Kanazawa is one of the best-preserved cities of the Edo period, having survived the bombings of World War II. Its historical districts make it worth to visit. Thanks to its position on the Sea of Japan, it offers exceptionally fresh seafood.
Among the main attractions, there is Kenrokuen, one of the three best-landscaped gardens in Japan and considered by many to be the most beautiful of the county. Fascinating are the oldest fountain in Japan and a teahouse, dating from the eighteenth century.
Higashi Chaya is the Geisha district. Here you can find a special atmosphere, with its many ochaya (teahouses) where you can taste the famous Japanese matcha tea. Here we met a few foreign tourists, but many Japanese, especially newlyweds who choose the streets of this neighbourhood as settings for their wedding photos.
Nagamachi was a samurai district located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, where they resided with their families. If you are looking for a place that takes you back in time, then this is the right one. One of our favourites in the city because it preserves a historic atmosphere with the ancient samurai residences, the earthen walls, the narrow alleys that light up at sunset, creating a play of light along with the water of the canals.
Ninjadera (the Ninja Temple), although not associated with ninjas, has earned its nickname because of its many deceptive defences. The shogun imposed strict restrictions on constructions, and the temple was designed to circumvent them and act as a military outpost, but in this case "masked". It was built with numerous defences, escape routes, hidden tunnels, secret rooms along with a labyrinth of corridors and stairs. We suggest you to book a guided tour to avoid the queue and enjoy this experience at best.
Omicho Market has been Kanazawa's largest fresh food market since the Edo period. In our opinion, the market is the place where to breathe the true essence of a city! Its dense and colourful streets are lined with about 200 shops and stalls, mostly specializing in local products and fresh fish. In fact, Kanazawa is also known for offering the best fish in Japan (we recommend to try shrimps and scallops). You can find sushi and sashimi everywhere and for all price budgets: at market stalls, in traditional taverns (izakaya) and the most sought-after restaurants.
The Shirakawa-go region is characterized by the presence of numerous traditional wooden farmhouses (gassho-zukuri), some of which more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer", since the steep roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks in prayer. The architectural style used by the various generations was designed to cope with the massive amount of snow falling in winter throughout the region. The houses are designed to provide a place to work and live. In fact, the peculiar shape of the roofs allowed the use of the space below for the cultivation of silkworms.
One of the main attractions is Ogimachi, the largest of the three villages in the valley, which is home to several dozens of well-preserved houses. Ogimachi can only be reached by bus or car from Kanazawa or Takayama. The best way to enjoy this village is to stay overnight and sleep in one of the farmhouses. If it is not possible, it is worth stopping at least half a day wandering around the gassho-zukuri and rice fields.
The Shiroyama viewpoint offers a fantastic view of the village. It can be reached through a short 15-20 minutes uphill walk or by a shuttle bus stopping near the Wada-ke house.
Along the streets of the village, several kiosks sell the traditional skewered snacks covered with a sweet glaze: the Mitarashi dango, 5 dumplings made of rice flour and covered with a sweet sesame and soy sauce glaze and the Gohei mochi, a rice cake first grilled and then dipped in a sweet soy or miso sauce.
Kurashiki is located on the railway line between Kyoto and Hiroshima, but very often it is ignored by tourists who are in a hurry to move quickly between the 2 cities. In our opinion, it is worth to spend a few hours wandering around its historic quarter, where we only met Japanese and Chinese tourists.
Just a 15-minute walk from the JR station is the Kurashiki Bikan, the ancient merchants' quarter, consisting of low houses located along the canal, which was the main transport route. The numerous warehouses of the seventeenth century, with their white walls and their black-painted tiles, testify to the city's very prosperous past. The weeping willow trees that line the canal and the stone bridges that cross over the water make for a picturesque scene.
The Honmachi area, east of Bikan, will take you back in time.
Here the streets and shop windows reflect the old Japan: owners are required to maintain the structures according to the traditional local style.