When we think of Japan, the first thing that comes to our mind are big cities like Tokyo or Osaka. Smaller cities like Kanazawa do not usually make it to a tourist's itinerary. However, it was a part of ours. We spend 1.5 days here, the other half was a day trip to a picturesque village called Shirakawago (which will be covered in a separate post).
In Kanazawa, we stayed at Hotel MYSTAYS. Japanese hotels are usually small, and this had to be the biggest among everything we stayed in so far. Moreover, it was just a 5 minute walk from the main train station ... which was very convenient. To get to Kanazawa, we used our Japan Rail Pass.
As compared to other cities, Kanazawa was less crowded. Somehow, everything here was associated with gold. The moment we checked into our hotel, the first thing I saw were gold dusted strawberries. I seriously wondered what was next! Kanazawa happens to be Japan's gold capital and their main gold producer. That explains the gold everywhere.
We bought a 1-day pass for the Kanazawa Loop Bus and used it to get around the city. Here are a 7 places you should consider visiting if you're there for 2 days or so.
1) Kenroku-en - One of the three most beautiful landscaped gardens in Japan. We could have easily spent half a day here if we had more time. Instead we just went around seeing as much as we could. Expect plenty of trees, picturesque ponds, pretty flowers and more. Just before leaving, we had a nice little meal in the garden's cafeteria.
2) 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art - We are no "museum" nor "art" lovers, but this had to be done. Some of the exhibits here are really worth seeing ... like this swimming pool for instance. You wouldn't understand how it works unless you visit.
The museum isn't too big and can be easily completed in a hour.
3) Kanazawa Castle - The Kanazawa Castle grounds were one of the few places where we could saw beautiful cherry blossoms in Kanazawa. From the grounds, we just looked up and had a glimpse of Kanawaza castle.
4) Omicho Market - Because we arrived here past 5pm on Day 1 and everything was closed, we woke up early on Day 2 just so we could have breakfast. And boy! what a feast we had! Gold doughnuts, oysters, scallops, sea urchins were just a few things that made it to our stomachs! Besides food, the market also had clothing, footwear, etc. However, we were there just for the food.
5) Higashi-Chaya District - This happens to be one of Kanazawa's main geisha districts. And we were lucky enough to spot three of them. This well-preserved district is filled with tea shops, restaurants and shops selling edible gold in food.
6) Ninja-dera temple - We heard that this temple was unique so we wanted to visit. It requires a pre-booking by phone. We arrived there right in time for a short briefing (in Japanese) followed by a guided tour. The tour is in Japanese, however, you are given an English booklet for better understanding. You'll find unexpected things at each corner of the temple. That's what makes it different! Its mandatory to go with a guide and you are NOT allowed to take photos inside.
7) Nagamachi District ( A Visit to a Samurai's Home ) - Not much to see here except for a couple of traditional houses. Its a nice walk through the narrow lanes. Nagamachi also happens to be the area where samurais lived ... once upon a time. We visited a Samurai house.
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