Kanazawa has many sightseeing spots for adults to enjoy, such as fresh seafood from the Hokuriku region and a townscape with a sense of history.
Here we introduce some of the best sightseeing spots in Kanazawa that you should visit.
Kanazawa is a city that retains traces of the Edo period, including Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle, Omicho Market, and the ruins of samurai residences.
The city also has modern museums, stylish cafes, and a world-class gourmet scene.
Most of the best things to do in Kanazawa are in a central area making it very easy to visit and get around town.
The station is also close by, so public transportation is sufficient for sightseeing.
Kenrokuen Garden, built and completed by successive lords of the Maeda family of the Kaga domain, is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Kairakuen Garden in Mito and Korakuen Garden in Okayama, and symbolizes the aesthetic sense of Kaga during its prosperous times, and the great feudal lords.
It is a popular sightseeing spot that visitors to Kanazawa absolutely must visit.
It is said that Kenrokuen began in 1676 when Tsunanori Maeda, the fifth lord of the Kaga Domain, built the Lotus Pond Pavilion on the slope facing Kanazawa Castle and created a garden around it.
Since then, successive lords of the domain up to the 14th generation spent approximately 180 years creating this beautiful and unsurpassed garden in its present form.
- There are approximately 8,200 trees of about 160 species in the vast park,
- It takes an hour and a half to 3 hours to tour the entire area.
- Kenrokuen was awarded three stars by the Michelin Green Guide Japon in 2009, the highest rating possible
Kanazawa Castle Park
Here you can visit the faithfully reconstructed sections of Kanazawa castle and think back to the era when the Kaga area was one of the most prestigious and prosperous in Japan.
The must-visit Kanazawa Castle has been open to the public as Kanazawa Castle Park since 1996. Most of the buildings were destroyed by fire, but the Ishikawa Gate and Sanjiken Nagaya still remain.
The so-called water chestnut turret, the row houses, and the Hashizume-mon Tsuguzuki Yagura Gate turret have also been restored as faithfully as possible based on old maps and other information, allowing visitors to relive the days of old.
Inside you can see some of the impressive woodworking skills employed in the reconstruction and even get hands-on with some of the wooden joins exhibited as you put them together yourself.
While Kenrokuen Garden is the most famous garden in Kanazawa, Gyokusen-in-maru Garden on the other side of the castle is also an elegant and relaxing spot that displays the simple beauty of Japanese garden design.
The garden was created by Maeda Toshitsune, the third lord of the Kaga Domain, and was restored in 2015 to its original form just as it was when it was enjoyed by successive lords of the domain.
The garden is beautiful during the daytime and is illuminated every Friday, Saturday, and the day before a national holiday.
Step Into Kanazawa’s Kitchen At Omicho Market
The vibrant Omicho Market is known for its bustling atmosphere and fresh fish stalls have a history of 300 years.
It is the kitchen of Kanazawa citizens, where local customers and chefs go to get their hands on local produce such as fresh fish, Kaga vegetables, seasonal fruits, and meat.
Along with the delicious fresh seafood such as crab, bluefin tuna, and oysters, which are unique to the region, there is an ample choice of seafood restaurants offering seafood rice bowls and conveyor-belt sushi.
Many stores close in the evening, so we recommend enjoying breakfast or lunch.
- Some restaurants serve fresh sea urchins, oysters, and grilled skewers right on the spot.
- You can taste the freshest sea urchins and oysters
- Some restaurants offer grilled seafood skewers, which are grilled in front of the restaurant.
- For dessert, there are seasonal cut fruits and soft-serve ice cream topped with gold leaf.
Higashi Chaya District
Taking a stroll around the unforgettable Higashi Chaya is one of the best things to do in Kanazawa.
The most famous of Kanazawa’s three main well-preserved chaya teahouse districts is home to historical buildings and old streets that sweep you away to a different time.
Withing the nostalgic townscapes, there are many stylish cafes, galleries, and souvenir shops in renovated old tea houses known as machi-ya.
If you want to fully enjoy Kanazawa’s unique atmosphere, you can even take it up a notch and go for a stroll through the picturesque streets in a kimono.
There are also many kimono rental stores in the area, so you can easily slip back in time and get into the spirit of things.
Kazuemachi Chaya District
Kazuemachi Chaya Gai or Tea House Street is one of Kanazawa’s three teahouse districts located along the Asano River.
The streets consist of narrow alleys and buildings with intricate latticework and are lined with traditional restaurants and teahouses.
The most famous of these is the so-called Dark Slope, which was once used by masters as a way out to the flower district, and Light Slope, named by writer Hiroyuki Itsuki.
