Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture beside the Sea of Japan. Its importance grew from the 15th century when the Ikko and Maeda clans chose the town for their headquarters, and it came to rival Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) rival in cultural significance. In World War Two, Kanazawa was Japan’s second largest city after Kyoto to escape destruction by air raids, and significant parts of this old castle town have survived in good condition.
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Top things to do in Kanazawa
Discover the crafts of Kanazawa
Kanazawa and the surrounding area has a rich history of traditional crafts, including Kaga-yuzen silk dyeing, Kutani pottery, elegant lacquerware, and delicate gold leaf. At the Gold Leaf Museum in the Higashi-chaya district you can see the city's pride in its shimmering traditional craft, and you can see ephemeral wisps of gold leaf in everything from sake to cosmetics and cake. The name Kanazawa literally translates as 'golden marsh'. The production of gold leaf ('kinpaku' in Japanese) in Kanazawa began at the end of the 16th century, and the city now produces 99% of all domestic gold leaf - including the gold leaf used on Kyoto's iconic Golden Temple. Nearby is the Kutani Pottery Kosen Kiln, on the south side of the city in the Nishi-chaya area. The 140-year-old kiln has passed through four generations of skilled potters, and free English tours are available. The Kaga Yuzen Traditional Industry Centre, near Kenroku-en garden, is also worth visiting for the gorgeous kimono displays.
Visit the Kenroku-en garden
Kenroku-en was created in 1822 and is considered to be one of Japan's three most beautiful landscaped gardens. The name 'Kenroku-en' literally means 'Garden of the Six Sublimities', referring to the six attributes that make up a perfect garden: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. This garden used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and was constructed over a period of two centuries. It features various ponds, streams, waterfalls, bridges, teahouses, trees, stones and flowers. During the spring, cherry blossoms are wonderful here, followed by irises in the summer. By autumn, Japanese maples colour the garden with rich yellow, red, purple and brown.
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"The whole organisation worked incredibly well and we had a most informative and enjoyable visit. Yoshie Matsumoto must be the most outstanding guide in Japan. She was absolutely superb and added a great deal to our enjoyment."