What to Expect
Tour Guide Services:
Sightseeing tours with explanations of historical and cultural backgrounds of Ishikawa prefecture including Kanazawa city, which is one of the largest castle towns in Japan, and Noto peninsula, and the surrounding prefectures such as Gifu (including Takayama city and Shirakawa village), Toyama (including Gokayama village) and Fukui (including Eiheiji Zen Temple) are available at the option of the tourists.
Brief History of Kanazawa:
Origin: The name Kanazawa comes from a legend of a farmer who lived about 1,200 years ago, who found gold when he was washing yams, which led to the area being named Kanazawa which means Marsh of Gold.
Buddhist Farmer State: Until about 500 years ago, Kanazawa was only a poor village. After some militant Ikko sect Buddhist priests founded a religious government, Kaga province (the southern district of Ishikawa prefecture) became a Buddhist farmer state. The Ikko sect maintained control over the district for nearly 100 years. In 1546, they erected a government at a temple site, which later became the site of Kanazawa castle.
Kanga Feudal Clan: Kanazawa was taken over by Maeda Toshiie, the founder of the Kaga feudal clan, in 1583. Since then, the Maeda family, as the most powerful feudal lord, ruled over Kaga and its neighboring provinces for three centuries, a period of unparalleled peace and prosperity. This turned Kanazawa into Japan's fourth most populous city, a thriving metropolis of 120,000 in 1871 when the feudal provinces were abolished and modern prefectures established.
The Wealth and Refined Culture: The province governed by the Maedas also became the second most abundant rice producing areas of feudal Japan only after the Shogunate. With an annual rice yield of a million koku (5 million bushels which could feed a million people for a year) the family could afford to develop an interest in cultural pursuits. Famous artists and craftsmen from all over the country were called in to produce lacquer ware, silk and pottery. Noh theater and tea ceremony were Maeda's special interests.
Present-day Kanazawa: Today, Kanazawa has a population of 465,000 and is the capital city of Ishikawa prefecture and is well known as the largest castle town with Kenrokuen, the most beautiful Japanese landscape garden. A few years ago, it was designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art. Since Maeda Toshiie's entrance into Kanazawa in 1853, the city has been completely untouched by war and thus retains much of its historic beauty.
[Model Full-day Walking Tour (7~8h) Plan in Kanazawa]
Constructed as the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle over a span of two centuries beginning in 1676, Kenrokuen garden is one of the three most beautiful strolling-type landscape gardens in Japan.
The name Kenokuen translates as the garden combining six elements of scenic beauty. They are spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, waterways and panoramic views.
Kenrokuen offers you its unique beauty each season. In spring, 400 cherry trees in bloom provide a feast of typical scenic beauty. In early summer, irises. In mid-summer, leafy trees offer you pleasant shade. In fall, the garden is beautifully colored with leaves of red and yellow. In winter, the trees are decorated with snow supports that look like big yellow umbrellas being opened.
*Kanazawa Castle Park:
The residence of the powerful Maeda lords for 14 generations, from 1583 to 1869, Kanazawa Castle was ravaged by fire in 1759, and again in 1881. All that remain of the original building is the monumental gateway to Kenrokuen, the lshikawamon, built in 1788. Its wrought iron work is a reminder of the historic feudal city's former greatness.
Renovations have been going on to rebuild the castle since 1997.
*Nagamachi Samurai (Warrior) District :
The former samurai quarter of Nagamachi has been preserved, with its beautiful cobbled alleys that wind between low walls of ocher cob, old canals and sumptuous residences plunging the visitor into the atmosphere of former feudal times.
*Higashi Chaya (Geisha) District:
The grace and refinement of the pleasure district founded in 1820 still remains unchanged. Glimpsed through the dark wooden lattice work of its geisha houses, it is a closed, secretive universe like the Gion district of Kyoto. Three geisha houses can be visited.
Kanazawa′s some 50 geishas still practice their profession, entertaining their clients with poetry recitals, tea ceremonies, elegant conversation, and song and dance accompanied by the shamisen.
The area includes some gold-leaf shops. Kanazawa produces 99% of gold leaf made in Japan.
There are hundreds of stands selling fruits and vegetables, fish and other foodstuffs in this covered market that is nearly 300 years old.
A feast for the senses, the maze-like market also houses a number of small and inexpensive eating houses serving seafood and sushi.
*21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art:
This vast, circular glass building, built by architects Sejima Kazuyo and Nishizawa Ryue, places emphasis on light and movement. Split into a series of zones (gallery, theater, children′s workshops, media laboratory, library) the museum is intended to be accessible to everyone and inspire a sense of playful discovery. Anybody can drop in whenever they want.