Different appearances catch the eyes of tourists in each season. Kenroku-en Garden and Nagamachi are two popular spots that represent the old city of Kanazawa.
Kanazawa is an old city situated in Ishikawa Prefecture and is the largest city in the Hokuriku region. In the Edo Period, the city prospered as a Kaga domain's castle town with an income rating of over one million 'koku' (unit of measurement to assess wealth), which was the highest in the nation after the shogunate itself. Kanazawa continued to develop as a big city, following Edo (current Tokyo), Osaka, and Kyoto, and since it escaped damage in WWII, there still remains a historic atmosphere throughout its urban area.
One of the spots you will want to visit in the city is a huge Japanese garden, Kenroku-en, which is one of the three great gardens in Japan. Kenroku-en, which means "the garden that combines six attributes," is said to be so named because it miraculously holds six elements that should conflict if existing in one garden: "spaciousness and seclusion," "artifice and antiquity," and "waterways and panoramas." The garden was shaped for a period of over 100 years through several generations of the Kaga domain's lords. It is composed of many ponds, winding streams connecting these ponds, mounds made of turned soil, various trees, and tea houses at spots throughout the garden. Because visitors can enjoy seeing around the garden while dropping in at these spots, this type of garden is called "a strolling garden," and Kenroku-en is a typical example.
If you want to fully enjoy Kenroku-en Garden, you will need to walk for about 90 minutes and 1,300 meters. There are already many beautiful spots that make you stop strolling and see each of them in the garden; however, you will have even more to see in other seasons offering different views, especially in winter. In order to protect the branches of pine trees from heavy snow, a pole is set up and holds up the branches of trees with ropes. This is called "Yukitsuri," and together with the views of lanterns covered with snow, it is a common sight in the garden in winter months. In spring, the garden is filled with pink cherry blossoms, while it is colored by fresh greenery in summer and covered by red leaves in autumn.
Another spot you should not skip is the Nagamachi Samurai Residences District, which still preserves old earthen walls and 'nagaya-mon,' a gate of tenements. Once you step into the backstreets of Korinbo, the central area of Kanazawa City with modern buildings, you will find the district making you feel as if you slipped back to the Edo Period. It was a residential area for middle- and upper-class samurais and still keeps its traditional atmosphere today with earthen walls and stone pavement along with the Onosho Canal. Surrounded by the earthen walls that continue several hundred meters, as well as the sound of water flowing by the samurai houses and old stone pavements, you can surely feel the history and tradition of this old castle town. In addition, you can see a part of samurai life at the remains of the Kaga domain's Takada family's house or that of the Nomura family, which still retains vestiges of those old days in its garden. Rest houses and tea houses, as well as temples, are also there for your pleasant strolling.
People still live in these houses. Among them, the Nomura family house is open to public, allowing visitors to see the garden and tea house of Nomura Denbei Nobusada, whose income rating was 1,200 koku. The garden of the Takada family is a beautiful strolling garden with a pond that still retains vestiges of the Edo Period. Because of its wonderful sights, the area is often used as a location for filming TV dramas.
From Tokyo:[Air]1h from Haneda to Komatsu Airport, and 40 min from the airport to Kanazawa Station (Kanazawa-eki-mae) by bus.[Rail]1h 17 min (max.) from Tokyo to Echigo-Yuzawa Station by JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line, and 2h 50 min from Echigo-Yuzawa to Kanazawa Station by JR Line "Hakutaka" (limited express).
From Osaka:[Rail]2h 30 min from Osaka to Kanazawa Station by JR Line "Thunderbird" (limited express).