Kanazawa Attractions

June 27, 2023

Paul Kay

Since you are a frequent traveler, have you visited Japan? If so, maybe you saw attractions in Tokyo. Have you been to Osaka? We decided to visit Kanazawa when we based ourselves in Osaka. We visited Kanazawa during sakura season, and the background will show you how beautiful it is during this time. In order to travel to Kanazawa for a day trip, we needed to travel via the JR Shinkansen. You can read the economics of a JR pass in our post on the subject. I can tell you it was a great decision and also a huge money saver for us. We have a post on Kanazawa fun facts and history here.  

First glimpse of sakura in castle gardens at Castle Kanazawa Japan

Kanazawa's main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan's "three best landscape gardens" and by many considered the most beautiful of them all. Coming during sakura season is highly recommended but the gardens are beautiful year-round.

Wide shot of Lobby Lounge at Hyatt Regency Osaka Japan

Madeline and I were in Osaka at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Osaka hotel and took the hotel shuttle to the Osaka station. We already decided to create our own tour of the highpoints, so what we needed to do was find the Shinkansen Thunderbird train to Kanazawa.

Our shinkansen tickets on Thunderbird Shinkansen bound for Kanazawa from Shin Osaka Japan

Our tickets were obtained earlier when we were already at one of the JR stations. When you have a JR pass, all you need to do is to show your pass and obtain tickets. 

On our tickets, one of the first things we noticed was that we did not have to go Shin Osaka which is the train station primarily for Shinkansen. Our tickets said we could embark at the Main Osaka JR station. You’ll notice on the tickets that it does not tell you what track you’ll be on. You need to do that at your train station. 

Signs English for trains and tracks in Osaka Station Osaka Japan

Track signs and times will rotate between English and Japanese so don’t worry if you only see Japanese for a few moments. Our train was at 9:42 to Kanazawa and you can see it is track 11. Problem solved!

Jibo Kannon, a giant statue from Kaga-Onsen seen from Thunderbird Shinkansen headed to Kanazawa Japan

It’s about a 3-hour trip to Kanazawa but there is plenty to see on the way. The above picture was of Jibo Kannon which is a very large statue from the Kaga Onsen station. We stopped long enough for Madeline to get a nice shot with sakura blooming.

Track sign Japanese for Thunderbird Shinkansen bound for Kanazawa from Shin Osaka Japan

We found our track for the Shinkansen and perhaps you’d see a sign like the one above.  Don’t get worried when you see a sign like this. Even if you can’t read Japanese the country is wonderfully accommodating to English speakers.

Track sign English for Thunderbird Shinkansen bound for Kanazawa from Shin Osaka Japan

Magically the sign changes back and forth between Japanese and English. Now, we just had to find our car. If you look at our tickets again, you’ll see that we had assigned seats in car number one.

We arrived in Kanazawa, ready to explore.

Arrival statue encased in glass Kanazawa JR station Kanazawa Japan

As we were walking toward the center of the train station, we saw this little fellow. I’m not sure what he was telling us, but Madeline had to capture it as our first unknown.

Paul getting directions at Kanazawa JR station Kanazawa Japan

We needed to get our bearings and Japan has plenty of opportunities to get oriented. I had already created a route we would take using Google Maps and sent it to my phone. 

From Kanazawa station we would walk southeast to the Omicho Market, then to the Kanazawa Castle and the beautiful Kenroku-en gardens. I then had us walking southwest to the 21st century museum and northwest to Nagamachi and the samurai district. We would then walk north back to Kanazawa station. The entire tour was about 3 hours with frequent stops for photos.

We were a little worried about time since we had already booked our Shinkansen ride home. We opted to take a taxi to Omicho Market to speed things up. Japanese taxis are plentiful, clean with drivers that will try to speak a bit of English. Try out your Japanese and thank the driver when he or she gets you to your destination.

Omicho Market

50 Kamiomicho, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken, Japan 920-0905

Entrance to Omicho Market Kanazawa Japan

This is a lively covered food market which has been in operation since 1721. Its nickname is “Kanazawa’s kitchen.” There are well over 100 different stores selling seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, etc. There are also a number of grocery stores, clothing stores, flowers stalls, and restaurants. The market is vibrant and a great place to explore Kanazawa’s food and drink culture.

We were not exactly sure we were in the right place when we arrived.

Signs in English and Japanese on the way to Kanazawa Castle Park Kanazawa Japan

Depending on the route you take, you may see signs like this. It’s a popular place and signage is available along many side streets.

Fish vendors in Omicho Market Kanazawa Japan

Fish is definitely for sale here.

Covered shopping at Omicho Market Kanazawa Japan

It is a covered market so you can stroll the aisles even if it’s raining. It was nice and sunny when we were here.

This market is less crowded than Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji and more spacious than Kyoto’s Nishiki. Tsukiji has now moved to a new location but still, the Tokyo market is very busy. The Omicho Market is packed with stalls selling locally caught seafood, as well as a good selection of fruit and vegetables and other Japanese foodstuffs. Nearby, there are plenty of restaurants where you can sample some of the stuff you see on sale.

