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September 16th 2014
Published: September 16th 2014
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We arrived in Kanazawa a little over an hour after we left Shirakawa-go. We recognised the name of a bank on the map we had from our guest house so set off for our home for the next few nights.

Although the walk was only about 5 minutes we were a little confused by one of the intersections – there aren’t a whole lot of street signs in Japan. Fortunately a lovely Japanese woman took pity on us and ended up walking us to our hostel (which was in the opposite direction to where she was headed).

When we arrived at the front door we found that it was closed for the next hour so found a nearby 7-11 where we could get a snack and use their wifi. While standing around out the front with all our luggage looking like weirdos we noticed that when people pulled up in their car, they went inside while they left the engine running and car unlocked – such a safe / trusting country.

We were waiting out the front of the guest house when the incredibly friendly lady who works there turned up. Yuu apologised profusely as she let us in. Our guest house was quite a small place which had fantastic reviews. Turns out it is actually an old kimono shop which was built about 140 years ago. Our room was up a very steep little flight of stairs and was actually very spacious (and not just by Japanese standards). In fact we had so much room we didn’t even have to roll our futons up during the day!

After dropping off our gear we had a chat to Yuu about what we should see while in Kanazawa. She recommended a few key sights, told us the opening hours and recommended some restaurants for dinner.

Map in hand we headed off for a walk. Kanazawa is a city of approximately 460,000 people. It escaped the war relatively unscathed so there are a few historical areas which still remain including a geisha district and a samurai district.

We decided to save the main sights for the following day so strolled towards the town centre past shops which wouldn’t look out of place in Fitzroy or Collingwood and past a few bands playing live music for the Jazz Festival. We tried to find the yakitori place which Yuu recommended for dinner, but unfortunately couldn’t find it. After an hour or so of wandering around we made our way back to the guest house to grab jumpers before heading out to dinner.

For dinner we decided to try the Indian / Sri Lankan place recommended in Lonely Planet. We found it without any problem, sat down and ordered a few dishes. The food was quite yummy but had definitely been altered for Japanese tastes. The curries were creamier than normal – I think they had mayonnaise in them as well! Nevertheless it was a delicious meal. After dinner we headed home in time for our calligraphy class.

The guest house runs little Japanese themed classes each night which is quite a cute idea. We turned up to our calligraphy class to find that everyone else was Japanese! They all said that it made them feel like they were back in junior school!

I was first up; I chose the word “cat” as it was an easy one! My first attempt was not as bad as I thought it might be and by second attempt it was actual legible. Scott followed with a very complex sentence…he claims it was a brilliant attempt but I’m not sure any Japanese people would actually be able to read it. One of the Japanese girls was very good at calligraphy. After writing her own little saying she wrote our names in Japanese (or maybe she wrote some profanity).

The following morning we set out at about 10am towards Omi-cho market. The market was nowhere near as big as the one in Tokyo but there were plenty of people standing around eating sashimi. It was largely a seafood market but there were a few vegetable and meat stands too.

After the market we ventured to the geisha district, Higashi Chaya, which is still an active geisha district. The buildings which line the streets were absolutely gorgeous. A lot of them had been converted into shops selling the local Kanazawa crafts. Kanazawa produces 99% of the gold leaf manufactured in Japan so a number of shops sold all things gold leaf. One shop even sold ice cream with flakes of gold leaf.

We went inside Shima Teahouse which is one of the restored geisha houses. They had a few traditional instruments on display as well as a cabinet of hair ornaments and sake cups. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take our SLR in but were allowed to take a few photos on Scott’s phone.

After the geisha district we ventured towards Kanazawa Castle Park which hosts what is left of the castle, which was built in 1580 for the Maeda clan, in a very nice garden. Large sections of the castle have been restored or rebuilt – in fact construction was in progress while we were there (despite it being a public holiday!).

After the garden we grabbed some lunch at one of the chain stores. Scott had a beef bowl and I had a minced chicken bowl with a salad. The food was quite yummy and was unbelievably cheap; it cost us about 1000 yen (approx. 10AUD).

After lunch we set off for the samurai district, Naga-machi Buke Yashiki. This area housed the wealthiest samurai of the Maeda clan with their family. The streets are narrow with walls either side and a canal running through the neighbourhood.

While there we visited Nomura-ke which is a restored samurai residence that once housed the high ranking Nomura family. Nomura-ke is also home a garden which was ranked as the third best garden in Japan. The garden was indeed quite lovely with lots of twisted trees (including a Japanese bayberry which is over 400 years old) and stepping stones over the (presumably) artificial streams. The house was also very impressive and well maintained. One room had samurai artefacts including notes, a hand warmer and, of course, samurai swords.

We had a look in a few more of the houses which were open to tourists. The room descriptions were quite amusing; it seemed like they had got them directly out of the dictionary. Apparently a foyer is “the front room of a house” – who would have thought!

We then headed back to our guest house to relax before dinner. We again got some recommendations from Yuu for dinner. We managed to find our first preference, but unfortunately it was closed for the public holiday. We ventured off towards our second preference but couldn’t find it so ended up at a Thai restaurant at the top of the shopping centre near the station.

Our food was delicious, but not at all spicy (especially considering the three chilli warning on the menu!). After dinner we headed back for an origami lesson.

We both managed to make cranes which looked like cranes. We added our little birds to the box containing all the ones made by the previous guests of the guest house. So far this year the crane count was up to 918 cranes!

The following morning we started relatively early as we had a reservation for 10am at the Ninja Temple (Myoryuji). The temple was about a half hour walk from our guest house. Navigator Scott had to ask for directions as “the map was wrong” but we managed to arrive just in time.

The tour was entirely in Japanese, but they give foreigners a little booklet which has the English translation of the script the tour guides say. Apparently (according to the internet), what the guides say is word for word what is in the book. The temple was actually never used by ninjas, but was built with various booby traps / hidden stairways as rooms to allow people to hide or escape if it was ever attacked. Some of the staircases were used to hide entrances to higher levels of the four storey building as, at the time of construction, buildings weren’t supposed to be higher than three storeys.

The Ninja Temple was interesting, though I think if I was invading the temple I probably would have found a lot of the secret staircases / rooms as they were only hidden behind sliding doors or in cupboards. The building was well preserved, probably as all the tourists are asked to “keep very quiet during the tour as the building is very old”.

Our time in Kanazawa was enjoyable; Yuu was very friendly which made our stay even better. The historical areas were interesting and the town seems very liveable. Next stop is Kyoto which is a little over a two hour train ride from Kanazawa.

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