Kanazawa has a special place in our heart. We created this Kanazawa itinerary because when asked to think of traditional cities in Japan, most people’s first thought will be of Kyoto. The old imperial capital, full of temples, shrines and castles.
However, the lesser-known alternative of Kanazawa in the prefecture of Ishikawa actually outshines Kyoto in some areas.
Often referred to as ‘Little Kyoto’, Kanazawa also has a strong connection with historical architecture and is home to a number of traditional temples, shrines and more.
However, there is much more to Kanazawa and it has a strong sense of character which is often missing from the larger cities.
Kanazawa has more of a reputation as a ‘samurai city’ and represents this through the range of places to see.
A Kanazawa itinerary holds an intriguing range of things to do and places to go.
Is Kanazawa worth a visit?
While Kanazawa is often compared to Kyoto, there are a number of differences between the two.
While Kyoto has it’s roots in the ancient rulers of Japan, Kanazawa was a samurai-based city.
This lends the cities very different approaches, despite their similar preservation of historical areas.
Kanazawa is a great way to experience traditional Japan from a different viewpoint and without the crowds of Kyoto.
The historical sites of Kanazawa in conjunction with the beautiful use of nature and the landscape make visiting Kanazawa a unique experience as part of a Japan trip.
How many days should you stay in Kanazawa?
Kanazawa is a compact city with a number of the main attractions in close proximity to each other.
This makes it great for a short visit as it is possible to see a variety of locations in just a few days.
Kanazawa is a perfect weekend trip and this Kanazawa 2 day itinerary will show exactly how to design such a trip.
It is also possible to visit Kanazawa as a day trip with careful planning and prioritization of attractions.
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Private Kanazawa Tour
Which is better Kanazawa or Takayama?
Kanazawa and Takayama are both heralded as places to visit to experience traditional aspects of Japan. However, they are quite different, despite being reasonably close together.
Kanazawa is a much larger city, offering more variety of places to visit.
Takayama is smaller and gives more of a ‘traditional village’ feel, whereas Kanazawa’s range of places allow visitors to experience various different atmospheres and aspects of history.
Kanazawa is also home to Kenrokuen, a huge pull to the area.
The park is strikingly different in all seasons and leads to a number of return visitors.
Overall, Kanazawa and Takayama offer quite different experiences and are both worth a visit.
Where to stay in Kanazawa
The Holiday Inn ANA Kanazawa Sky is centrally located within walking distance of the station and just across the Omicho fish market.
The Kanazawa castle and Kenrokuen Garden are just a few minutes’ walks away.
You have spectacular views on Kanazawa from the lobby and the restaurant.
A perfect choice for your stay in Kanazawa.
More information and booking:
How to get to Kanazawa from Tokyo
There are three main methods to travel between Tokyo and Kanazawa.
The first is by train.
The JR Hokuriku Shinkansen goes from Tokyo to Kanazawa regularly and takes approximately 2.5 – 3 hours.
This train is covered by the JR Pass, as are most Shinkansen routes.
To know wheter you can benefit from a Japan Rail Pass, click here.
Without a JR Pass, the Shinkansen will cost around ¥14,000 (~$130 USD).
This is the easiest route from Tokyo to Kanazawa as it takes you from the middle of Tokyo city directly to the middle of Kanazawa city, eliminating the need to navigate changing transport or checking for the most convenient stop.
The cheapest way to travel between Tokyo and Kanazawa (without a JR Pass) is via bus.
There are a number of buses going from Tokyo to Kanazawa, mostly taking around 7-8 hours.
These go throughout the day, including overnight. The price can be as low as ¥4000 (~$35 USD)up to around ¥8000 (~$75USD).
The final method of transport from Tokyo to Kanazawa is by plane.
There are planes from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport daily to Kanazawa’s Komatsu Airport. The travel time is only around 1 hour.
However, it is important to consider the time needed to travel to and from the airport as Komatsu Airport is another 40 minutes bus ride from Kanazawa city.
There is also a lot more co-ordination needed regarding matching up plane and bus times, allowing time for check-in and boarding, and other delays that can come with air travel.
How to get to Kanazawa from Kyoto
The trip between Kyoto and Kanazawa is a simple train journey.
The JR Thunderbird limited express train leaves a few times an hour for Kanazawa and takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes.