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
Next up on our list of the best things to do in Kanazawa is the fascinating 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
The concept of this unique contemporary museum is to be half park and half museum where residents are encouraged to drop by regularly to check out the hands-on artworks that are both indoors and outdoors.
The museum is an easy place to drop by, and its open, park-like atmosphere is very appealing. It is also gaining popularity as a photogenic spot. Admission to
the exchange space is free, so why not stop by with a camera in hand?
The Museum of Modern Art’s most well-known work is Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool. It is a much-talked-about work that makes you feel as if you are in a swimming pool.
- Another highlight is the cute Rabbit Chair
- At night, the space is stylishly different from that of daytime, and some works of art are illuminated.
- After viewing the artworks, be sure to stop by the museum’s café and museum shop.
Pro Tip: If you go directly to the collection exhibition, you will have to wait in a long line during busy periods, but if you buy a common ticket for 600 yen at the Noh Museum next door, you can bypass the ticket box and enter right away
Nishi Chaya District
This is one of the three major teahouse areas in Kanazawa and is Located away from the two others. It is the smallest teahouse district but has the largest number of geisha.
The wonderful Edo period teahouse-style buildings with their tasteful latticework still stand side by side with traditional Japanese-style restaurants and fascinating geisha houses.
At night, the pleasant sound of shamisen music coming from behind the lattice doors creates a peaceful atmosphere in the Kanazawa evening.
The area is also home to several popular Kanazawa souvenir stores selling cakes and other traditional delicacies.
Myoryu-Ji: The ninja Temple
Also known as Ninja Temple, Myoritsu-Ji Temple is full of illusions, tricks, hidden tunnels, and escape routes such as a money box that turns into a deep pit, a hidden staircase that appears when the floorboards are rolled up, and a well that is said to have provided a secret way to get to Kanazawa Castle.
At the time of the temple’s construction, the local lords were experiencing some tension with the Tokugawa Shogunate, and it is said that many devices were installed in preparation for an attack.
The exterior of the temple appears to be two stories high, but it is actually seven stories high, with a whopping 23 rooms and 29 staircases.
A guide will lead you through the maze-like interior and give you a tour in Japanese however advanced reservation is required.
Feel the Zen At The D. T. Suzuki Museum
This highly unique Museum was established to deepen the understanding of Japanese Zen philosophy as it was practiced by D. T. Suzuki.
Suzuki was instrumental in introducing and sharing the concepts of Japanese Zen Buddhism with the west.
It consists of three buildings and three gardens: Entrance, the Exhibition, and the Contemplation Space Buildings and the Entrance, the Water Mirror, and the Outdoor Garden.
The view of the contemplative space building floating in the shallow water of the garden is often featured in the media and is the ideal form of minimalist zen style.
Nagamachi Samurai District
Kanazawa prospered as the castle town known as Kaga during the Edo period, and even today you can see many buildings that remind you of its proud and rich history.
Among them, the beautifully restored samurai residences are the most strongly reminiscent of those days. This fascinating area, once inhabited by Kaga clan warriors, is now one of the best places to spend your time in Kanazawa.
The immaculate samurai residences and stunning gardens offer a glimpse into the life of the Kaga clan’s samurai at the time when it was one of the most powerful domains in the archipelago.
Nomura samurai residence
The extensive Naga-machi Buke Yashiki old Samurai Residences site is an intriguing area where the middle-class samurai of the once mighty Maeda Clan lived.
It has long been known as one of Kanazawa’s most popular attractions and the surprisingly beautiful Nomura samurai residence is open to the public.
As you enter and wander around you can get a fascinating look into samurai culture.
Kanazawa Phonograph Museum
The fascinating Kanazawa Phonograph Museum has an extensive collection of phonographs from Europe, America, and Japan.
The gorgeous items on display were donated by a Phonograph enthusiast from Kanazawa and the best part is being able to hear the beautiful sounds.
There are only a few exhibits on the first floor, but many phonographs and SP records are displayed on the second and third floors along with some antique radio consoles.
Recently, the softness of the sound of LP records has been reevaluated and more and more people want to listen to LP records.
The highlight of the event is a listening comparison of 10 phonographs, which is held only three times a day.
Ishikawa Prefectural Art Museum
Another one of Kanazawa’s great art museums is the small but impressive Ishikawa Museum Of Art has a collection of masterpieces from Japanese antiques to modern Japanese paintings, with a focus on arts and crafts associated with Ishikawa Prefecture.
