Kanazawa (金沢)

When my parents organised to visit me in Japan for the second time, I knew that we had to make a trip to Kanazawa. It had been at the top of my list of places to explore domestically and my parents’ visit served as the perfect excuse to make a trip there.

Kanazawa has a small town vibe to it. The city centre is easily accessible by bus or by foot and has many different areas which can be explored. The 3 days that we were there unfortunately did not coincide with the best weather. The day we arrived was warm and spring like – a balmy 16 degrees. As I had looked by the forecast for our trip and saw that it would be raining for a majority of our time, I thought it best to check out one of the main spots Kanazawa is known for, first.

Kenrokuen (兼六園) is a beautifully manicured garden (and a hugely popular tourist spot). It is said to have been built around three sets of contrasting garden elements – “spaciousness in contrast with seclusion, artifice in contrast with antiquity and water courses in contrast with panoramas.” (I copied this from a guide map I picked up at the garden!)

As it was a Sunday, the garden was filled with couples, families and tourists but that did not take away from the tranquility of the garden. The amount of time and care taken to maintain the 11 hectare area is truly humbling. This garden is said to be spectacular in all 4 seasons, and while we visited in an awkward in between transitional time, it was still beautiful. We were a little too early to catch the cherry blossoms , but the plum blossoms were right in bloom.

Kenrokuen is right next to the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, so we had a look around before heading to check into our Airbnb.

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We had to check out the local specialty of gold leaf – here it is the edible kind on vanilla soft serve!

Traveling in Japan is a little tricky but moreover, traveling in Japan being vegetarian is doubly tricky! Eating out at local restaurants is not a luxury we can afford here so having a place to cook our own meals was definitely a must. So Airbnb was definitely the way to go!

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The next day had a forecast of 100% rain, so we started the day off nice and slow and decided to head to the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art (石川県立美術館) in the late morning. People often overlook this museum for the more popular 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, so it was quite empty when we went. There was little English signage but it was still nice to check out the local artwork from many centuries ago. After that it was lunchtime and the trusty app, Happy Cow led us to ‘Los Angeles in Kanazawa‘ for a healthy vegan lunch. 

The rain did make it a little difficult to get around and it was significantly colder than the day before. However, we were determined to see as much as we could (or I was and I made my parents do what I wanted! haha!) We checked out Omicho Market (近江町市場) which for seafood lovers would be the ideal place to taste the local specialty seafood straight from the Sea of Japan. It was still interesting to the local produce of the area and we picked up some delicious いちご大福 (strawberry rice cakes stuffed with red bean paste) for a snack later on.

We then walked towards the Higashi Chaya (東茶屋 – the east district) which back during the Edo Period (江戸時代) was an entertainment area where Geisha (芸者) would perform for their guests. Now the area is a popular tourist area filled with cafes and shops selling Kanazawa’s specialty product – gold leaf.

Our last full day in Kanazawa was another rainy one and the temperature had dropped to about 6 degrees. The one place that I had really wanted to visited was the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum (金沢21世紀美術館). As it is closed on Mondays, we decided to head there first thing on Tuesday and it seemed that all the visitors in the city had the same idea. We had to wait about one hour just to buy tickets to get in! The artwork was interesting and certainly thought provoking but overall I felt it was a little overrated. The sheer number of people may have skewed my view a little but it did feel a little underwhelming.

Bottom left: I just love this model shot I took of my dad. Just the perfect timing and background and his hopelessly in-awe facial expression makes it so special to me

We had a lovely lunch at a cafe tucked away from all the major tourist areas then headed back to the Kanazawa Castle area to check out the inside of the castle. It was bitterly cold that day so while it was nice to get inside out of the wind and rain, the inside was not much warmer!

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On the shinkansen (新幹線) ride home, we started to see more and more snow the closer we approached Tokyo (which seemed a little strange) but it turns out it was a freak snow day – in the middle of March!

It is unfortunate that my parents got to experience Kanazawa during such poor weather, but I don’t think it marred their view of it. They seemed to have a great time, as did I and I would love to come back to explore it in the warmer weather.

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