KNOWN AS A BEAUTIFUL TOWN, THAT COMBINES THE HERITAGE OF A TOWN FOR SAMURAI BUILT AROUND THE CASTLE.
The March 2015 opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train line has led to a marked increase in travel to this town of the samurai and previously oftenoverlooked destination, Kanazawa. For those staying in the skiing areas of Nagano, a trip to Kanazawa is a must. This town is a treasure chest of traditional Japanese culture that can be reached in just one hour by train from Nagano Station.
The township of Kanazawa developed as the largest urban centre after Edo (presentday Tokyo), Osaka, and Kyoto more than 400 years ago when the extremely wealthy daimyo, Toshiie Maeda built a castle there. Known as a beautiful town that combines the heritage of a town for samurai built around the castle, of bustling commerce, and with a temple that looks out over all below the castle itself, much of this traditional architecture still survives given that Kanazawa was largely spared from the destruction of World War II.
Beside the Asano River and Sai River that run through the town are three old teahouse districts, or ‘chaya’ districts, the largest of which is the Higashi Chaya District. The delicate lattice decorations of the buildings here offer a refined and elegant atmosphere, the lights at night adding a touch of glamour to the area.
The flow of the water supplied to the castle is a sight that no other town can offer. Drawn from the upstream section of the Sai River some 10km from the castle itself, the water is drawn up into the castle itself using the principles of a reverse syphon after being brought down to a lower height, an incredibly advanced technique for the time.
Moreover, the remains of the Nagahama samurai residential district and its mud walls and stone paving offer a taste of the Edo Period, and the middle class samurai of the Kaga Domain that used to live there, offer a telling view into the daily lives of the samurai of the time.
There are many historic sights to be seen in this ancient town, but perhaps none more so than the Kenroku-en Japanese garden, one of Japan’s three most famous traditional garden settings. The Kenroku-en is one of the greatest Japanese gardens of the Edo Period, slowly built up over generations by the leaders of the Kaga Domain. Located in the centre of Kanazawa City, this is one garden that offers a glimpse of the beauty of all four seasons throughout the year, and sees visitors from across the country and across the world.
The recent increase in visitors has given rise to a number of programs where you can experience traditional Japanese culture first hand, from wearing kimono to creating chopsticks using gold leaf, and more rarer fare such as experiencing the traditional art of Japanese noh theatre. However, no talk of the town would be complete without mention of food. There are many delicacies special to the region, including local vegetables and more, but the highlight of the region is its seafood. Given its location by the Sea of Japan, there are many types of seafood here that cannot be found on the Pacific Ocean side of Japan, providing many options that can only be enjoyed here in Kanazawa. One dish of particular note is a type of fish called the black throat sea perch, one of the major draws to even the Japanese visitors who come to Kanazawa, and one that sees immense popularity amongst a people who have a fine appreciation of fish in general. Be sure to give it a try.