The museum exhibits works of art that have been handed down in the Maeda family of the Kaga domain, as well as modern and contemporary crafts, paintings, and sculptures by Ishikawa Artists.
Be sure to check out the various special exhibitions that are on when you visit.
Kanazawa Station is the gateway to Kanazawa most likely the first thing you will see once you arrive at Kanazawa.
The massive Kozumon Gate, which was designed in the motif of a drum sits right out the front and has quickly established itself as a symbol of Kanazawa.
It’s not hard to see why the station was selected as one of the Most Beautiful Stations in the World.
The unusual Oyama Shrine, built in 1873, is dedicated to Lord Maeda Toshiie, the founder of the Kaga Domain, and his wife Omatsu no Mata.
The main attraction of Oyama Shrine is the Western-style Shinto gate that was designed by a dutch architect, a rarity in Japan.
With its stained glass windows, it looks like a church even though it is well and truly a Japanese shrine.
While the Shinmon Gate during the day is attractive, at night gate is illuminated, giving it a fantastic appearance.
It also has a small but lovely garden on its grounds.
The beautiful Seisonkaku was built by Maeda Nariyasu, the 13th lord of Kaga, and was originally located next to Kenrokuen Garden.
The inside of the building is as gorgeous as the outside and of particular note is the audience hall which is as luxurious as that of a feudal lord.
It is such a unique setting that only reminds you of the wealth of the Kaga domain during its zenith. The blue room on the second floor called the “Shomi-no-Ma” is also very beautiful but please note that photos are not allowed.
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts
Kanazawa is very famous thought Japan in the field of traditional crafts and the excellent Ishikawa Museum of Traditional Crafts brings together 36 of these traditional crafts in one location.
Kaga Yuzen, Kutani ware, and Wajima lacquerware are just some of the traditional crafts on display at this fascinating museum conveniently located on the grounds of Kenrokuen.
To share the beauty of traditional crafts, the small museum holds special exhibitions and offers a variety of programs such as demonstrations, workshops, and seminars.
The outstanding techniques and beauty of these works are all worth seeing.
Yuwaku Onsen Hot Springs
With a history of 1,300 years, the majestic Yuwaku Onsen is well known as the place where the Taisho-era painter Takehisa Yumeji stayed and loved.
This charming and peaceful hot spring town in the mountains, and is lovingly called Kanazawa’s “back seat”.
The name of the hot spring village comes from the fact that a farmer saw an egret soaking itself in the spring one day and approached it to discover that hot water was gushing out of it.
The clear, colorless water is mildly alkaline salt spring water that is gentle on the skin and is said to be effective for rheumatism and neuralgia.
At the far end of the hot spring resort area is Gyokusen Lake, picturesque where a walking trail has been developed.
At Lake Gyokusen, you can see its famous fireflies in the summer in June and July.
More Things To Do In Kanazawa And Ishikarikawa Prefecture
Deleted: Kanazawa is an amazing city packed full of so many world-class things to see and do. Here are even more ideas for your trip to Kanazawa.
- Take a local train to Kaga Onsen with its four hot spring towns
- Take an early morning stroll around Kenrokuen and Kanazawa castle when its free entry to the park
- Shop for souvenirs at the wonderful Kanazawa train station
- Visit the Gold Leaf Museum and learn about this traditional Kanazawa craft
- Head to the city center for a meal and a night out in the town
How to get to Kanazawa City
The Shinkansen bullet train is the most convenient way to get to Kanazawa from most parts of Japan. Kanazawa Station can be reached from any of the three major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka in about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
- From Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen “Hakutaka” or “Kagayaki” train
- From Osaka Station, take the “Limited Express Thunderbird” train;
- From Nagoya Station, transfer to the Tokaido Shinkansen “Hikari” or “Kodama” train to Maibara Station and change to the “Limited Express Shirasagi” train to arrive at Kanazawa Station.
As you can see, visiting Kanazawa, the capital city of the Ishikawa prefecture is easy from both the Kanto and Kansai regions and is a great alternative route between Tokyo and Kyoto to extend your travel outside the standard Tokaido route.
Kanazawa Travel Guides
Before our trip to Kanazawa, we used several resources to plan. The best of these resources in English was The official visit Kanazawa website run by Kanazawa City’s tourism department. The site has good introductions and photos of most of the places to visit and is a good place to check before putting together an itinerary.
Along with the Visit Kanazawa site, the other good resource we found that helped us was Japanvisor’s Kanazawa Travel Guide which was a great rundown of all the best things to see and do along with some interesting info and knowledge that we didn’t see in other sources.