There is a lot to see and do in Kanazawa, but the main areas of interest are not too far apart. You can easily get around either on foot or by using the excellent local bus system. If you plan on using buses a lot, then we recommend getting a Hokutetsu One Day Pass which will give you multiple rides for just 500 yen. If the weather is good and you feel like getting some exercise, there is also an excellent bicycle rental service you can use called Machi- Nori which has plenty of bicycle parking spaces provided in all the key areas.
For a short trip to Kanazawa the locations you absolutely must visit are the Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Higashi Chaya-gai geisha district. In our recommended itineraries below, we have prioritized these locations for a one day tour, and for a second day’s itinerary we have listed other popular attractions that you are sure to enjoy.
One Day Itinerary for Kanazawa
Morning: 1. Kanazawa Station – 2. Kenrokuen – 3. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art – 4. Kanazawa Castle
1. Kanazawa Station
If you only have one day in Kanazawa, you will want to make the most of your time. Try to get to Kanazawa Station as early as possible. Ideally you should be there by 8.00 or 8.30 at the latest. At the Tourist Information Center inside the station building you can quickly pick up free maps and a bus timetable. Then from Kanazawa Station’s East Gate Bus Terminal you can hop on either the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus from bus stop #6 or the Kanazawa Right Loop Bus from bus stop #7. for Kenrokuen Garden. The journey should take 16 minutes for a flat fare of 200 yen.
2. Kenrokuen Garden
Kenrokuen is an extensive park-like garden in the center of Kanazawa and its stroll paths offer constantly changing scenery of seasonal floral displays, ponds, and waterfalls, stone lanterns, and tea houses. In fact the garden is so beautiful it is considered to be one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. You will need at least one hour to fully appreciate this garden, but you may well want to stay longer. If you have time you should also pay a visit to the Seison-kaku Villa which is actually inside this garden. It will cost a little extra to visit this villa but it is totally worth it to view the gorgeous interiors and garden. For full details see our complete article on Kenrokuen.
3. The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
From Kenrokuen you can walk to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in 2 minutes. This innovative museum with its playful and interactive displays of modern art is one of Kanazawa’s top tourist attractions, and you will want to give yourself an hour to fully explore the facilities. For a full guide to this museum see our article on the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
4. Kanazawa Castle
From the museum it is a 5 minute walk to Kanazawa Castle Park and 10 minutes to the castle itself. Kanazawa grew up around this castle and it has played a central role in the city’s history. The park and many parts of the castle are free to enter, but we recommend having a look inside the turrets and storehouse for a small fee of 310 yen. The interior carpentry is fascinating, and the view from the turrets is superb. For full details see our article: Kanazawa Castle and Kanazawa Castle Park.
Afternoon: 5. Lunch at Omicho Ichiba Market – 6. Higashi Chaya-gai – 7. Optional Museums – 8. Return to Kanazawa Station or Have Dinner in Korinbo
5. Omicho Ichiba
By the time you have finished exploring the castle it should be noon, and you must be getting hungry. Omicho Ichiba is a lively covered food market which is just a 10 minute walk north from the castle. Here you can find plenty of fresh food to nibble on at the market stalls and there also a lot of seafood restaurants here. We recommend ordering a bowl of kaisendon, or sashimi style raw fish on a hot bowl of rice at one of the restaurants here. However, the Omicho Ichiba branch of Morimorizushi is a popular casual restaurant serving “conveyor belt sushi”. For full details see our article: Omicho Ichiba Market.
6. Higashi Chaya-gai
From the Musashigatsuji intersection just outside Omicho Ichiba market jump on a Right Loop Bus bound for Higashi Chaya-gai. It should take 8 minutes for a flat rate fare of 200 yen. Alternatively, you can walk the distance in under 15 minutes. Higashi Chaya-gai is a historic geisha entertainment district with many preserved traditional teahouses. There is easily enough to see and do here for you to fill the rest of the afternoon. In particular we recommend visiting two geisha houses: Ochaya Shima and Kaikaro. There are also plenty of activities in this area. Why not try your hand at gold leaf decoration at the Gold Leaf Sakuda store, or traditional pressed sushi making at Kanazawa Sushi, or even try to play the shamisen (a traditional stringed instrument) at Fukushima Sangenten? For full details of this area’s attractions see our article: The Higashi Chaya-gai Geisha District.
