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Kanazawa: Visit The Historical City On The Japan Sea

Seated on the coast of the Japan Sea, Kanazawa is one of the most popular mid-size cities to visit in Japan. The city is famous for its incredible seafood, beautiful gardens, and Edo-era architecture.

I visited the city on a solo trip and really enjoyed how walkable and condense it is. There was plenty to do and see, but it felt very manageable to see the main attractions within 2-3 days. The restaurant quality is top-notch and I had the best sushi I’ve had yet in Japan.

Kanazawa is an excellent destination if you want to experience a blend of traditional Japanese culture, stunning nature, and historical sites.

What do you need to know to visit Kanazawa, Japan?

How To Get There

Sunset over the Japan Sea coast

View from the Shinkansen of the sun setting over the Japan Sea

The best way to get to Kanazawa from nearly any major city in Japan is by a combination of local train lines and the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet train).

From Tokyo, Kanazawa is about three hours away and costs roughly ¥14,000 (~USD $125) one-way.

The Shinkansen ride along the Japan Sea is absolutely stunning and makes for a scenic start to your travels. When I started my solo trip, I arrived in Kanazawa in the evening so was able to watch the sun set over the coast.

Where To Stay

The great news about visiting Kanazawa is that it’s much cheaper than Tokyo. You can find a lot of great hotel or short-term rental properties for less than half of the cost of staying in Tokyo.

Kanazawa is a very walkable city, so if you stay centrally, you may not need to use public transportation or a car at all. I recommend staying in the area around Kanazawa Castle Park, Naga-machi District, or the Higashi Chaya District as these are the main tourist attractions you will visit. I stayed in an Airbnb near Naga-machi District during my trip, but there are many affordable hotel options that I would consider instead the next time I visit.

Some hotel suggestions in prime locations:

What To Do

Most of the main attractions in Kanazawa involve walking around outside, so I recommend visiting in the autumn or spring when the weather is comfortable.

Kanazawa Castle Park & Kenroku-en

Kenroku-en in Kanazawa


Kenroku-en in Kanazawa


Kanazawa Castle Park was originally built during the Edo period and now is one of the main attractions in the city. You can see many cultural artifacts such as old samurai buildings, gardens, and moats. If you buy tickets, you can enter the buildings and observe their original architecture and style.

Just south of the castle is Kenroku-en, often considered one of Japan’s three great gardens. Visiting the garden was a highlight on my trip and I enjoyed seeing the stunning landscapes and beautiful tea houses in the garden. The garden is a very popular destination for travelers, so arrive early in the day if you can.

Higashi Chaya District

Street inHigashiyamahigashi

Higashi Chaya District

Street on Higashiyamahigashi

Higashi Chaya District

Main street on Higashiyamahigashi

Higashi Chaya District

Higashi Chaya District is the iconic, historical part of the city that earns it the nickname of the “Little Kyoto” of western Japan. The district is composed of winding alleys lined with traditional style houses and boutique stores selling the city’s famous gold leaf products (Kanazawa produces nearly all of the gold leaf in Japan!). I bought some souvenirs from Nouka Banzai The Shop Higashiyama.

Utatsuyama Park Hanashoubuen

From Higashi Chaya District, I recommend walking about thirty minutes up through Utatsuyama Park Hanashoubuen to see temples and an incredible view of the city. This area is far less touristy than Higashi Chaya District, so you’ll be able to enjoy some nature and solitude. The park is on a hill, so be prepared for a little hike!

View of Kanazawa from Utatsuyama Park Hanashoubuen

View from Utatsuyama Park Hanashoubuen

Utatsuyama Park Hanashoubuen

Temple inside Utatsuyama Park Hanashoubuen

Naga-machi District

Naga-machi District is another historical area of Kanazawa that features former samurai homes. The streets are narrow and surrounded by Japanese traditional architecture. This district is smaller than Higashi Chaya District and can be explored thoroughly in about thirty minutes.

Combine your visit to the area with seeing the Nomura-ke Samurai Residence, a restored Edo-era home with samurai artifacts.

Sai River

Pathway along the Sai River in Kanazawa

Walk along the Sai River

The Sai River runs from the Japan Sea through Kanazawa and has a wonderful walking path. You can walk for miles while enjoying the beautiful scenery and mountains in the distance. I suggest packing snacks and having a picnic on the shores of the river.

Where To Eat

Sushi in Kanazawa

Omicho Ichiba Sushi

Kanazawa is famous for its fresh seafood and many quality restaurants. I enjoyed the best sushi I’ve had in Japan while in Kanazawa (at Omicho Ichiba Sushi, shown in the photo above).

If you want to try a large variety of Japanese foods and snacks, you must visit the spacious, indoor Ōmichō Market. The market has dozens of restaurants and stalls and is an ideal place to spend a few hours for lunch or dinner.

Japanese curry in Kanazawa

Kanazawa Nanahoshi Curry

A sandwich and carrot cake in Kanazawa


Some of my favorite restaurants in Kanazawa are:

  1. CAFE DUMBO ($ – cafe)

  2. Takasakiya Sushi ($ – sushi)

  3. Kanazawa Nanahoshi Curry ($ – Japanese curry)

  4. Omicho Ichiba Sushi ($$ – sushi)

  5. Ageha ($$ – Izakaya, Japanese pub food)

  6. Shigure-tei ($$ – traditional Japanese tea house)

  7. Zeniya ($$$ – kaiseki, traditional Japanese multi-course meal)

Proposed Two Day Itinerary

Kanazawa has many things to do and see, but to summarize, I suggest following the rough plan below to structure two days in the city:

Day 1

  1. Visit Kanazawa Castle Park & Kenroku-en

  2. Explore Naga-machi District and Nomura-ke Samurai Residence

  3. Walk to and along the Sai River

Day 2

  1. Have lunch at one of the restaurants in Ōmichō Market

  2. Walk through Higashi Chaya District and Utatsuyama Park Hanashoubuen

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