Day 1 in Kanazawa
Welcome to Kanazawa! Upon arrival at the airport, you will go through customs and immigration. Should you opt to purchase a transfer to your hotel; a representative will be waiting for you as you exit immigration. Arrive at your hotel, check in and do not give in to jet lag! There is so much for you to see and do!
We recommend you get acquainted with the city, take a walk around the heart of the city and explore the beautiful verdant landscapes of the Kanazawa Castle Park. Stroll through the tree-lined paths and take in the surroundings and fresh air, there are paths leading up to the old castle ruins.
Just outside the park is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Take some time to explore the museum, taking in the art exhibits from acclaimed contemporary Japanese artists and others from around the world. Some of the iconic pieces on display include Leandro Erlich`s `Swimming Pool`, and James Turrell`s `Blue Planet Sky`.
Make your way over to the famous Omicho Market, which has been operating for over 280 years. Also known as `Kanazawa`s Kitchen` the market is packed with over 185 stalls offering some of the freshest fish and seafood in the country. Enjoy some lunch in the market and sample all kinds of delicious food, there are tons of restaurants located inside the market serving up sushi and other cuisines.
After lunch, take a leisurely stroll through the mesmerizing Kenroku-en Garden (Garden of Six Attributes) the most famous sight in the city. The vibrant gardens spread throughout 29 acres in the heart of Kanazawa, ranked by the Japanese as one of the top 3 gardens in the country. Discover the perfect landscaping, trickling streams, perfect ponds, and quaint traditional teahouses found throughout the park. The Seisonkaku Villa is on the grounds built by a Maeda lord for his mother, the parts that remain showcase daimyo palace architecture, with bright blues and reds featured on the upper floor.
Kanazawa is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network featuring over 30 local arts and crafts made in the city. One of the famed items produced in the city is the gold leaf, which is used to decorate cakes and other food and add a sparkle to some sake. Wander around the shops found along the streets of Kakinokibatake, a popular shopping district in the city selling gold leaf, lacquerware, and other interesting trinkets. The Hakuza Gold Leaf shop is located in the city of Kanazawa, which is responsible for 99% of Japan`s gold leaf production. This shop is housed in a traditional warehouse decorated entirely in gold!
Visit one of the traditional Japanese teahouses dotted around the city. Shima Teahouse is almost 200 years old, housed in a well-preserved building which is also a museum. Travel back in time and take in the traditional atmosphere, enjoy a cup of matcha and relax.
As evening time approaches, make your way to the Higashi Chaya-gai district, found across the Asano River, the most famous Geisha area in the city. Take in the serene setting of the ancient labyrinth of winding streets charmingly decorated with tall narrow buildings covered in twinkling lights. Chaya means teahouses and this vibrant preserved district is filled with places where you can enjoy being entertained by real Geisha`s with traditional song and dance. The Shima Teahouse is open to all and is well worth visiting for a refined experience in an elegant setting.
Higashi Chaya is the main entertainment district in Kanazawa where you will find a wide selection of restaurants offering delicious local cuisine including sushi and sashimi, which is some of the best around with fresh fish and seafood straight from the Sea of Japan. Stop in and enjoy some dinner, then take an evening stroll through the picturesque streets.
Day 2 in Kanazawa
Start your day off with some breakfast in one of the many cafes found in the heart of the city serving fresh tea, coffee, and freshly baked sweets and pastries. Take a stroll around the Kanazawa Castle Park and see all the locals getting in their daily exercise including tai chi and yoga.
Head to the Kanazawa Castle is the large, partially restored castle located in the city of Kanazawa, sitting opposite the Kenroku-en Garden it was the seat of power for the local Maeda clan for 14 generations during the Sengoku period. The castle burnt down on several occasions, the Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya (samurai warehouse) are the original construction, the gate dates from 1788 facing the gardens.