Bull in the midst of Omicho Market Kanazawa Japan

We thought this cow was in the wrong market. I’m not sure of her significance since I can’t read the Japanese. It looks like something is being sold for 300 JPY so maybe it was ice cream or milk? Maybe one of our readers can help with the translation?

Kanazawa Castle

1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken, Japan 920-0937

First glimpse of entrance to Kanazawa Castle Park Kanazawa Japan

From the Omicho Market, we merely followed the signs although Google Maps was also agreeing which made the walk more comforting. Here you see one of the entrances to the grounds with sakura in bloom.

Beautiful sakura in bloom at entrance of Kanazawa Castle Park Kanazawa Japan

As we got closer to the entrance, we could see why so many people were coming to the castle. It was a chance to view the splendid sakura along with the beautiful mountain and castle.

Weeping sakura and families coming to enjoy the moment at Kanazawa Castle Park Kanazawa Japan

Here you can see some “weeping” sakura and people simply enjoying the beauty of the day. The castle grounds are still an important part of the history of Kanazawa.

From 1583 to the end of the Edo Period, Kanazawa Castle was the seat of the powerful Maeda Clan, a feudal domain ranking second only to the Tokugawa government leaders in Edo, now Tokyo, in terms of size and wealth. The castle burned many times over the centuries.

Closeup of large Ishikawamori Gate Kanazawa Castle Kanazawa Japan

After 1881 all that remained were two storehouses and the Ishikawa-mon Gate. The gate dates from 1788 and faces Kenrokuen. Although nothing remains of the original castle here, this park is well worth a visit to enjoy the greenery and the views in all directions. 

Closeup of sakura at Kanazawa Castle Park Kanazawa Japan

Here you can see the massive wall protecting the grounds with a large storehouse visible behind the sakura.

Snow covered mountain view from interior castle grounds at Castle Kanazawa Japan

The park is located on a hilltop and on clear days, you can see as far as Mt. Hakusan which rises over 9,000 feet. We walked around and took lots of pictures and climbed up the stairs for better views. After we visited, we headed south to Kenroku-en Garden

Wide shot of people enjoying sakura on tarp near Kenrokuen castle gardens at Castle Kanazawa Japan

The path to the garden was very crowded and we could see so many people enjoying the day. These people brought their tarps and had set themselves out for the day beneath the cherry blossoms. This shot is not even at the Kenroku-en Garden. This is a garden outside the castle walls and in front of the famous garden.

Madeline with sakura trees everywhere near Kenrokuen castle gardens at Castle Kanazawa Japan

On the way to the Kenroku-en Garden, there is a pathway with cherry trees everywhere. It seemed like time to stop for a photo. We then proceeded to the entrance to the garden.

Kenroku-en Garden

1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken, Japan 920-0936

Japanese lantern at edge of pond at Kenrokuen castle gardens at Castle Kanazawa Japan

The garden is in the same park as the castle, but most people come to the castle and do not know about this beautiful garden. Almost 29 acres large, this spacious garden forms the green heart of Kanazawa. The name means “six attributes garden,” which is a reference to a Chinese book that describes the six attributes of the perfect garden.

Sakura spread over stream and wooden bridge in Kenrokuen castle gardens at Castle Kanazawa Japan

There are pathways all over the gardens and you can wander about and enjoy the scenery. Here you see a little stream and a small bridge. People are just moving about and taking pictures of cherry blossoms.

Madeline and Paul with pond in background at Kenrokuen castle gardens at Castle Kanazawa Japan

The garden is ranked by the Japanese as one of the top three gardens in the country and it’s a fine place for a beautiful stroll. The other two gardens worth mentioning here are Kairaku-en in Mito and Koraku-en in Okayama. Kenroku-en is one of most beautiful gardens in Japan. It was founded during the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and extended over generations by the feudal lords of Ishikawa as a typical Daimyo (feudal lord) garden. The garden goes to great lengths to show a different view in each season.

We spent about an hour just wandering around and soaking in the beauty of the day in the garden. From here, we continued on to the 21st Century Museum of Art which was just a short walk away.

Torii and shops across the street for 21st century modern museum Kanazawa Japan

On the way, there was a group of shops with a torii indicating the entrance. We see these torii all over Japan and sometimes it represents an entrance to a shrine but other times, it is an entrance to shops. Maybe a small shrine was there too?

Paul with happy bear welcoming us to shops across the street for 21st century modern museum Kanazawa Japan

Since we saw the happy bear beckoning me to enter. I did peek in, but we were headed across the street to the art museum. You can also see the taxi sign in case we really got lost.

21st Century Museum of Art 

1-chome-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken, Japan 920-8509

People enjoying sculpture grounds at 21st century modern museum Kanazawa Japan

As we entered the sculpture grounds, we saw a woman in kimono with her child also dressed up getting ready to play in one of the sculptures on the property.

Multi colored sculpture grounds at 21st century modern museum Kanazawa Japan

This circular and light-filled museum focuses on art produced since 1980 and is heavy on installations, video and mixed-media pieces. The museum was designed by Sejima Kazuyo and Nishizawa Ryue, two architects who have received international acclaim.

