Duration: 1 hour required

Access: 1-minute walk from the Hokutetsu bus stop

Contact: +81 76-266-2011

Kanazawa Umimirai Library

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12. Kanazawa Castle

Source: Lenson Japan

Last but definitely not the least, you should not leave the city without visiting the Kanazawa Castle, for this is an important cultural asset of Japan. From 1583 to the end of the Edo Period, one of the most powerful feudal lords, Maeda Toshiie, stayed in this castle. The castle was destroyed by fire several times over the period, with only 2 storehouses and the Ishikawa-mon Gate facing the Kenrokuen Garden remaining. It was only in the early 1990s that the restoration project commenced to rebuild the castle’s former buildings. Explore this large restored castle and immerse yourself in its splendid landscape!

Kanazawa Castle

Address: 1-1 Jichu-cho, Yubinbango, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture

Price: Free admission

Opening Hours: 7 am to 6 pm (March 1 to October 15); 8 am to 5 pm (October 16 through February).

Duration: 2 to 3 hours required

Access: short walk from the Kenrokuen-shita bus stop

Contact: +81 76-234-3800

Kanazawa Castle

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Enjoy this alluring creative cultural city now!

With so many exciting things to do in the beautiful traditional city of Kanazawa, it’s time to pack your bags now for an exhilarating tour in “Little Kyoto”! Experience the beauty of the charming creative city before more tourists know about it and start “marching in”. Enjoy your fascinating holiday!

This article was originally published on Aug 10, 2016

Rachel has forgotten when and exactly how she caught the travel bug. What she does remember is the triumphant feeling she enjoys when she sees the fascinating world out there with her own eyes. She...Read more

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