This compact city on the Sea of Japan is often referred to as ‘little Kyoto’, though that doesn’t really do it justice. Built around a restored castle, there are pristine areas that were once geisha districts and the homes of samurai. Like Kyoto, there is a discernible self confidence in the air. Its citizens are proud of their city’s famously complicated, expensive and traditional art and design, from silk dyeing to lacquerware, and even fireworks. Dip into Kanazawa’s delicate kaga ryori cuisine, washed down with a premium Japanese beer, and break away from the Golden Route trail.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Whether you’re naturally green-fingered, or simply love the tranquility of being surrounded by nature, it’s impossible not to be stilled by the beauty of these world-famous gardens. There are a scant handful of contenders for the crown in the royal hierarchy of Japanese gardens, and Kanazawa is generally considered to have the finest. Intricate and delicately contrived in every aspect of its design, what you are treated to at Kenrokuen is 200 years of patience and attention to detail, showcasing some of the stunning horticultural attributes that Japan is known for. It’s particularly picturesque in the early morning (especially as it can get ridiculously busy later) and is a soothing prelude to visiting the nearby castle and Higashi Chaya (teahouse district).
Although not usually on the sightseeing ‘must see’ list, this relatively famous temple - also known by its other name, Ninjadera (Ninja Temple) - deserves attention. Frustratingly, despite the intriguing moniker, it doesn’t actually have any real links to ninja mercenaries! Designed as an authentic Bhuddist temple in the 17th century, it also served as a ready safe house for the ruling feudal lord to shelter in if so required, and behind what’s on view is a building full of secret trapdoors, confined spaces, unseen hideaways and automatically-locking doors where loyal soldiers could trap assailants. Tours of the inside must be booked in advance and are well worth it to get a sense of the power struggles and paranoia that pervaded feudal Japan.
Any research into Kanazawa will quickly reveal its association with gold, and gold leaf is particularly prevalent in the town’s world-renowned art and design. It’s possible to participate in a workshop learning how to use this delicate material to adorn chopsticks or other small objects, but perhaps one of the most satisfying things to do is to eat it. In Kanazawa, gold leaf is often used on cakes, but we highly recommend heading to Hakuichi, near to the castle, and ordering a single cone of fresh ice cream wrapped in whisper-thin gold leaf. It seems almost alive as it shapes itself and clings to the melting ice cream - divinely decadent. It’s absolutely beautiful and probably the cheapest gold leaf you’ll ever eat!