I know for a fact that Kanazawa isn’t somewhere people think of when planning their trips to Japan. I know this because I was born and raised in Tokyo and had only heard of the place. I had no clue about the history of the city, let alone where it was on the map (shameful I know but see below)! Turns out my Father had spent two years in Kanazawa for college before transferring to Tokyo and it’s been a hot spot for domestic travel the past few years! From Tokyo station, we took the bullet train and traveled for 2.5 hours.
Kenroku-En (Garden) – The garden, also known as the Six Attributes Garden is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. It’s said to have been developed around 1620 (thank you, Wikipedia) and about 25 acres. We visited on a crisp winter day and I was stunned. There was still plenty of green and the trees were prepped for the snowy weather that’s to come around January. As you can see in the pictures, they tie branches with rope to the top of the tree so that the snow doesn’t weigh down the branches causing them to break. Absolutely stunning and a must-visit.
Gild (gold) Ice Cream – This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip! Kanazawa is known for gild, which is basically thin gold. They have a gild museum, several souvenir shops that specialize in gilded items but obviously my favorite was gilded food! When I spotted someone taking a selfie with this ice cream, I knew I had to have it. Yes, it was expensive for a soft-serve ice cream (890 yen = about $10 USD) but let’s not forget you’re paying for real gold!
Buke-Yashiki (Nomura Samurai House) – This is the actual home of the Nomura family, one of the wealthiest samurai families during the Edo Period. Their home has been kept up and is now available for viewing for a small admission fee. The house displays several artifacts found in their home but most well known for their garden. This garden received 2 Michelin Stars and is a sight to be seen. The garden tells a story and depicts the classic Japanese garden to perfection.
Seafood / Crab – The seafood in Japan is generally of utmost quality but Kanazawa and the next-door city Toyama are known for their seafood, especially crabs. While I’m actually not a crab fan (I know, it’s blasphemous), I do love seafood. There’s an indoor shopping district about a 5 minute bus ride from the Kanazawa station that’s lined up with seafood shops and restaurants. It’s kind of like the Pike Place Market in Seattle (see post here) but 5 times bigger! We chose a random restaurant to grab lunch and more than enjoyed this bowl chock full of fresh fish for just under 1,500 yen (about $15 USD). Oh and of course we had to stop by for some quick tasters of oysters and sea urchin!
If it weren’t for my family, I would have never even thought of going to Kanazawa and I now know I would have missed out. It’s not too big of a tourist spot but also not too small that it’s not foreigner friendly. If you have been to Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and the likes and looking for a unique spot, or you want a quick weekend trip, I would highly recommend Kanazawa! Here’s to discovering unlikely places!