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Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa is on the northwestern coast of the largest island of Honshu on the Sea of Japan. The so-called Japanese "Alps" soar over the eastern part of the city, about an hour from the ski resorts of Nagano. The mountains plus the city's proximity to Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park make the whole area a nature lover's paradise. For those with little knowledge of the famous Japanese snow walls or tunnels, an image search will produce unbelievable pictures of the huge amounts of snow dumped here in December and January from the weather patterns that blow in from Siberia.


Springtime is a lovely time to visit this well-preserved city known for its gardens. The city served as the seat of the Maeda Clan during the Edo period (1603-1867), during which time success led to its growth in size and importance. It became a beacon of arts and crafts said to rival Kyoto and Tokyo. Kanazawa is sometimes called "Little Kyoto." Because Kanazawa escaped bombing in World War II, much of its history and architecture has survived, including sections preserving samurai (Nagamachi) and geisha (Higashi Chaya) history. Kanazawa is said to mean "marsh of gold," appropriate for a town famous for its gold leaf. Today Kanazawa produces almost all of Japan's gold leaf, used to decorate everything from the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto to household items and even edible gold leaf on food. Other important handicrafts from the area include lacquerware traditionally decorated with gold, Kutani ceramics, and kaga-nui embroidery.


Kenrokuen Garden, widely considered one of the top three gardens in Japan, is the most famous local tourist site. The local cuisine, called Kaga, is known for its jibuni duck stew and various seafood dishes. Also popular is wagashi (Japanese sweets), said to be enjoyed with all five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing.


From its historic sites to its famous gardens, Kanazawa is not to be missed.


Ship Location

Cruise ships may dock at Muryoji Wharf (newest), Tomizu Wharf, or Ohama Wharf, the largest. The new Kanazawa Port Cruise Terminal, which opened in 2020, offers tourist information, including currency exchange and Wi-Fi.


Getting Around

Kanazawa is easy to get around. If not going off on tour, head to the Kanazawa Station first since it is worth visiting with its interesting architectural style that combines modern metal and glass with traditional temple gates, as well as the location for purchasing a day pass for a sightseeing bus that covers all the major sightseeing locations. Here you can buy your ticket, get maps and tourist information. The Kanazawa Loop Bus, similar in concept to a Hop On Hop Off bus, offers two loops (Right Loop and Left Loop) covering the main tourist attractions. Buses depart about every fifteen minutes and circle the main sites every forty minutes.


Once downtown, it is pretty easy to get around on foo since it is compact. Major attractions are within about a mile-wide area making this a great place to explore independently.



Kenrokuen Garden is a must-see site. Dating from the late 1600s and open to the public for almost 150 years, Kenrokuen received Michelin Guide Book's three-star rating. The garden, part of the outer wall of Kanazawa Castle, consists of twenty-five acres of ponds and other water features, as well as thousands of flowering trees. Its name is said to translate as "Garden of the Six Sublimities," said to create the perfect garden.


Enjoy ship excursions to Kenrokuen, the Higashi Chayamachi geisha district, and Nagamachi samurai district, as well as further afield to the village of Shirakawago, one of Japan's most scenic areas along the Shokawa River and a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Other tourist sites include Omicho Market, dating from the 1700s and called the "Kitchen of Kanazawa," with almost 200 small stores, most selling seafood, and the Higashi Geisha District, the largest Geisha district in the city. The Buddhist temple of Myoryu-ji (or Ninja Temple) is a popular attraction known for its hidden rooms and tunnels. For more modern sensibilities, tour the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, which has won architectural awards for its design. The Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum provides the history of this important cultural and artistic aspect of Kanazawa. Back at the port, passengers may view a nightly light show from docked cruise ships.


With gardens, greenery, and rich history, Kanazawa offers delights for every traveler.


Staying in Touch

Wi-Fi is available at the port terminal and other hotspot areas in the city center.