7. Optional Museums
There are a number of museums within walking distance of Higashi Chaya-gai that you might want to see depending on your interests and how much time is left on your schedule. These include Ohi Pottery Museum for ceramics enthusiasts, Yanagi Sori Design Memorial for contemporary design fans, Kanazawa Phonograph Museum for music lovers and Kurando Terashima’s House which is a former samurai residence.
8. Kanazawa Station or Korinbo?
If you are only spending one day in Kanazawa, then at this point you will probably return to Kanazawa Station on the Left Loop Bus. It will take about 15 minutes. If you have time before catching your train, you can pick up some souvenirs and handicrafts in the station’s Hyakubangai shopping mall. If you want to have dinner before you leave, there are also plenty of restaurant options in this area.
If you are spending the night in Kanazawa though, we recommend catching the Right Loop Bus and taking a 15 minute ride down to the Korinbo and Katamachi commercial districts for plenty of dining and nightlife options. In particular we recommend the Korinbo branch of Itaru. This is a friendly izakaya style tavern specializing in local seafood and sake which has a strict no-smoking policy. After Itaru get your night off to a good start with a visit to the nearby craft beer bar, Korinbo Jibiruba.
A Second Day’s Itinerary for Kanazawa
Morning: 1. The Ninja Temple – 2. The D.T. Suzuki Museum – 3. Hirosaka & Dewamachi
1. Myoryuji – The Ninja Temple
Myoryuji is often called the “Ninja Temple” because of its many secret passages, trap doors, and hidden rooms. Its unique architecture and history make it a fascinating location to visit. However, you must be sure to book it in advance and we recommend going early in the morning to avoid the later crowds. To get here take the Loop Bus to the Hirokoji bus stop. For full details see our article: Myoryuji – The Ninja Temple.
2. The D. T. Suzuki Museum
D. T. Suzuki was a major 20th Century Zen philosopher who was born in Kanazawa. His books and teachings did much to introduce Eastern philosophy to the Western world. This simple but elegant museum has interactive displays and memorabilia of his life and work, and also a water garden where you can sit in contemplation. To get here take a 5 minute ride on the Left Loop Bus from the Hirokoji bus stop to the Honda-machi stop. For full details see our article: The D. T. Suzuki Museum.
3. Hirosaka & Dewamachi
From the D. T. Suzuki Museum it is a short walk north toward the Hirosaka and Dewamachi areas where you have your pick of museums. If you are interested in traditional Japanese drama, check out the Kanazawa Noh Museum in Hirosaka and then walk up to the Ishikawa Prefectural Noh Theatre where it is possible to get a free tour of stage. If drama is not your thing, walk straight up to Dewamachi where you can also find the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art, Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of History and the Kaga-Honda Museum.
Afternoon: 4. Lunch in Kakinokibatake – 5. Nagamachi – 6. Souvenir Shopping at Musashigatsuji – 7. Dinner at Kanazawa Station
4. Lunch in Kakinokibatake
Kakinokibatake is a district of shopping streets that runs between Hirosaka and the Korinbo commercial area. It is well known as a gourmet district and has a lot of restaurants to choose from serving both local specialties and international fare. For a full guide to this area see our Kakinokibatake article. From here it is a short walk through Korinbo to Nagamachi.
Nagamachi was once a residential district for Kanazawa’s samurai, but is now a pleasant strolling area with many beautifully preserved historical buildings. Chief among these is the Nomura Samurai House and Garden. However, there are many more buildings of interest here, such as the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, and the Kyu-Kaga Hanshi Takada Family House. You can also try your hand at silk-dyeing at the Nagamachi Yuzenkan. For full details of these locations see our article: The Nagamachi Samurai District.
From Nagamachi you can walk back to the Korinbo bus stop and take a four minute bus ride to the Musashigatsuji intersection. This is an excellent area to shop for local souvenirs with handicraft, confectionery and souvenir stores in both the Meitetsu M’za department store and the Hakomachi shopping center. From here it is a five minute bus ride back to Kanazawa Station or a 15 minute walk.
7. Kanazawa Station
Hopefully you still have time for dinner before you catch your train. Check out our recommendations for the top 10 restaurants near Kanazawa Station.
Article by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.