Check out some of the fantastic museums in the city, Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art features a wide assortment of original Japanese creations including displays of pottery, contemporary paintings, lacquer, and porcelain. The museum is located close to the famous Kenrokuen Gardens. Ishikawa Prefectural History Museum is housed in a red brick building that was once a weapons warehouse for the Japanese Army. The museum features various types of material related to history and culture exhibited in 3D and other forms from primitive to present times.
For lunch, head back over to the famous Omoicho Market and try some `Kaiseidon` a heaping portion of raw fish over a bowl of hot rice, its delicious and a specialty in Kanazawa. Be sure to sample some `jizake` or local sake, made from Kanazawa`s exceptionally clean water from the melted snow on the nearby mountains which produces the finest rice in Japan.
Make your way to Myoryu-ji also known as the Ninja Temple, a Buddhist temple featuring secret passageways, trap doors, and hidden rooms. The building features unique Japanese architecture and fascinating history, making it a popular attraction in the city.
Next up is Nagamachi, which was once the residence for Kanazawa`s Samurai. The area boasts beautifully preserved historical buildings such as the Nomura Samurai House and Garden, Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, and the Kyu-Kaga Hanshi Takada Family House. Visit the Nagamachi Yuzen Kan to try some silk dying, visit the museum here and the sweet candy shop!
Visit the D. T. Suzuki Museum, a simple and elegant museum displaying works from the Japanese philosopher D. T. Suzuki, he was a major 20th Century Zen philosopher and the writer responsible for introducing Zen Buddhism to the West, born in the city of Kanazawa. Check out the interactive displays and memorabilia on his work and life, the museum invites you to empty your mind from distraction and visit the contemplative space outside at the water `garden`.
Head up the Bokodai Observatory located at the base of Mt. Utatsuyama with views over the streets of Kanazawa. The buildings elevation soars to 462 feet and overlooks the Kanazawa Castle and views that stretch as far as the Sea of Japan and the peaks of Mt. Haku mountain ranges.
Do some shopping in Kakinokibatake, which is also a well-known gourmet district packed with restaurants serving both local cuisine and international fare. Enjoy dinner here and try Kanazawa`s famous beef, Noto-gyu, a premium grilled steak that melts in your mouth accompanied by delicious local vegetables. After dinner, take a romantic evening stroll and enjoy an ice cream coated in gold leaf.
Head to Hotel Kanazawa to the 16th floor where the `Raspberry` Bar is located, the perfect spot in the city for a late-night drink with spectacular night views of the sparkling city. The bar features a piano bar and an extensive cocktail menu.
Additional Days in Kanazawa
If you are able to spend additional days in Kanazawa take some side trips and visit the surrounding areas including Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, two spectacular scenic and secluded mountain village destinations famous for their traditional architecture. Both locations are UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be reached via a bus ride or car journey from Kanazawa.
Takayama city is a popular sightseeing location to visit and can be reached via train, bus or car from Kanazawa. The city is known for its beautifully preserved wooden buildings, temples, and museums and is also the host to the vibrant Takayama Festival taking place twice a year in the spring and autumn months. Takayama is also a popular skiing destination in the surrounding mountains.
There are plenty of festivals to enjoy in the city of Kanazawa including the Asanogawa Riverside Garden Party held on the second Saturday and Sunday in April. The party takes place along the Asano River banks which are decorated by beautiful blooming cherry blossoms. There are traditional songs, dance and shows put on by local geisha and maiko at the elevated stage by the river.
The Hyakuman-goku Festival takes place the first weekend in June, a huge Ishikawa festival celebrating the entry of Lord Maeda Toshiie who was the founder of the Kaga Domain into Kanazawa Castle in 1583. The festival lasts for three days including a parade on Saturday, a citywide folk dancing competition on Saturday night, public tea ceremony and children`s lantern parade on Friday night. The opening ceremony is performed at the Kanazawa Station.
Your Last Day in Kanazawa
Depart from your hotel to the airport for your return flight home. We recommend that you purchase a private transfer to the airport if so the representative will meet you at your hotel with plenty of time to get you to the airport for your flight out.