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10 Reasons Kanazawa Should Be Your Less Touristy Alternative To Kyoto

Kanazawa Shirakawa-go Winter farmhouse homestay

Adapted from Source

You might be on a been-there-done-that crisis when it comes to vacationing in Japan, but if you’re after a little cultural trip, skip touristy Kyoto and head to Kanazawa 3 hours from Tokyo instead – with similar preserved temples, traditional teahouses, and an abundance of nature, it’s a lesser-known and quieter alternative to the former capital of Japan.

If you’re not sure where to start in planning your trip, we’ve scoped out some activities that’ll make you fall head over heels for this city.


1. Savour exquisite gold leaf soft serve at Hakuichi


Gold leaf soft serve at Hakuichi

Source: @eatandtreats

From cakes to chocolates, gold leaf-adorned food items have steadily been creeping their way into our Instagram feeds. And while nowhere as extravagant as that $2000 gold leaf pizza in New York, this soft serve wrapped in 24K gold foil by Hakuichi will bring some luxe into your life for 900 Yen.

Apparently the gold leaf is pretty much tasteless, but I wouldn’t pass up the chance to try this nonetheless!

Address: Higashi Chayagai District, 1-15-4, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm


2. Cycle with seaside views around Noto Peninsula


Scenic views around Noto Peninsula.

Source: @orienomura

Go up to the coast and take a cycling tour around Noto Peninsula – dotted with fishing villages, parks and endless views of the sea, it’s the perfect spot for a break from the city. To get started, hop onto the train at Kanazawa Station to get to Wakura Onsen Kanko Kyokai, where you can rent a bike from 600 Yen.

Cycling around Noto Peninsula.

Source: @yellowscarab

Wakura Onsen Kanko Kyokai
Address: Wakura, 2-13-1, Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Wakura Onsen Station


3. Sip tea at a quiet teahouse in a garden


Shiguretei Teahouse in Kenrokuen Garden.

Source: @angelinahue

A visit to the Kenrokuen Garden is mandatory for all Kanazawa first-timers as it ranks as one of Japan’s 3 most beautiful gardens. A stroll through the winding pathways will bring you to Hase Pond, where you’ll find the secluded Shiguretei Teahouse nestled amidst the foliage.

Address: 1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 9am – 4pm. Closed from 29 December to 3 January.
Admission Fees: 310 Yen


4. Eat the freshest yellowtail sashimi at Omicho Market


Omicho Market for fresh yellowtail sashimi.

Source: @kennethcaptures

There’s Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, and then there’s its older cousin Omicho Market in Kanazawa, dating as early as the Edo period. Located relatively near the sea, Omicho Market receives the freshest of seafood every morning. This bustling market is filled with a mixture of food stalls too, so grab some grub while you’re there!

Savour fresh seafood in Omicho Market.

Source: @audiomagazinekr

While most of us may be accustomed to salmon and tuna, go straight for buri (yellowtail) here – because the delightfully fatty yellowtail is renowned in Kanazawa. Have it grilled on the spot or sliced raw – either way, it’s a melt-in-your-mouth experience!

Address: Kamiōmichō, 50, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 9am – 4pm. Most stalls are closed on Wednesdays and public holidays.


5. Spot geishas at the chaya districts


Geishas in the chaya districts.

Source: @miwaseye

In Kyoto, where the geisha tradition is most alive, teahouses are off-limits to tourists – unless you have an obscene amount of money and you know someone who is a frequent client of one.

But in Kanazawa’s chaya districts, there are 2 teahouses open to tourists, one of which is Shima Teahouse. While geisha performances are no longer held there, you can still get regular tea services and visit the rooms where geishas used to perform.

Geisha performance in teahouse.

Source: @queensophieable

The other is Kaikaro Teahouse, built in 1820 – where you can watch a traditional geisha performance at 22,000 Yen per person.

Shima Teahouse
Address: Higashi Chayagai District, 1-13-21, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm.
Admission Fees: 500 Yen

Kaikaro Teahouse
Address: Higashi Chayagai District, 1-14-8, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm.
Admission Fees: 750 Yen


6. Go stargazing during a one-night stay at Shirakawa-go


In just under two hours, you can get from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go – a picturesque region that’s especially magical during Winter.

Picturesque scenery in Shirakawa-go.


But instead of just snapping those mandatory shots in front of the traditional thatched roof farmhouses, go one step further – and snuggle up with a cosy overnight stay in one of them! Located far away from city lights, Shirakawa-go is perfect for stargazing. So gear up for cold temperatures, and head out to chill under the stars.

A quaint lodge in Shirakawa-go.

Source: @k.o_oasis

To get here, simply take the Nohi Bus on the East side of JR Kanazawa Station for 1850 Yen.

Address: Shirakawa, Ono District, Gifu Prefecture


7. Visit the past home of a samurai family


Exterior of Nomura Family Samurai Home.

Source: @whiteflutterby

While we can no longer see samurai in Japan, their past still remains in Nomura Family Samurai House. Home to a samurai family in the past, the interiors, garden and artefacts in Nomura-ke is preserved and open to public.

Samurai sculpture in Nomura Family Samurai Home.

Source: @strumpel_stiltskin

Address: Nagamachi, 1-3-32, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 8.30 am – 5.30 pm (8.30 am – 4.30 pm in winter)
Admission Fees: 550 Yen


8. Make your own cute Japanese sweets at Kanko Bussankan


Cute Japanese sweets at Kanko Bussankan.


Level up your food art at Kanko Bussankan, where you can learn how to craft beautifully shaped Japanese confections you commonly see in the food section of Japan’s atas departmental stores. These traditional no-bake desserts are used in tea ceremonies, and are often shaped into leaves, flowers, and even bunnies.

Address: Kenroku-machi, 2-20, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
Confectionary Making Workshop Fees: 1200 Yen


9. Visit a Ninja Temple filled with booby traps


Exterior of Ninja Temple!


Don’t let its name fool you. Myoryuji Temple – also known as the Ninja Temple – was not owned by ninjas, but rather, by Maeda lords who used it as a defense post against enemies. Try not to get lost in its uniquely constructed hidden passageways and secret traps!

Interior of Ninja Temple.


Address: Nomachi, 1-2-12, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 9am – 4.30 pm (9am – 4pm during winter)
Admission Fees: 1000 Yen


10. Picnic under the cherry blossoms at Kanazawa Castle


Cherry blossoms blooming outside Kanazawa Castle.


Famed as a cherry blossom viewing spot, Kanazawa Castle is especially breathtaking during full bloom season! Dabao a takeout bento from one of the nearby convenience stores, and blend in with the locals having a merry picnic under cherry trees.

Kanazawa Castle is the perfect place for a picnic.


Note: Cherry blossom season in this part of Japan starts approximately in early April.

Address: Marunouchi, 1-1, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Nearest Train Station: Kanazawa Station
Opening Hours: 7am – 6pm (1 March – 15 October). 8am – 5pm (16 October – February)
Admission Fees: Free


Escape the chaos of city life at culture-rich Kanazawa


Steeped in culture and full of scenic sights, Kanazawa is basically ‘Little Kyoto’ without the crowds. Stay near Kanazawa Station for ease of transport – the Kanazawa Loop Bus from the station takes you to most of the tourist spots, for only 200 Yen per each ride!