When it comes to travelling, one major decision to consider is which region or location to visit. Japan is big, stretching from Hokkaido to Okinawa, but just like travelling to any country, there are generally two places to go – in the city or outside the city. I would say travelling outside major cities is more of a challenge, as you would need to do more research and facilities and services may not be as aplenty as in major cities.
In this article, I will share with you a sample plan for a short trip to a place called Kanazawa, which is away from major cities. Kanazawa City is located in Ishikawa Prefecture, a place that many who are not familiar with Japan probably wouldn’t know. Although not a popular tourist destination, this city definitely has its speciality. Let’s find out attractions at this place by looking through the itinerary.
7.30 AM Departure from Tokyo Station
10 AM Arrival @ Kanazawa Station
10.30 AM Higashi Chaya Area
12.30 PM Omicho Market and lunch
1.30 PM Castle Park
3.30 PM Kenrokuen Garden
5 PM Gold leaf soft serve and dinner
9 AM Nagamachi Samurai District
10.30 AM Kanazawa Phonograph Museum
12 PM Lunch nearby Kanazawa Phonograph Museum
1 PM Kanazawa Umimirai Library
2.30 PM Departure @ Kanazawa Station
Access to Kanazawa
Ishikawa is located in the northern part of Chubu Prefecture but is fairly accessible by a shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo. Board a shinkansen not later than 7.30am to start your day early, as it would be a 2.5 hours journey. To make your travel convenient, I suggest using the Hyperdia or Google Maps app to find out more transportation details.
When you arrived at Kanazawa Station, you would be greeted by the station’s nice architecture, which is the Motenashi Dome (Welcoming Dome) and Tsuzumi-mon (Drum Gate). Kanazawa station is actually situated inside the Motenashi Dome, a beautiful glass dome structure whereas the Tsuzumi-mon is the grand wooden entrance of the station that looks like a gigantic drum. The architecture of this station simply attracts tourist to this location.
Motenashi Dome as seen from the inside.
Tsuzumi-Mon with Motenashi Dome in the background.
Take a bus to historical Higashi Chaya Area before noon. In the past, merchants and the wealthy used to come to teahouses here to be entertained by geisha and to enjoy music and games. Today, only a few teahouses remained as most have been converted into shops and restaurants.
A street in Higashi Chaya Area
Nevertheless, this traditional wooden buildings here still oozes out an Edo-charm as you walk along the street. I would recommend souvenir shopping here and having matcha tea alongside some Japanese sweets at Kaikoro Teahouse. It is one of few teahouses still operating today.
Higashi Chaya Area
Address: 1 Higashiyama, Kanazawa 920-0831, Ishikawa Prefecture
Address: 1-14-8 Higashiyama, Kanazawa 920-0831, Ishikawa Prefecture
Opening Hours: 9 AM – 7 PM
Admission: 750 yen
Cross the Asano River and walk about 10 minutes to the Omicho Market just one-kilometre away from Higashi Chaya Area. Here you could have a taste of the fresh seafood caught from the Sea of Japan. The market also sells locally cultivated vegetables and I suggest a seafood lunch here.
Address: 50 Kamiomicho, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0905
It’s time for a castle adventure! Walk 10 minutes’ southwards and you will come to the Kanazawa Castle Park. Here you could find the reconstructed castle of the Maeda Clan, which was burnt down a few times in the past. Today, the park has castle ruins (free admission), large wooden castle buildings (310 yen), and the Kahokumon Gate (free admission) for display.
Kanazawa Castle Park
Address: Marunouchi, Kanazawa 920-0937, Ishikawa Prefecture
- Castle ruins: 7 AM – 6 PM
- Large wooden castle buildings (Hishiyagura, Gojikken Nagaya, and Hashizumemon Tsuzuki Yagura): 9 AM – 4.30 PM
- Kahokumon Gate: 9 AM – 4.30 PM
After that, walk over to Kenrokuen Garden just 10 minutes away located beside Kanazawa Castle. This garden is one of Japan’s most beautiful landscaped gardens and it has a big pond, hills and some houses in the garden.
Address: 1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa 920-0937, Ishikawa Prefecture
Opening Hours: 24 Hours
Admission: 301 yen
As night falls, walk northwards back to the Higashi Chaya District. This time, it is to catch the night view, try a gold leaf soft serve and to have dinner before calling it a day.
The well-known gold leaf soft serve can be bought at Hakuichi, a shop in the district. The soft serve is basically wrapped in gold leaf – an edible thin sheet of gold. Do take note that the shop closes early, hence I recommend going for the soft serve first before your dinner.
Gold leaf soft serve.
Address: 1-15-4 Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Opening Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
Start your day by visiting the Nagamachi Samurai District. This area used to be the residential area for samurais and their families. Located just at the foothill of Kanazawa Castle, this area has well-preserved narrow streets, water canals, and residences for samurai families.
I would recommend a visit to Nomura-ke, which used to be a residence of a high ranking samurai. There are samurai artifacts on display so you could spend some time admiring it. There’s even a tearoom here if you would like to get a cup of tea.
Address: 1-3-32 Nagamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0865
Opening Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM (until 16:30 for Oct – Mar)
Closed: December 26 and 27
Admission: 550 yen
After that, walk eastwards for about 23 minutes’ to the Kanazawa Phonograph Museum. There are 240 phonographs (or also gramophones) on display and 20,000 SP records. Besides admiring the music players and getting a feel of the music culture before World War II, I recommend you to observe the special demonstration at 11 am, where some recordings will be played from different phonographs. The demonstration is conducted in Japanese, but a guidebook with all the information would be provided.
Kanazawa Phonograph Museum
Address: 2-11-21 Owaricho, Kanazawa 920-0902, Ishikawa Prefecture
Opening Hours: 10 AM – 5.30 PM
Admission: 300 yen
Demonstration Hours: 11 AM, 2 PM, 4 PM
Nearby the museum, there are some restaurants which are convenient for lunch. Just down the street, there is Niwatoko – a casual restaurant and café that serves simple lunch and western desserts.
Address: 1 Chome-9-7-1 Owaricho, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0902
Lunch Hours: 11.30 AM – 3 PM
Take the bus and travel to Kanazawa Umimirai Library, which is about 30 minutes. To get there, you have to board a bus at Musashi Kuji Omicho Market and alight in front of Kanazawa Umimirai Library.
This public library’s contemporary minimalist design makes it a suitable spot for Instagramable pictures. A closer look at the wall would reveal that it is designed with 6000 small circular blocks of glass. The size of the library houses 400,000 collection of books, halls, rooms and other facilities.
Kanazawa Umimirai Library
Address: I-1-1 Jichumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0341
Opening Hours: 10 AM – 7 PM (Weekdays), 10 AM – 5 PM (Weekends)
Board the bus at the front of Kanazawa Umimirai Library and alight at Nakagyo. Walk 7 minutes to Kanazawa Station and you can board a shinkansen back to Tokyo.
In short, this sums up a short two days one night trip in Kanazawa. Despite being a small city, there is enough to do for a short trip here. If you happen to pass by here during your trip to Chubu, do consider to explore Kanazawa for you to stay for a day or two.