Are you pondering where to visit for your next trip to Japan? Although Japan is not a ridiculously vast country like Russia it has countless spots for you to explore. Needless to say, every spot has its features and I am sure that those who have visited Japan will definitely visit it for the second time. So, where are you planning to go? Tokyo? Osaka? Kyoto? Hokkaido? No, no, no, all these places are too common and touristy. There are lot more hidden gems waiting for you to discover. Guess where they are? In Kanazawa! Know why? I will tell you!
Kenrokuen Garden or 兼六園 is among the top 3 most beautiful landscape gardens in all of Japan alongside Mito’s Kairakuen and Okayama’s Karakuen. It used to be the garden of Kanazawa Castle and luckily, it was opened to public in 1874. 兼六園 literally means Garden of the Six Sublimities. The six sublimities include seclusion, antiquity, spaciousness, abundant water, artificiality and broad views. Due to cultural influence from China, the Japanese too believe that these six elements are essential for making a perfect garden. This explains why Kenrokuen Garden is also called the Garden of the Six Sublimities.
One more fact that may appeal to you is, Kenrokuen Garden is SURPRISINGLY DIFFERENT in every season. During spring, it is an ideal place to soak yourself in the world of Sakura while in the summer, it has a view with stunning greenery. In the autumn, it is one of the top rated places for fall foliage and most importantly during winter, a device called yuki-tsuri will be used to “cover” the trees, making them protected by this “umbrella” (as shown in the picture above). Yuki-tsuri literally means “snow support” and its function is to prevent the branches from breaking due to over-accumulation of snow in winter. Yes! Every tree is precious and must be “protected”!
Kanazawa was a base for the Maeda Clan, ruled by Lord Maeda Toshiie. The Maeda Clan was one of the most powerful samurai families in Japan, that governed the Kaga area (presently known as Toyama and Ishikawa) for 286 years! Just a walking distance from Kenrokuen Garden, there lies a historical building for history enthusiasts, namely Kanazawa Castle.
Due to wars, it stood through numerous fires since its establishment until the latest fire in 1881. As a result, it had been undergoing a “burnt and rebuilt” cycle over the years. But don’t worry! Most of the destroyed buildings were rapidly reconstructed back to their original condition using the original methods and materials. So, what you see is exactly the same as how things look like before the fires.
This should be in your itinerary! Remember I said Kenrokuen Garden was the garden of Kanazawa Castle? There is no reasons for you to eat the “appetizer” and leave without trying the “main course”!
Swim without getting wet? Is that even possible? It is possible in Kanazawa! After your visit the Kanazawa castle, just go to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art which is only a few steps away from the Castle!
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art exhibits contemporary artworks done by artists from both Japan and foreign countries. And even the museum itself is a piece of art! The building is round in shape with transparent walls and doesn’t have a main entrance. There are 5 entrances in total and the museum is accessible from any of them.
The good news here is that the museum is partially free! You can visit it for free except for some exhibitions. Not into art? It’s okay, the museum has a popular exhibition, the “swimming pool”. The swimming pool actually has a space under its transparent ceiling filled with water. When someone is seen from the top, it looks like the person can walk freely underwater. With this trick, everybody can claim to be an expert diver!
Have been dreaming of becoming a millionaire? Unfortunately, luck is not always on our side. But wait! There is a place in Kanazawa that can fulfill your dream – Higashi Chaya District! Chaya is a teahouse where people usually see geisha performances. Kanazawa has three main chaya districts, with Higashi Chayagai being the largest and the other two are Nishi Chayagai and Kazuemachi.
In fact, Kanazawa has been well known for its gold leaf production since the ancient times. It contributes approximately 95% to the gold leaf industry in Japan. Even the golden temple in Kyoto is covered in Kanazawa gold! In Higashi Chaya district, you can find many restaurants serving food topped with real gold leaf, be it a cake or even an Ice-cream!
It may be a little costly as a single golden ice-cream will cost you 800 to 1000 yen but it is still quite affordable for such a rare food. Once you get it don’s forget to snap it and post on a social medias. Your friends and family are going to be astonished by your lavishness. Oh, these millionaire habits of yours!
Hide and seek in a temple? Seriously? Well not really, let me clarify it: you can’t play hide and seek here but it would be great if the temple authorities allowed it. What’s so special about this temple, you might ask? Well, would you believe me if I told you that this temple was actually a military outpost? It has countless deceptive defences including hidden tunnels, hidden doors, secret rooms, traps… I give up! Too many “secrets” to list.
Oh, and did I mention its name? The temple is called Myoryuji Temple. Other than serving as a place of worship for Lord Maeda Toshiie, the ruler of the Maeda Clan, this temple was also built as a lookout post. In the event of an attack, the defender would notify his lord through the secret tunnel which provides a quick access to the castle. On top of that, the temple was also “armed” with secret mechanisms which were designed to prevent enemy invasion. This is why Myoryuji Temple is also sometimes referred to as Ninja Temple.
Impressive, isn’t it? Kanazawa is located very nearby Osaka and Kyoto. It can be easily accessed by public transportation. A new Shinkansen route from Tokyo to Kanazawa has also just launched recently. Other than Shinkansen, travelling to Kanazawa by bus is also an option to consider for budget travelers. If you think you don’t have much time in Japan, having a 1 day trip to Kanazawa is enough. If you think you can afford to spend more days in the city, go explore Hida Takayama and Shirakawago as well! A kind reminder, Kanazawa can be freezing cold in winter since its strategic location makes it receive heavy snowfalls every year. So, pack and dress accordingly to the season!
Discover Shirakawago, Gifu prefecture