Essential KANAZAWA: Must for Lovers of Japanese History and Culture
Having always had an interest in history, a friend recommended that I should visit Kanazawa. A quick Google search had me chomping at the bit to see all Kanazawa had to offer, so I made it the first stop on my trip to Japan. Arriving at Tokyo Station, I quickly boarded a bullet train heading for Kanazawa. This was my first time riding on a bullet train, and the speed was incredible. I arrived in Kanazawa Station around 11 and was relieved by the more laid-back atmosphere.
Across from the entrance to the bullet train platform were a plethora of shops, ranging from stores selling a selection of Kanazawa’s most famous goods to the tourist information center, where I got my luggage shipped ahead to my hotel, and bought an all-day ticket for the bus! There was an English window, and I had no trouble shipping my bags or purchasing the ticket. The person behind the counter even pointed me towards some pamphlets detailing the many tourist spots in Kanazawa, map included. Relieved of my luggage, I headed out of the station, bus ticket and pamphlets in hand and found myself in the shadow of a Tsuzumimon gate! The scale alone was enough to take your breath away.
Omicho Market (Lunch)
Hopping on the bus, I already had my first stop in mind: Omicho market. Thankfully, the market is only a few stops from the station. Omicho was bustling with customers and merchants alike and everywhere I looked there were delectable looking foods just begging to be tried. The first store I stopped at, I got a fresh baked crab croquette, which I quickly followed with a deep-fried fish cake (Agemaruten) from a few stalls down. Both were delicious, and I could hardly wait for them to cool down before devouring them. Having not quite satisfied my appetite, I went to a restaurant on the second floor, where I ordered a Kaisendon, a bowl of rice topped with various cuts of sashimi.
Kaisendon is like a platter of all the seafood hallmarks: salmon, shrimp, eel, octopus, this bowl has it all and is a great way to sample a lot of different seafood in one meal. The juices of each of the fish drip into the bed of rice flavoring it as you eat, allowing you to savor the taste of a fish even long after it’s gone.
Having my fill of seafood, I got back on the bus and headed towards Kenrokuen Garden, a massive garden right next to Kanazawa castle. The plants were starting to get the tinge of red that the start of fall brings, but Kenrokuen Garden was still mostly an ocean of green. Cutting swaths between the trees was a network of small creeks reaching throughout the park like the roots of a massive tree. The streams flow into larger bodies of water, which provide a shimmering reflection of the surrounding greenery, and I spent a lot of time exploring these areas of Kenrokuen Garden. Near one of these ponds was a natural fountain, which I found to be particularly interesting since it relied purely on a difference in elevation between itself and the pond to spray water into the air at nearly double my height. The garden itself is several centuries old, with some of the trees themselves being well over one hundred years old. A lot of these older trees have grown so large that the branches require support from wooden posts. Looking at the curving path these branches cut through the air was fascinating, and goes to show how carefully manicured the grounds are.
Kanazawa Castle, Tea Ceremony
Exiting the garden, I found myself on the other side of a bridge leading into Kanazawa castle. I eagerly crossed the bridge admiring the massive gate I found myself approaching. The interior of the castle walls was just as impressive, including a well maintained courtyard, a moat, various storehouses, and several other gates. I made sure to visit all of the gates, each of which has its own unique flourishes and designs.
Strolling through the castle, I eventually arrived at my next destination, Gyokusen’inmaru Garden. In the center of which is a large pond surrounded by rolling hills dotted with rocks and vibrant pine trees. Across the tranquil surface of the pond rests a quaint teahouse, where I ended up having some hand-made green tea paired with an autumn inspired piece of Wagashi, Japanese Traditional Sweets. Sitting on the tea house’s veranda, I enjoyed the warmth and flavor of my tea while looking over the Garden. The piece of Wagashi complemented the slight bitterness of the tea, and its autumn inspired colors contrasted beautifully with the scenery outside the veranda. I took as much time as I could making sure to drink in my surroundings as slowly as my tea.
Nagamachi Samurai District, Nomura Residence
After finishing my green tea experience, I took a pleasant walk towards the Nagamachi Samurai District. This area of Kanazawa is famous for being the place where many Samurai lived centuries ago. Stepping into this district is like stepping back in time several hundred years, with stone roads lined with traditional looking walls as far as the eye can see. Glimpses of the houses peeking out from over the wall leaves a strong impression of how important the houses' former residents were.
Towards the end of the district is Nomura Residence, a house restored from the Edo period. The house was filled with all sorts of displays including intricately crafted door handles, weapons, and currency of the era. I especially enjoyed seeing the door handles and the wood carvings above the doors with their beautiful designs, but by far the most impressive part of the house was the garden. The interior of the house already felt bigger on the inside than the outside, but the garden reinforced that feeling tenfold. The garden was overflowing with all sorts of plantlife, and even had a stream full of Koi fish. Heading into the second floor of the house only led to a more encompassing view of the garden than the porch lining its perimeter.
Having finished exploring every corner of the Nomura Residence, I headed towards the bus stop. It had been a few hours since my meal at Omicho market, and I was starting to get hungry. As I walked, I searched the Internet for a place to eat dinner. Scrolling through all the options Kanazawa had to offer only made me hungrier. I quickened my pace, eager to see what Kanazawa had in store for me next.