The Kenrokuen Garden is the most famous in the area. Many consider it one of the top three gardens in Japan. It used to be the garden of Kanazawa Castle. It was used by the court since the 17th century, but it was not until 1874, that it opened to the public. There are more than 12,000 trees of 150 different species, but the most famous are the pines. The name, Kenrokuen, stands for park of six qualities (ken = quality or characteristic of something, roku = six in = park). It has the six properties for an ideal garden according to ancient Chinese tradition: elegance, beauty, space, scale, abundance of water and beautiful scenery.
Like in Kanazawa, there is a District of Geishas and a neighborhood of Samurais, called Nagamachi neighborhood. In feudal samurai were some people with power and influence had big houses and large gardens protected by walls and, sometimes, all belonging to the same clan used to be located in neighborhoods to protect each other. The Nagamachi neighborhood is one of those neighborhoods. In one of the houses, the nomura house, you can enter for a small fee to see what they were like inside the houses and gardens.
The Higashi Chaya-Gai is beautiful, therefore we visited a day until nighttime and the next afternoon. These pedestrian streets are winding while drawing a picture of very ancient times. All are single-family homes, wood and typical structures of the Edo period. When we arrived the sun had already gone down and all the houses had their headlights on. It was a little cold and it was constantly raining. This coupled with the fact there was no one gave the place an otherworldly feel. Scattered within the geisha district, there are many small temples, which were completely empty at that hour. The neighborhood was like a ghost town out of Japan portrayed by Miyazaki. That night we wandered the streets and enjoyed a solitary walk in an old and quiet Japan. We returned the following day and there was no rain. We did see some people, but for a tourist area it wasn't crowded at all. With the light of day, we visited some of the old geisha houses, including the Shima. The neighborhood is fabulous, as Gion, but with less fuss.
Omicho Market with over 200 stalls is considered the most important market in Kanzawa city. It sells food, mostly fresh seafood, but there are also stalls of vegetables, fruits and pickles. There are also small stalls and restaurants in the area, that are relatively close to the station and before you reach the main tourist attractions of the city, passing through the market is recommend when going to or returning from visiting these places. Visit early to avoid disappointment.
Located in the Nomura House and therefore owned by this family of samurai tradition, these gardens are reputed to be the most beautiful of the Nagamachi neighborhood. They have a koi pond, rocks and vegetation following the ancient Japanese customs. The garden is full balanced, elegant and harmonious, all key elements identified by the samurai and Buddhism.
This castle is in the center of Kanazawa. In its heyday it was was an imposing fortress on top of a hill from which controlled all the kanazawa feud. Unfortunately, it burned almost completely to the ground in the late 19th century. It was partially restored in 1998. The "Ishikawa Gate" is the only construction of the original building remains. The restoration is all that can be seen today, and is only on one of the wings of the castle shaped like an elongated pavilion. Inside is a museum in where they explain the history of the castle and the different construction techniques.
Kanazawa Station opened in 1898 and is the most important in the city. It's owned by JR West. It has been renovated several times and today, what is striking (in addition to its architecture) are the sculptures nearby. Including Tsuzumi O-Tori, a sculpture that is a mixture between Tsuzumi (traditional Japanese drum strings) and an O-Tori (gate Shinto temples). The station is quite large and has many shops and eateries inside.
In the district of Higashiyama there are a few tea houses (ocha-ya) that we can visit. Although the decor is not what it was historically, you can still get an idea of the structure. Inside, you can see different types of kimonos and footwear worn by geishas. Admission is about 500 yen, and you can take as long as you like to look around.
If you visit Kanazawa make sure you reserve a couple of hours to wander between the exhibitions and installations of the contemporary art museum. The building was designed by Kazuyo and Associates + SANAA and opened in 2004. There is a big focus on making the museum a center for the community. Consequently there are plenty of open public spaces where you can rest, people watch, take selfies or interact with the art itself.
The museum houses work by international and Japanese artists. James Turell's Blue Sky Planet with its rectangular oculus is well worth exploring. However the big crowd-pleaser is Leandro Erlich's perception challenging swimming pool. Visitors to enter a replica swimming pool where only the water is missing.
When we visited there was also an excellent exhibition of fabric art. One room featured Tomoko Konoike's exploration of folk tales and everyday life through the medium of quilting and embroidery. Plus the was a captivating video of women weaving in a construction site filmed in Sarajevo.
If you show your Japanese rail pass entry is half price.
The Oyama Shrine is a Shinto shrine in the east of Kanazawa (in Utatsuyama) that was founded in 1599. It was then moved to its current location and renamed the Oyama shrine. The main gate dates back from 1875 and its a mixture of Chinese, Japanese and European influences is what makes it unique. They say that the top floor has European style windows, the full height of the door (including the lighthouse approximately 25 m). Another attraction of this temple are the sculptures.
The Nomura House (or nomurake) is the only house District of Nagamachi where entry is permitted. Nomura family belongs to a family of samurai tradition for over 300 years. Upon entering this home you can see how samurai families lived at the time, and see the armor and altars they had. On the back we find the spectacular nomura gardens.
This is an old house located in the tea gardens of [poi = 72218] Kenrokuen [/ poi]. It's closest entrance is at Renchi-mon. It's the oldest building in the complex, built in 1774, and still remains on the banks of the tranquil Hisago pond. This tea house was used for tea ceremonies and, although it's small, it still retains the same look and the same structure that it did more than two centuries ago.
Located in the Nagamachi neighbourhood is an old apothecary called Shinese Kinenkan. Finding it is quite simple, as it is a strikingly beautiful building very close to the River Saigawa. Entry is just 100 yen, and there's plenty inside to delight lovers of traditional medicine. The architecture is unique and it's all very interesting.
Located on the main street of the charming neighbourhood of Higashi, Chaya-Gai is one of the most beautiful old geisha houses, Shima, which has now been converted into an authentic theme museum about the life of geishas. It's small but spacious, built of wood in the style of the Edo period. Entrance costs 400 yen, and you should take off your shoes. Inside you can see an interesting collection of combs and traditional instruments like the shamisen. Perfect for lovers of ancient history and Japanese culture.
The Nagamachi Yuzen-kan, or Yuzen silk, is a kind of school-shop-museum dedicated to the kimono. It is located on the second floor of a modern building, which would be somewhat difficult to find if the entire neighbourhood wasn't full of signs pointing the way. Admission is 350 yen, and it's worth it if you're a fan of kimonos. Inside you can see a short documentary about painting kimonos, a shop, and a small showroom. You can also enjoy the opportunity to practise a bit, and for 4,000 yen you can dye your own silk.
Art, history, nature ... there's so much on offer here in Kanazawa. It's worth stopping in the Tatemachi, the shopping centre, but you'll need fortitude, particularly if you go on a Saturday afternoon, when it fills up with young people. A good chance to buy souvenirs - don't waste too much time here, but it would be a pity not to visit at all.