Kanazawa: City of Samurais

Kanazawa, a city of nearly 500,000 that sits between the Japanese Alps and the Sea of Japan, offers day’s worth of things to do. Most people will start with a visit to Kenroku-en, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.

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From here, you’ll most likely want to head to the the castle park just over the bridge:

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The Kanazawa Castle was once the home of the Maeda family, which ruled the Kaga Clan from this spot from 1583 until the early nineteenth century. This was a city of lords and samurais, who are now memorialized in bronze:

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Most of the original buildings in the castle park are now in ruins, but there are splendid reconstructions of the entrance gate (from which they would have rained down rocks and arrows on invading enemies) …

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… interior gates …

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… and the palace itself (which would have looked much different in the early seventeenth century):

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And the old moat still stands!

e7221ea9-de84-4e55-a86e-e2e8598bbb8e.jpgIt whole complex makes for a set of beautiful views:

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The grounds themselves are fairly uninspiring — they’re mostly large, empty expanses of asphalt and grass — but you can go into several of the buildings, including the castle, a storehouse …

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…and the tremendous Kahokumon gate (the white tower below):

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It’s amazing to see the detailing in the various kinds of stonework (they gave us an entire English guide to the masonry) …

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… and in the tiles and carpentry:

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Outside of the garden, the streets of the city are crammed with shops selling souvenirs. Kanazawa has long been famous for gold leaf, porcelain, and silk-dying, and you can find all of these (and more) in ample amounts. Snack shops and ice cream sellers also ply their wares:

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A fifteen-minute walk will take you from here to the Omicho Market.

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Inside, you can wander through a giant warren of restaurants and stalls selling fruits and vegetables, crackers and fish, and everything¬† from seaweed …

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… to shellfish …

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… to tea …

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… to these weird wormy things:

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No trip to Kanazawa would be complete without a trip to the Nagamachi Samurai District, an area at the foot of the castle park where samurai and their families once lived. The whole district runs along two canals.

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You can visit old samurai homes (these group was occupied by the least wealthy warriors) …

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… and admire their building techniques (bamboo gutters!) …

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… but it’s mostly just fun to wend your way through the narrow, winding streets and admire your surroundings.

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Most of the buildings look to be quite old …

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… but you’ll occasionally stumble on something very contemporary:

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The whole neighborhood is very evocative.

IMG_2191For dinner, we would suggest ending the evening with a giant bowl of ramen at Ippudo.

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The lanterns in town say it all:IMG_2195.jpg

 

 

 

 

One response to “Kanazawa: City of Samurais

  1. The castle looks great. I’m keeping Kanazawa as my first choice for the next Japan trip now!! And Ippudo – my favorite ramen shop of all time. Thans for sharing this.

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