Kanazawa, Ishikawa – A Cultural Capital Of Japan – Where To Go After The Snow

August 21st, 2018


While powder turns and cherry blossoms have folk flocking from far and wide, much can be said for the serenity afforded in Japanese gardens during wintertime. Pictured is Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, discussed below and well worth checking out. Image:: Japan Travel

Mountainwatch | Matt Wiseman

We might sound like a broken record when it comes to harping on about the proverbial Japow, but there’s a side to skiing and boarding in Japan that simply doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

A snowballs throw from some of Japan’s best skiing exists some of its best cultural and natural beauty. This is the side to Japan I’m talking about.

Ishikawa is located on Honshu’s northern coast between the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps. It is only a 1-hour journey by shinkansen (bullet train) from Nagano, the prefecture in which the likes of Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen, Shiga Kogen and Madarao Kogen all reside.

While this means it’s possible to visit the Ishikawa prefecture during a single day off the slopes, we suggest bookending your trip with a visit there and spending a few days in order to really appreciate the regions many attractions.




Kanazawa Castle


kanazawa Castle wearing a winter coat. Image:: Supplied

The Capital of the Ishikawa Prefecture is Kanazawa, one of the few great castle towns of Japan. Almost 500 years ago, the first feudal lord Maeda Toshiie entered Kanazawa Castle in 1583.

Since then the castle has evolved into an architectural symbol of Japan and become arguably one of the countries most influential cities. Perhaps most astoundingly, not a single nail was used in the construction of many of the buildings.


Maeda Toshiie was the first of 14 generations of the Maeda family to rule from what became known as the Kanazawa Castle. Image:: Supplied


The castle is similarly stunning after dark. Image:: Supplied

Kenroku-en Garden 

Kenrokuen, located in the center of Kanazawa City, was originally the private garden neighboring Kanazawa Castle which was the residence of the Maeda Family, the feudal lord reigning the area in the Edo Period. Kenrokuen is considered as one of the three most beautiful gardens in all of Japan.

The name “Kenrokuen” means “a garden combining six.” The garden was so named because it was considered to have all six attributes of a good garden; spaciousness, quietness, human artistry, stateliness, abundant water and rocks and broad, expansive views. This beautiful large stroll-type landscape garden was created and loved over a long time by Kanazawa’s successive feudal lords.


Kenroku-en thrives during all four-seasons but is undeniably a winter wonderland. Image:: Supplied

Once the outer garden of aforementioned Kanazawa Castle, Kenrokuen was opened to the public in 1874 and now extends almost 25 acres.



Nagamachi Samurai Residential Area

Unsurprisingly considering the scale of the aforementioned Kanazawa Castle, The Ishikawa Prefecture is replete with Samurai culture. The Nagamachi Samurai district is located at the foot of Kanazawa Castle, and as the name suggests, is where middle-ranking samurai and their families resided.


It’s fair to say nothing has changed along these streets since the times of Samurai and it’s not hard to imagine them making their way through these mazes of cobbled laneways. Image:: Supplied


The residences of one of the eight chief retainers of the ‘Kaga Clan’ were located in the Nagamachi area, and its wealth, power and enduring beauty is quite obvious. Image:: Supplied




As it is bordered by the Sea of Japan, it is no surprise that Ishikawa boasts some of the best sushi in the country and thus, de-facto the world. The Ishikawa prefecture is a veritable food bowl itself with rice harvested in the Kaga Plain, famous Kaga vegetables grown in Kanazawa and as aforesaid, fresh fish and shellfish from the Sea of Japan. Indeed it is no stretch of the imagination to say, some of Japan’s best restaurants are located in Kanazawa!


Just as snow isn’t the same after visiting Japan, the Sushi won’t be either. Image:: Supplied

In addition to being delicious, the cuisine afforded in Kanazawa and the surrounding Ishikawa prefecture is equally aesthetically pleasing – a thread that runs throughout the region and the cultural experiences to be had therein.


Gold Leaf Hands-On Experience

The word Kanazawa literally translates to “marsh of gold” and is said to derive from the parable of peasant Imohori Togoro, who reportedly made his living digging for potatoes, before uncovering swathes of gold dust.

The name also pays homage to one of the regions primary resources, which produces more than 99% of all gold leaf in Japan. The fine sheets of precious metal are so thin they disappear if rubbed between one’s fingers – a thickness of some 0.1 to 0.125 millionths of a metre.


Visitors can experience this marvel for themselves and try their hand at decorating something in the gold leaf. Image:: Supplied

Kaga Yuzen

Renowned for incredible human artistry, the practice of Kaga-Yuzen in Ishikawa refers to a silk-dyeing process well worth checking out – if not attempting for oneself. So-called ‘masters’ of the traditional practice use only five pigments in their depictions of Japanese flora and fauna in a process that takes several months to complete.


There’s a little more to it than colouring in between the lines. Image:: Supplied

Tea Ceremony

Cha-no-yu (also known as Chado – The Way of Tea) is the ceremonial preparation and presentation of powdered green tea. Interestingly, tea ceremonies have their tradition in being a symbol of a samurai warrior’s power and prestige – as well as being an important courtesy with guests.


A famous tea ceremony, which has been popular since the Samurai era in Ishikawa. Image:: Supplied


There are reportedly more than 3000 ‘hot spring resorts’ in Japan and the Ishikawa region boasts a great many of these ‘Onsens’.

Perhaps most enticing is ‘Wakura Onsen’, one such hot spring bath that affords rare ocean views. Wakura’s warm waters have been rejuvenating locals and travellers alike since as far back as 1641.


Wakura Onsen has a  long history and is a perfect entry point into Japanese Onsen culture. Image:: Supplied

For more info on what Ishikawa has to offer, check out the  Ishikawa Facebook Page and Ishikawa Website and check out the nearby skiing options below:

Mountainwatch Guide To Hakuba

Mountainwatch Guide To Nozawa Onsen

Definitive Guide To Nozawa Onsen

Mountainwatch Guide To Shiga Kogen

For great deals on visiting the ‘Cultural Capital’ see: http://kanazawa-winter-stays.com/liquidsnowtours/