Kanazawa, the capital city of Ishikawa, straddles comfortably and confidently between history and modernity. Case in point: the Higashi Chaya District, a row of traditional tea houses whose interiors are stylish souvenir shops. Or take for instance the Kanazawa Noh Museum which utilizes interactive visuals and ancient masks that have been passed down for generations to educate people about Noh theater. This is not forgetting that it proudly presents the grandeur of Kenrokuen Garden – incidentally one of Japan’s top three gardens – and the treasure trove of seafood delicacies at Omicho Market! With its diverse tourist attractions appealing to visitors of varied tastes, Kanazawa is sure to offer you a great time when it comes to shopping for its notable souvenirs cover a broad spectrum ranging from delicious food to decorative items and even gold-plated stuff! Here are seven things you ought to buy in Kanazawa.
A short bus ride away from the JR Kanazawa Station, Omicho Market is the place to be for gourmands as it showcases many tantalizing seafood delights from the Sea of Japan. Swallow big oysters whole and feel the succulent juices ooze pleasurably all over your mouth. If you’re the adventurous sort, you can even try uni (Japanese for sea urchin). Some people may feel squeamish at its briny texture, but give uni a chance, and soon, you will be addicted to the burst of creaminess that melts in your mouth upon wolfing it!
Remember to leave some space in your stomach after you sample the fresh oysters and uni at Omicho Market because the ubiquitous kaisendon (sashimi on rice) offered at the many seafood restaurants in the area is to die for. Chock-full of tasty ingredients like prawns, tuna, salmon, carp roe, and eggs – a kaisendon is not only nutritious but also reasonably priced! Plus, immersing yourself in the cozy ambiance and watching how the people there interact candidly with one another will enable you to experience an authentic slice of life in Kanazawa.
Do you know that Kanazawa produces almost all of Japan’s gold leaf in the country which has been used to great effect to decorate lacquerware and even Buddha altars? Well, at Higashi Chaya District, you are sure to come across souvenir shops that sell gold leaf-themed products. Fancy a pair of chopsticks that will sprinkle gold flakes on your food when you open them? Or a packet of gold flakes that you can use to enhance your beer and feel like a king? No doubt, such specialty products will make for ideal gifts and elicit gasps of surprise from your friends and family back home!
Wish to own something that was pioneered by samurai warriors? Now you can do so at Kanazawa, for you can buy the internationally famous Kutani ceramic ware that originated from the Kaga samurai clan – rulers of Kanazawa for some three hundred years! Initially characterized by several vivid colors such as blue, green, and yellow, the design of Kutani ceramic ware has also kept up with the times due to the increasing Westernization of lifestyles. Think sleek coffee cups and wine glasses that will add a touch of elegance to your party with their eye-catching Kutani-infused designs!
As a city steeped in tea culture, it’s no wonder that Kanazawa facilitated the flourishing of the wagashi (Japanese confectionery) industry as Kanazawa people delighted in pairing their matcha tea with wagashi. There are more than a few brands that will grab a hold on your heart. Not to be missed is the otenki dorayaki from Sakakobo Taro, a traditional sweet bean paste snack. What makes otenki dorayaki stand out from other dorayaki snacks is the motif of an umbrella imprinted on the paste – something that will make you chuckle as you recall the rainy weather in Kanazawa.
Other signature wagashi include kami-fusen (paper balloon) and kan-gori (cubes of stewed agar and sugar) sold by Kasho Takagiya and Mamehan respectively. The former showcases ball-shaped wafers with jelly inside while the latter is a feast for your eyes due to its bright colors.
Shizuoka Prefecture may account for the majority of Japan’s tea production, but Kanazawa more than holds its own with its production of kukicha or twig tea. Its distinctive feature arises from how, unlike conventional tea that utilizes leaves, it roasts the stems and twigs of the tea plant, thereby resulting in a mild aroma and a light, sweet taste. Kukicha was offered to the late Emperor Showa when he visited Kanazawa in 1983, to which he sang praises of its heavenly taste. So if it’s awesome enough for an Emperor, surely it’s good enough for us mortals. To taste the very best of kukicha, try kaga-bocha (roasted twig tea) that is produced by Maruhachi Seichajo.
All good things must come to an end, and you will have to depart from Kanazawa to get to your next destination or even fly back home. Before a feeling of loss sets in, why not prolong your connectedness with Kanazawa a little further by buying sasazushi (sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves) at the JR Kanazawa Station? A legendary dish, sasazushi comprises tasty fish wrapped in two bamboo leaves and then pressed in a box. Fish offerings include anything from salmon to mackerel to trout and sea bream, so you will definitely find the stuff that appeals most to your palate! Perfect for reminiscing about your great times in Kanazawa and satiating your hunger on the shinkansen (bullet) train. Itadakimasu!
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping in Kanazawa. From artisanal crafts to delectable food and beverages, Kanazawa’s comprehensive range of specialties match every whim and budget and give visitors great insights into its rich heritage and enduring innovative spirit. So hop on the next Hokuriku Shinkansen train to Kanazawa and have a blast of a time!