City of gold, gardens and comfort food fusions

Take a glimpse into Japan’s past as you amble through Kanazawa, a small city that’s big on culture.

 

Try on an elegant silk kimono and wander Kanazawa’s famous garden.

Often called “little Kyoto,” Kanazawa showcases traditional Japanese culture in a city with a population of less than a half a million. Like Kyoto,

it was one of the few places that escaped bombing during the Second World War, so it still retains much of its character as a castle town and continues to be a source of traditional Japanese craftsmanship.

While Kanazawa was once off the beaten path for international visitors, it has just become more accessible thanks to swift access via the Hokuriku

Shinkansen (北陸新幹線)—a new line of Japan’s famous bullet train, which opened to the public on March 14, 2015. For about 14,000 yen, travellers will enjoy a smooth, scenic ride from Tokyo to Kanazawa in just two and a half hours—80 minutes faster than conventional routes. Let Japan’s cutting-edge Shinkansen take you into one of its most well-preserved historic cities.

©Kanazawa City/©JNTO
Once you’ve arrived, head into the city centre and stroll through the Kenroku-en (兼六園), one of Japan’s top three gardens. First cultivated in the eighteenth century by the Maeda family, the  garden symbolizes the status and sophistication of Japan’s second-most-powerful feudal clan. Later generations named the garden Kenroku-en, a term that means “having six factors” necessary to bring out a perfect landscape: spaciousness, tranquility, artfulness, antiquity, water sources and glorious views. The garden is known for being beautiful in all seasons, with the budding of plum and cherry blossoms taking centre stage in spring.
Right next to the Kenroku-en is Kanazawa Castle (金沢城), parts of which burned down and were rebuilt over the course of centuries. With its pale roof tiles and distinctive stonework, the reconstructed castle is an impressive vision of Japan’s past. You can imagine hurtling back in time, perched on a turret as you overlook the stunning garden and the surrounding castle town, home to the farmers and artisans who grew rice and spun silk for the town’s most powerful residents. Designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kanazawa is especially known for its colourful Kutani porcelain (九谷焼), its uniquely dyed Kaga-yūzen silk (加賀友禅) and the delicate accents of pure gold leaf (金箔).

Kanazawa might well be called the city of gold, for it produces 99 per cent of Japan’s gold leaf. Beaten into a wispy-thin layer that will disappear with a rub of your fingertips, gold leaf can be found in an amazing array of Kanazawa products. You can find gold-enhanced handicrafts, such as lacquer ware, textiles, pottery and ornaments, all of which make lovely gifts to take home. But this unique product has even more surprising uses,

such as gold leaf tissues, cosmetics containing glimmers of gold and even food with edible flakes. Enjoy a salty Japanese rice cracker with a square of gold on top, an omelette wrapped in a golden sheet or a cold cup of sake dappled with gold flakes.

 


 

Kanazawa: A castle town for all seasons

Do you prefer your sake without the bling?

Not to worry—Kanazawa’s climate is ideal for sake brewing, and the region has an abundance of sake’s key ingredient: pure, mountainfresh water from the nearby Hakusan range.

These mineral-rich waters are combined with high-quality sake rice to produce a clean, refreshing drink thatis said to have the power to ex orcise evil spirits. Take a tour of one of the city’s local breweries, then wash away your ill-tempered spirits with this sacred beverage.

Whether you’re looking for well-preserved traditions or the future flavours of global Japan, Kanazawa is the place to be.

Geisha【芸者】

A geisha performs a traditional dance in the Higashi Chaya district.

 Hyakumangoku Gyoretsu
©Kanazawa City/©JNTO
sapporocity

Kanazawa produces Japan’s finest kinpaku, or gold leaf, which accents a range of finely crafted traditional products.

sapporo beer museum

Kutani-yaki is a famous style of ceramic art. Its decorative pieces are known for their boldly coloured and intricate designs.

Known for vivid tones and nature-inspired patterns, Kaga-yūzen silk is dyed using a traditional technique that stretches back to the 18th century.


Kanazawa’s eats and treats

Sweet and salty sushi

A Kanazawa specialty, Kabura sushi harkens back to the old style of sushi, which is pickled in brine rather than vinegar. A pickled slice of amberjack is sandwiched between pickled pieces of turnip, garnished with thin-sliced carrots or kombu (sea kelp), and fermented. A perfect blend of sweet

and salty, this unique sushi style pairs nicely with a tall drink and a few otsumami, or bar snacks.

Hunton rice – Western cuisine meets Japanese tradition

When all of Kanazawa’s crafty time travel spurs your appetite, indulge in one of the city’s trending, budget-friendly fusion dishes, like the Hungarian-inspired Hunton rice (ハントンライス), a buttery rice omelette topped with crispy strips of white fish or prawns. The dish is usually topped off with generous dollops of ketchup, tartar sauce or demi-glace sauce. A “Western-style” dish born in a traditional Japanese town, it melds the satisfaction of childhood comfort foods with a grownup’s sophisticated palate. Souvenirs Want to take a piece of Kanazawa home with you? Welcome to the wonderful world of omiyage, or souvenirs. Japan’s turned the concept of tourist take-home products into an art form. Every region offers a range of goodies to choose from, and each omiyage is emblematic of the area’s history, culture and personality. In Kanazawa, you can find a souvenir to suit every last picky aunt waiting

back home—and get something for yourself while you’re at it. Display a gold-accented piggy bank, eat gold-leaf-frosted cake, feast your eyes on delicate wagashi (Japanese confections) or sip on a crisp, regionally brewed sake.

Takara no fu

Try one of Fumuroya’s Takara no fu, a unique “treasure cake” that contains all you need to enjoy a hot bowl of soup in one of two different flavours: miso or suimono. Place the cake into a bowl with your choice of flavour, add hot water and watch it bloom.

©Courtesy of Kagafu Fumuroya

Mameya bankyu

Mameya bankyu makes delicious bean snacks in a variety of flavours, from strawberry to Earl Grey. Try any of the single flavours or go for the Spring Gift Set pictured above, which features strawberry chocolate beans, salty-sweet beans and a gold-glazed Castella cake.

©Courtesy of Mameya bankyu

All photos ©Kanazawa City unless otherwise noted.