It is covered by the JR Pass and only has a few other stops between the two stations.
Without the JR Pass, a ticket costs around ¥6500 (~$60 USD).
Check prices and availability:
Thunderbird ticket from Kyoto
There are also local trains between Kyoto and Kanazawa.
However, these take closer to 5 hours and usually involve multiple transfers.
There is also a highway bus between Kyoto and Kanazawa.
It runs both during the day and overnight and takes around 4 hours.
The cost of the highway bus varies between around ¥3000 (~$30 USD) – ¥5000 (~$45 USD).
How to get to Kanazawa from Osaka
Going from Osaka to Kanazawa is very similar to the Kyoto to Kanazawa trip.
The same three options exist for Osaka-Kanazawa as Kyoto-Kanazawa.
However, Osaka is slightly further away from Kanazawa so trip times and prices are increased.
First is the JR Thunderbird limited express. From Osaka, the length is closer to 2 hours and 40 minutes.
It is covered by the JR Pass, without the pass a one-way ticket costs around ¥7000 (~$65 USD).
Check prices and availability:
Thunderbird Ticket from Osaka
To use the local trains will often work out to 5 – 7 hours from Osaka, and up to 5 transfers.
The highway bus from Osaka will take around 4.5 hours and costs are similar to that of the Kyoto highway bus due to general fluctuation based on popular days, times, and bus company.
Getting around in Kanazawa
Navigating transport in a new city can be difficult as every country and city has its own setup.
Kanazawa is quite a compact city so it is reasonably easy to get around.
In fact, for a lot of traveling between locations, it is easy to rely on walking or cycling.
A number of popular tourist attractions are located quite close to or even next to each other, making it easy to walk between them.
There is rarely more than a 20-minute walk between two sites.
However, over the course of a day this walking can add up.
In this case, cycling may be a better option. Kanazawa is a fairly flat city without a large amount of traffic, making it an easy and safe area for even inexperienced cyclists.
There are a number of rental bicycle shops around, as well as the Machi nori system.
This allows travelers to borrow bikes from the bicycle ‘dock’, mostly located close to popular attractions, and return them to another dock when finished.
For some of the further away areas, there are also buses available.
Most bus rides will be short and the bus system isn’t complicated.
There are two main bus routes in Kanazawa – the Kenrokuen Shuttle and the Kanazawa Loop Bus.
Both are operated by Hokutetsu and are specificilly aimed at tourists which means that there’s plenty of information available in English.
There’s a one day pass which allows you to use both buses.
The Kenrokuen Shuttle travels to Kenrokuen Park and the nearby Kanazawa Castle, while the Kanazawa Loop Bus travels to some of the further out attractions, such as the Higashi Chaya district and Omichi Market.
JR pass holders can also use a local JR bus which connects the Kanazawa station with the Kenrokuen garden for free.
There is one more option for transport in Kanazawa.
There are also taxis available. As in most cities, taxis will be the most expensive option.
However, due to the closeness of the city, it is rare that taxi rides will cost more than ¥1000 (~$10USD).
If there are issues with mobility or an emergency, taxis are still a very viable option.
The downside is that due to Kanazawa being a smaller city, it might not be as easy to find a taxi as in some of the larger cities.
In this case, it is necessary to be prepared to wait for a taxi or to call ahead.
Here we share our complete 2 day Kanazawa itinerary. We created this itinerary to allow you to make the best of your time.
While train stations are rarely thought of as tourist attraction, Kanazawa station has been widely-acclaimed for its architecture and design.
It incorporates aspects of traditional design into a new and modern building, with both function and aesthetics taken into consideration.
One of the most recent additions to Kanazawa station is the Motenashi Dome, a large glass and steel atrium building which acts as an event space and information centre.
The dome is made to resemble an umbrella and the name, Motenashi, meaning hospitality, is intended to welcome visitors to Kanazawa.
In front of the Motenashi Dome is Tsuzumi-mon, a large wooden gate designed to be similar to Japanese drums, or tsuzumi. It is also similar to the torii gates found at the entrances to shrines.
From a distance, the shape of the station and gate can be said to mimick the shape of a samurai’s helmet, making the whole building very symbolic and representative of Kanazawa as a whole.
The station is the arrival point for all shinkansen trains and is located in the centre of the city.