There were plenty of indoor exhibits, but we primarily came to photograph the outside. There were many sculptures and exhibits outdoors that were both amusing and visually entertaining.

Nagamachi Samurai House Area

1-chōme-3 Nagamachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken, Japan 920-0865

Tea room with painted screen doors in Nomura Samurai House in Kanazawa -the only samurai house open to the public in Nagamachi district Kanazawa Japan

Nagamachi is a beautifully preserved historic area of Kanazawa that was once the residential district for the city’s samurai. It is a quietly beautiful part of the city with canals and stone-flagged winding lanes running between tile-topped walls. 

On the west side of the city, next to the Korinbo District, the Nagamachi Samurai House Area is a fine collection of preserved samurai houses located along two canals that run through the area. Several of the houses have been restored and you can peer into the entryway. The best way to explore the area is by heading north along the canal just behind the Korinbo 109 Building, then turning left at the first traffic light and then heading south along the next canal. 

The picture above is of a tearoom with painted screen doors in the Nomura Samurai House. At the time we visited, this house was the only samurai house open to the public in the Nagamachi district. When I did my research, I found several other houses that you could visit but they did not belong to samurai.

Ashigaru Shiryokan has two carefully reconstructed houses that belonged to the families of Kanazawa’s foot soldiers: the Takanishi family and the Shimizu family. The simplicity of these homes is an interesting contrast with the elegant residences of the high-ranking samurai.

The Kyu-Kaga Hanshi Takada Family House is a restored row-house with an appealing pathway through a garden that is spread around a peaceful pond. You will notice that the entrance to the house is a gate that is characteristic of the feudal samurai era.

Entrance of a samurai house in Nagamachi-the historical samurai district in Kanazawa Japan

However, you can still walk around like we did and take pictures of lots of the samurai houses in the area without worrying about entrance hours.

Samurai Class

Statue of the great samurai Kusunoki Masashige, famed Japanese samurai at the East Garden outside Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo Japan

The importance of the samurai cannot be underestimated. There were four main classes as designated by the emperor. The samurai were the highest-ranking class below the ruling class which included the shogun and the emperor. 

The above picture is of a statue at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan. Here is the great samurai Kusunoki Masashige. He is a famous Japanese samurai, and you can see him at the East Garden outside Tokyo Imperial Palace. We have many photos of Japanese samurai but when we were in Kanazawa, I was reminded about this warrior.

The samurai warrior class only made up only about 10% of the population but the samurai and their daimyo lords wielded enormous power. The samurai served the shogun, the military ruler. He was the most powerful daimyo. Although the shoguns controlled a large area, they ruled in the name of the emperor. The emperor, his family, and the court nobility had little power, but they were above the shogun. The emperor served as a figurehead for the shogun, and as the religious leader of Japan. Buddhist and Shinto priests and monks were above the four-tier system, as well.

The samurai warriors were respected by all. When a samurai passed, members of the lower classes were required to bow and show respect. If a farmer or artisan refused to bow, the samurai was legally entitled to chop off the recalcitrant person's head.

The Farmer and Peasant Class

Just below the samurai on the social ladder were the farmers or peasants. This might seem odd to a Westerner. According to Confucian ideals, farmers were superior to artisans and merchants because they produced the food that all the other classes depended upon. 

The Artisan Class

Artisans produced many beautiful and necessary goods, such as clothes, cooking utensils, and woodblock prints. However, they came in 3rd place because you needed food before you needed art.

Interestingly enough, the highly skilled samurai sword makers were in this third tier of society and without the samurai sword, the samurai would not be quite the same. The artisan class lived in its own section of the major cities, segregated from the samurai and from the lower merchant class.

The Merchant Class

Within the feudal Japanese society, the bottom rung was occupied by merchants, both traveling traders and shopkeepers. Merchants were not respected. They profited from the labor of the more productive peasant and artisan classes. 

Merchants were required to live in a separate section of each city and the higher classes were forbidden to fraternize with them except on business.

Kanazawa Summary

The entire day trip was 10 hours. That included two 3-hour train trips and the rest commuting to train stations or touring the city. We had about 3.5 hours of tour time in the city and that was plenty on foot. You could speed things up by taking a taxi or two. Buses are available everywhere, but we were not always sure about where they were going or when they would arrive at any bus stop. 

Taxis park at Kanazawa train station Kanazawa Japan

We recommend taxis when you need to get back quickly. Every taxi driver knows where the JR station is. This picture above are the many taxis you’ll find at the Kanazawa train station, but you’ll find taxis all over Japan. Your taxi driver will be wearing a suit and in many cases, white gloves!

We then returned north back to Kanazawa station for our return Shinkansen trip to Osaka and back to the Hyatt Regency Osaka. We hope you will have a chance to see the attractions in Kanazawa. We think you’d really enjoy it – particularly during sakura season!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!

Get the latest Go Go 2 Slow Go updates, news and offers delivered straight to your inbox.