Kanazawa (金沢市, Kanazawa-shi) is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture in the Hokuriku region of Japan. Bordered by the Sea of Japan, the city has become a commercial center and transportation hub but retains a fine reputation for its traditional handicrafts. In particular, Kanazawa accounts for 99% of the country’s high quality gold leaf production, and the delicate material is used throughout local crafts and even in food.
In 2015, Japan Rail started operating its Shinkansen bullet train service to Kanazawa, reducing the trip time from Tokyo to a mere 2.5 hours. The easy access as a day-trip from the capital has made Kanazawa a popular destination for domestic tourists as well. One of the few cities to be spared during the WWII bombing raids, much of its original architectural heritage remains intact today.
Oyama Shrine (尾山神社, Oyama-jinja) is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of a powerful local clan and is most known for its unusual gate, designed by a Dutch architect. While the base uses influences of Chinese and Japanese origin, the upper floor features a dutch Dutch style using stained glass windows and once served as a lighthouse. It originally guarded the entrance to the palace of Kanazawa Castle before being moved to its current location at the shrine.
Higashi Chaya District
A chaya, or teahouse, is a traditional (and very exclusive) type of restaurant where guests are entertained by geisha performing song and dance, popularized during Japan’s Edo period. There are three well-preserved chaya districts in Kanazawa, with the Higashi Chaya District (東茶屋街) being the largest and most picturesque. Today many of the teahouses have been converted into store fronts or museums, but the narrow laneways retain their charm and intimacy. Among the cafes and shops are handicraft stores that specialize in gold leaf, including one with a tea ceremony room entirely covered with gold leaf.
Seat of the powerful Maeda Clan, Kanazawa Castle (金沢城, Kanazawajō) was the center of power in feudal Kaga. The castle itself has burnt down several times, most recently in 1881, but efforts have been underway to restore some of the former buildings. The Ishikawa-mon Gate, facing adjacent Kenrokuen park, is one of the few remaining original structures. Reconstruction of the two castle turrets and a long connecting storehouse were done using original techniques and materials. A stroll through the grounds at dusk is an atmospheric way to experience the area.