Kenrokuen Garden is known as one of the ‘Top 3 Landscape Gardens of Japan’.
The garden is designed to be beautiful in every season and the overall look changes dramatically depending on the season.
It is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in Spring, but also draws crowds in Autumn for the dramatic red foliage and Winter for the striking contrast of pine trees and heavy snow.
When walking through Kenrokuen the park appears to be neverending, there are so many ponds and waterfalls and extra paths.
It truly feels like a magical place, with nature so perfectly arranged to ease the soul.
Opening hours of the Kenrokuen Garden:
The garden is open from 7 am – 6 pm from March to October and 8am – 5pm in October to February. Tickets are ¥320 for adults.
How to get there:
Kenrokuen is around a 30 minute walk from Kanazawa station.
It is also accessible by multiple buses, mostly taking around 15 minutes.
Kanazawa Castle was home to the Maeda family, a powerful feudal family who had a strong influence from the 1500s – 1800s.
They helped develop Kanazawa as a city rich in culture and traditional craft.
The castle has been burnt a number of times over the years but has slowly been restored in recent times.
The Ishikawa gate is now regarded as the main entrance to the castle and is one of the few buildings that survived multiple fires.
The original main gate was the Kohaku-mon Gate, which has now been reconstructed using the original building techniques.
This gate has some exhibits regarding the reconstruction of the gate and the research done in order to be as authentic as possible. These exhibits are free to enter.
Past the gate are the two turrets (Hishi and Tsuzuki) and storehouse (Gojukken Nagaya).
There are further exhibits here displaying aspects of traditional carpentry and the castle’s history.
Opening hours of Kanazawa castle:
The castle has the same opening hours as Kenrokuen and entry to the turrets and storehouse exhibits costs ¥320.
How to get there:
The Ishikawa Gate is just meters from the main entrance of Kenrokuen and is an easy continuation of a day of touring.
Ozaki shrine is a small shrine located on part of the original grounds of Kanazawa Castle. It was built in the 1600s and is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the most important figures in Japanese history.
It is a small but charming shrine with the bright red vermilion gate and buildings contrasting perfectly with the surrounding greenery.
Opening hours of the Ozaki shrine:
The shrine is open from 6 am – 8 pm every day and is free to access.
This makes it one of the most accessible tourist locations in Kanazawa.
How to get there:
Ozaki shrine is located behind the current Kanazawa castle and is about a 10-minute walk from the Ishikawa Gate.
Nagamachi Samurai District
The Nagamachi Samurai District is a small area of Kanazawa, close to Kanazawa Castle, where samurai families lived during the feudal era of Japan.
The area has been preserved and retains a lot of it’s original charm with earthern walls, winding stone paths and water canals.
There are a number of samurai residences which have been restored to their original condition and are open to viewing by the public.
These include the Ashigaru Shiryokan museum, the houses of two foot soldiers families, generally considered as the lowest class of samurai.
These houses display the simple lifestyle that was led by the lower classes in comparison with the higher classes of samurai.
The Kyu-Kaga Hanshi Takada Family House was originally a stable but has now been restored with a stroll garden and pond characteristic of the time.
The style of garden and gate are considered typical for a samurai house.
Opening hours of the houses:
These houses are open from 9:30am – 5pm and are free to enter.
How to get there:
The Nagamachi Samurai District is located near Kanazawa Castle and is a short 15-minute walk from Ozaki Shrine.
Nomura Clan samurai house
Possibly the most famous samurai house in the Nagamachi Samurai district is the Nomura Clan Samurai House, also known as Nomura-ke.
The Nomura Samurai House originally belonged to the Nomura family, one of the wealthiest samurai families at the time. The house is one of the largest samurai residences and has been restored carefully to portray the lives of upper class samurai during this time.
There are a number of historical artifacts and antiques displayed in the house and the rooms have been kept historically accurate. There is also an ‘inner garden’, a private garden to a home.
It has been well-maintained and is considered one of the best examples of an inner garden in Japan.
Opening hours Nomura Samurai House
The opening hours of the Nomura Samurai House are 8:30am – 5:30pm from April to September and 8:30am – 4:30pm from October to March. The entrance fee is ¥550 for adults and is lower for children, depending on age.
How to get there
The Nomura Samurai House is part of the Nagamachi Samurai District and is easily found while exploring the area.
Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall
The Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall is a feudal-era pharmacy that has been restored to house a museum displaying artifacts from the period.
The exterior of the building has been kept intact and authentic to the time, while the inside shows aspects of the lives of merchants during this era. It is an interesting contrast to the samurai houses as it displays how the different classes lived and worked.
The Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall also displays local traditional handicrafts and products. These can include Noh masks, washi paper and temari balls.
Opening hours of the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall
Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall is open from 9:30am – 5:30pm and has an entrance fee of ¥100.
How to get there
The museum is also located within the Nagamachi Samurai District and so is easy to find after the Nomura Samurai House.
Start your second day in Kanazawa with a visit of the Omicho Market.
Kanazawa is well-known for its fresh seafood due to its position next to the Sea of Japan and Omicho Market is one of the best places to find this seafood.
Omicho Market, or Omicho Ichiba, is Kanazawa’s largest fresh food market and has been for centuries. It is often called the ‘kitchen of Kanazawa’ and for good reason.
There are over 200 shops, stalls and restaurants selling a variety of fresh food – from seafood to local produce and even kitchen tools. The market is busy throughout the morning and through to lunchtime.
One of the most popular meals to try from the market is a seafood bowl: a bowl of rice topped with a variety of Kanazawa’s famous seafood.
Another great way to experience the food of the market is by doing a ‘food tour’. This is a popular technique at a number of fresh food markets and involves going to a range of stores and stalls and buying a small amount from each one.
This gives you a range of different foods to try, a variety of shops to explore and a very fulfilling breakfast/brunch/lunch.
Book your food tour here:
Omicho Market Food Tour
Opening hours of the stores at the Omicho Market:
Most of the stores at Omicho Market have standard opening hours of 9:30am – 5pm.
The market has no entrance fee and different shops vary in price for their food.
How to get there:
The market is a short bus ride from Kanazawa station or a 20 minute walk.
Higashi Chaya-gai District
Kanazawa actually has three Chaya (teahouse) districts but Higashi Chaya is the largest and most popular. During the Edo period, these districts had a number of teahouses where geisha would perform and entertain.
These were the entertainment districts of the time.
The buildings have been largely kept in their original condition and in conjunction with the cobbled streets and lacquered walls have a historical atmosphere.
A number of the teahouses have been converted into shops, cafes and museums to cater to a modern audience, but their exterior remains traditional.
Shima Teahouse is one of the teahouses that has become a museum.
The rooms where geisha would perform and the instruments they used are on display, along with the kitchens where the meals were prepared.
Kaikaro Teahouse is still an operating teahouse and is open to the public.
The area is considered a cultural asset of Japan and an important piece of history.
Check prices and availability:
Night walk with Full Dinner
Opening hours of the Teahouses:
The teahouses and surrounding shops and cafes follow standard opening hours and vary in price. The district is free to enter and explore.
How to get there:
The district is approximately 15 minutes walk from Omicho Market.
Myoryuji, or the Ninja Temple, is one of the buildings built by the Maeda family while they ruled Kanazawa.
It is so named due to the number of defensive mechanisms the building has in place.
During this period there were a number of building restrictions and so the Ninja Temple, a disguised military outpost, has a number of secret escape routes, hidden tunnels, defences, and traps.
It was designed to defend against intruders and alert the castle in case of an attack. The temple actually has no association with ninjas, but has been nicknamed so due to the secret twists and turns within.
Join a guided tour at the Ninja Temple:
The ninja temple has guided tours every 30 minutes which show visitors a range of the secret rooms and hidden defenses.
While the tours are given in Japanese, international visitors are provided a guidance book in their own language.
The tours must be booked in advance as the temple is carefully scheduled. Tours cost ¥1000 for adults and ¥700 for children.
How to get there:
The ninja temple is a 15 minute bus ride from Higashi Chaya District.
Kanazawa is a historical treasure of Japan. It provides a rare insight into the lives of people during feudal Japan, especially samurais of the time.
Kanazawa is a city which has preserved or restored many of its historical locations and has retained its traditional atmosphere.
Using this Kanazawa itinerary will give a well-rounded view of the city with visits to a number of the main attractions.
Kanazawa has made a name for itself as the samurai city with an authentic view of history.
Now it’s time to experience that history for yourself.