Visit Kanazawa: The golden window to artisanal Japan

Kanazawa (Japanese:金沢市) is the capital city of the Ishikawa prefecture in Japan. Allow me to tell you a beautiful legend behind Kanazawa’s literal name of ‘The streams of gold’.

Once upon a time in the Nara period, there lived an honest young man by the name of Imohori Togoro. Imohori made a living by digging for yams and washing them in the streams. One night, a wealthy man’s daughter dreamt that she will marry a man named Imohori Togoro. Hunting down the love of her life, Imohori’s life was a complete 360 degrees turnaround after his marriage. Despite his newfound wealth, Imohori did not wish to live off his wife’s riches, but passionately hung on to his yam digging career. One day after a back-breaking day’s work in the scorching sun, Imohori revealed to his new wife that it was difficult enough to wash the soil of the yams and now he had a new enemy to contend with, gold flakes were holding on for dear life on the yams. Squealing with excitement, his wife hugged Imohori and reminded him to collect these treasured gold flakes from tomorrow onwards. Imohori continued to dig and wash yams for a living but made his wealth by pursuing the more lucrative business of collecting gold flakes from the streams. If you are interested in this legend, do visit the Fushimiji Temple, Kanazawa, to see the grave and statues of Imohori Togoro and his wife.

Welcome aboard the 2hr 28 min Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Kanazawa. As you gaze out of the shinkansen windows, your eyes will rest on Japanese cottages dotted on rice fields and clear blue streams flowing from the Nagano mountain ranges with heavy laden clouds hanging onto its mountain peaks. How charming and peaceful it was!

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As I arrive at Kanazawa, I was impressed by the futuristic Kanazawa Train station. I bet the designer was thinking of a samurai helmet when he designed the Kanazawa Train station. Kanazawa is famous for its samurais and hence one of the must see is the Nagamachi Samurai district. The Tsuzumi Gate was built in 2005.

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Can you spot the ornate star metal artwork on the ceiling of Kanazawa train station?

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If this is your first visit to Japan, do visit my related article on Taking In Tokyo as a Japan first-timer for practical tips.

Kanazawa is a perfect blend of old and new Japan. In June 2009, Kanazawa was awarded UNESCO’s Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art. Kanazawa is also located near the mountains and the sea. The foodie in me is immediately drawn to the delicious fresh sashimi and seafood of Kanazawa. If you are a foodie, appreciates Japanese artisanal craft works or looking for an affordable modern city to base yourself for 3-4 days, Kanazawa would be a perfect fit. Kanazawa is also an ideal base to explore the famous historic Takayama (高山市 Takayama-shi) city and Shirakawa-go (白川郷Shirakawagō) village. Throngs of tourists are starting to discover the wonders of Kanazawa, so don’t be the last ones to see the golden city of Kanazawa!

During our trip, we always make it a point to stay within 10 min walking distance from the Shinkansen station. We stayed at Hotel MyStays Kanazawa for two nights. After checking into our hotel, we ventured out to downtown Kanazawa to look for lunch. I have set my heart on feasting at the Morimori Sushi restaurant in the Omicho market.

After a good 21-minute walk, we reached the Omicho market. There were many vendors of vegetables, fruits and seafood at the Omicho market. The goods were certainly cheaper than that of Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, Tokyo.

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After hunting for the Morimori sushi restaurant within the Omicho market for about 5 minutes, we finally spotted the restaurant’s Japanese signboard. What a relief to our growling stomachs!

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Here’s some of the pictures of the sushi we ate. I know the pictures weren’t particularly dissimilar to a typical conveyor belt sushi restaurant in the West. I think this is the best conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Japan. Kanazawa is truly a hidden gem for seafood lovers as the seafood is super-fresh and affordable! I remembered comparing the tuna (Japanese: maguro) sushi of varying fattiness. Alas… I do not have any photos to proof this! Again, as we were so hungry, our chopsticks were faster than my camera. But, I have got a photo of the stacked empty plates at the very least! Luckily, I remembered my camera just before we devoured these yummylicious fried shrimps. Ooo… The shrimps were truly amazing. If only I could figure out how to make these fried shrimps.I am still dreaming of eating these shrimps one day.

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After lunch, we walked towards the Kanazawa castle. Do you like these old Japanese buildings? I think they are truly charming.

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We entered Kanazawa Castle through the Kuro-mon entrance.

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I love the artistic majestic blend of wood and stone of the castle and its ornate archways.

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Our next stop is the Kenrokuen garden next to the Kanazawa castle. Kenrokuen Garden is one of the 3 most beautiful gardens in Japan. It’s the season for purple irises in a garden adorned with Japanese pine trees. img_2781

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I also visited a plum grove with unripe plums hanging down its branches.

 

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I am attracted to the gardeners in straw hats. How lovely! I’m truly spoiled for choice on Instagrammable delights!

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I wished I could visit the Shiguretei tea house from the Edo period but it was not open for business.

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Outside the Kenrokuen garden, there were many ice cream shops. I ignored these temptations. My heart was set on visiting the famous hole-in-the-wall softserve icecream shop, Kyokusuien (曲水案), located under a flight of stairs at the base of the hill leading up to the Ishikawamon (石川門) Gate of Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen. We nearly gave up looking for these “no where in sight” stairs. Finally, we found the cleverly hidden ice cream shop underneath a kimono rental shop. Each regular cones cost 350 Yen and the waffle cone will set you back at 400 Yen. I think we ate at least two ice-creams each. I love the sakura (さくら) and matcha (抹茶) ice-cream. Kyokusuien’s ice-cream certainly will beat the touristy gold leaf ice cream hands down.

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If your legs can still carry you further for more adventures, I recommend that you visit the Nomura samurai house to learn about the samurai culture. Go to Kanazawa Crafts Hirosaka to view or purchase fine example of artisanal craftworks of Kanazawa Kutani pottery, Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing for making esquisite kimonos, gold leaf artworks, lacquerware for tea ceremony, Kaga embriodery and Kanazawa wagasa (traditional japanese bamboo and paper unbrellas). Do remember to leave some space in your luggage for other Japanese souvenirs!

Thanks for your time. If you are aware of great eats and hidden gem must sees in Kanazawa, do let me know. I hope you will follow Dreamplifly as I eat my way around Japan. I love Japan. Next stop is Takayama. Greetings from Kanazawa with love! Sayonara!

Must eats

  • Morimori sushi (at Omicho market)
    Signature dish: Fatty tuna and fried shrimps

          Address88 Aokusamachi, Kanazawa 920-0907,Ishikawa prefecture.

  • Kyokusuien (曲水案)
    Signature dish: matcha and sakura ice cream

          Address: 1st floor, 2-13 Kenroku-machi Kanazawa-shi Ishikawa-ken 920-0936.

Practical Tips

  • Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • Best Time to Visit: May or November to avoid the mad tourist crush!
  • Getting around:  Walk or take the Kanazawa loop bus

See http://www.kanazawa-tourism.com/eng/guide/guide3.php for further details on Kanazawa Loop Bus.

 

 

 

 

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