Kanazawa is often described as ‘Little Kyoto’ – a fair comparison given the well preserved geisha neighbourhoods of wooden tea-houses, shops and temples. Much like it’s famous sibling to the south, Kanazawa made it through the war without too much damage, it’s historic districts still standing and remaining well-preserved to this day. What sets this modest city apart though is the lack of crowds, for now. It’s easy to imagine that you are centuries-ago as you waltz through the buildings in the Higashi Chaya district, or on the cobbles of Nagamachi, where samurai once lived, strolling along the very same canals. With the Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet train) now connecting Tokyo to this magnificent city, it won’t be long until the masses flock here – so be sure to beat them to it.
Kenrokuen is the undeniable star of Kanazawa’s show – the tranquil, green acres of this landscape garden go on forever, making it one of the best places in all of Japan to aimlessly wander and enjoy the well-manicured scenery. The trees and flowers fluctuate with the seasons, and even the ponds and bridges seem to shape-shift into new surroundings from winter to spring, from summer to autumn. With an abundance of traditional tea-houses, incredible museums and Kanazawa castle (a painstakingly reconstructed masterpiece) nearby, you could easily while away a day in the heart of this city. The centrally-located Omichi market, a true rival to Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji, is the best place to fill up on a fresh seafood lunch.
All the must-see attractions are linked by easy-to-grasp ‘loop buses’, starting and finishing at the grand facade of the refurbished railway station. This makes navigating the Kanazawa a straightforward affair compared to other similarly-sized cities. If the weather is fine, and you decide to walk, be sure to grab yourself the local speciality – gold-leaf coated ice cream!