Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture on Honshu Island. Its name literally means “Gold Swamp”, because according to legend a peasant had found gold on the city’s site while digging to plant potatoes. In feudal times, Kanazawa was for a long time counted among the largest seigniorial cities of the empire, both rich and one of the most populated in Japan.
To get to Kanazawa from Tokyo, you must take the Shinkansen (Hokuriku line) which connects the two cities in only 2 hours 30 minutes.
Between the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps, Kanazawa is a charming little jewel with many natural and cultural treasures. Having kept a certain historical appeal, it is recognized as a “city of artisanal creation” by UNESCO. Its first tourist attraction is its old castle, Kanazawan Castle, dating from the end of the 16th century (but having undergone many reconstructions since then). Another highlight of the city is Kenroku-en, a garden renowned as one of the 3 most beautiful in Japan, including the oldest fountain in the country.
Neighbourhoods not to be missed are the former Higashi Chaya Geisha district, where you can find the Shima Tea House, an important cultural heritage site in Japan, as well as the Samurai district in Naga-machi, where you can see samurai houses that are more than 200 years old (such as the Nomura House).
Contemporary art lovers will not miss the 21st century museum; and culture lovers will be able to learn more about the city’s traditional arts, including Nô, lacquered wood, or Kaga-yuzen (silk painting and kimono making). Finally, if you want to learn more about the history of the daimyo, you should take a detour to Villa Sheisonkaku, built at the end of the 19th century by a daimyo of the Kaga clan, Maeda Nariyasu, as a retirement home for his mother!
Around Kanazawa are the historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, particularly known for their steep-roofed houses (the minka).