It’s easy to see why visitors to Japan are drawn to Tokyo: it’s a modern, neon-lit metropolis with exceptional food, shopping, shrines and gardens. But anyone fascinated by feudal-era relics should head to Kanazawa. A former castle town in Ishikawa prefecture, Kanazawa has samurai residences, historic chaya (teahouses) and a centuries-old garden. From the capital, the Hokuriku Shinkansen train takes about two and a half hours – or it’s a one-hour flight.
Reflect on a bygone era
For a glimpse of Japan’s past, meander through its gardens.
Tending to tradition
Tokyo’s Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, once a feudal lord’s residence, is today a vast public green space with a formal garden, Japanese garden and 1,000 cherry blossom trees. The best place to see what remains of Edo Castle, the ruling Shogunate’s seat of power for more than two centuries, is in the Imperial Palace East Garden in central Tokyo. Japan’s warrior class was abolished in the late 19th century but Kanazawa has preserved what the samurai built. Start at Kenroku-en Garden next to Kanazawa Castle. The Maeda family – the region’s ruling clan in the feudal era – began work on Kenroku-en Garden in 1676 and added to the garden’s ponds, bridges and teahouse for about 200 years.
A visit steeped in history
Cobblestoned streets lead to samurai houses and teahouses.
Feeling at home
Over centuries, Kanazawa’s samurai cultivated an appreciation for Yuzen textiles, lacquerware and ceramics made by local artisans. In the city’s Naga-machi area you can still find their houses and gardens. On what used to be the town’s outskirts stand teahouses once used by the upper class and literati for socialising in the Edo Period.
Sightsee and shop
Use pedal power to explore the picturesque Noto Peninsula.
Cycling through time
Kanazawa is the gateway to Noto Peninsula’s coastal towns, salt farms and rice paddies. The island of Notojima is blessed with a mild climate and attracts cyclists for its scenic fishing villages and woodlands. Wajima’s Morning Market, where vendors sell fresh produce and crafts, has been a tradition for more than 1,000 years.