Kanazawa, located in Ishikawa prefecture, is often considered to be a local getaway that can be rivalled to Kyoto’s beauty. And when I first saw Kanazawa, I was pleased to find that not only did it rival to Kyoto’s beauty, but also because not as many tourists flock to this ancient city, its beauty was left unmarred by the human traffic. Moreover, the weather in Kanazawa is constantly cooler than in Tokyo, perhaps because its proximity to the sea. So when we went, while it was not quite autumn yet in Tokyo, it was already fall in Kanazawa, and the ancient town was dressed in vibrant splashes of reds and yellows. I absolutely love everything about Kanazawa, from the weather to its historical architecture. It is also relatively convenient to get to Kanazawa from Tokyo or Osaka via Hokuriku Shinkansen, which takes only two and a half hours. However, its bus map is impossible to decipher for a tourist. Even my bae had a hard time with it.
After visiting so many shrines, temples, and castles, I have to admit that they are starting to look the same to me, so I was glad to see that aside from the usual temples and castles, Kanazawa is also famed for its historical streets. The reason for its well-preserved historical streets is due to the fact that Kanazawa was the second largest city after Kyoto to escape destruction by World War II air raids.
A Teahouse District where Geishas entertain, Higashi Chayagai
I visited the Higashi Chaya District (東茶屋街, Higashi Chayagai) and the Nagamachi (長町), both beautiful and interesting in their own ways. The Higashi Chaya District is a historic chaya (teahouse) street where rich clients were entertained by geishas. Now, most of the teahouses have been reformed into shops or restaurants, but there are two teahouses remain open to the public during the day.
The Most luxurious Golden Tea Ceremony Room
Kanazawa is also known for its gold leaf products, and you can find all sorts of gold leaf merchandise here, from golden plates to soft serve ice-cream wrapped in gold leaf. But have you seen a golden tea ceremony room? This ostentatious tearoom can be found right in Higashi Chaya District. Hakuza not only sells a wide array of gold leaf products, but also displays a tea ceremony room covered entirely in gold leaf!
Best Japanese Croquette at Ville de Croquette
And for a quick yummy snack, don’t miss the shop specialising in korokke (Japanese croquette) called Ville de Croquette at the very entrance of Higashi Chaya District. It is a very popular shop, with a long queue snaking outside of the small shop despite the cold. As I love korokke, we decided to queue for it. Every korokke is freshly fried on order, so while the wait may be about 15-20 minutes long, it was well-worth it especially on a frigid autumn day.
There were many interesting flavours, including some that are coated in rice puff batter instead of the usual bread crumbs, but I ordered a cheese korokke, for I love cheese. The cheese was wonderfully melty and gooey, a delightful contrast from the crunchy batter. It was the best korroke I’ve ever had, so if you ever visit Kanazawa, you must definitely drop by this shop to try their croquettes!
A District only for the Brave and Loyal Samurai, Nagamachi
Nagamachi (長町) is a former samurai district, where samurais and their families used to live. These preserved samurai houses are located along two canals that run through the area. The canals also retain an antiquated feel with their wooden railings. Strolling in these places made me feel like I was in a historical-themed anime that came to life, and I felt really blissful to just amble along the cobbled street lined with centuries-old wooden houses.
Some of the ancient houses have been restored to their original conditions and you can visit them, mostly for a small fee though. There are two buildings that are free to enter, Ashigaru Shiryokan Museum, a small museum consisting of two reconstructed houses belonging to ashigaru, the lowest ranking samurai class, and Kaga Hanshi, which was once a stable for horses. Surprisingly, Kaga Hanshi has a very lovely Japanese landscaped garden to stroll in.
Kenrokuen, One of Japan’s Three Most Beautiful Landscape Gardens
Kenrokuen (兼六園) is one of Japan’s “three most beautiful landscape gardens”, but the garden did little to impress me. Isuien Garden in Nara was so much more captivating to me. It is big and spacious though, with a small lovely stone bridge across a huge pond, and had the weather been good when I visited it, I might have loved the place. When we left the garden, we dropped by the Kanazawa Castle (金沢城, Kanazawajō) which was just adjacent to the garden, but it was closing so unfortunately we missed the chance to explore it.
In retrospect, the weather probably really spoiled the garden, and it is probably much more beautiful than what I had seen, so I definitely want to return to Kanazawa again to revisit the garden, and of course, traipse through the beautiful historical streets.